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Yoga for all ages

Yoga in Bemidji spans the generations - from expecting mothers to senior citizens. With a wide variety of yoga offerings available in town, locals can take classes geared specifically for these two groups of people - and everyone in between.

One class, Pre-Natal Yoga, is designed for expecting mothers, and another, Yoga for Seniors, is designed for people "age 50 and better." Both of these classes are offered through Bemidji Community Education.

"Inhale and exhale," Myrtle Palm called out to her Yoga for Seniors class one recent Tuesday afternoon at Bemidji High School. "Inhale, slowly exhale."

A series of stretches followed as Palm called out her instruction in a soothing, calm voice.

"If you get tired, just stop," she continued. "Rest a moment and get started again."

Working the shoulders, back, legs and other parts of their bodies, the seniors stretched for nearly an hour before taking a few moments for relaxation.

"Close your eyes and learn to still your mind," Palm said softly as they relaxed.

Palm said the stretches help the 20-25 seniors who attend the weekly class stay flexible and strengthen their muscles.

"It's slow-pulling stretching exercises," she said.

Faye Hammer of Bemidji joined Yoga for Seniors about six years ago.

"The stretching and exercises are just wonderful," she said.

Carol Close of Bemidji has been attending Yoga for Seniors for four or five years. She said she joined to become more fit.

"It just makes you feel so good," Close said. "I guess if we're all growing older, we have to stay fit. We'll enjoy it more if we're fit."

Frank Goodell of Bemidji, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease three years ago, said he joined the class at the recommendation of his neurologist.

"It robs your body of mobility and flexibility gradually," he said of the disease. "This is just an attempt to slow it down."

Across town in an Early Childhood Family Education classroom, expecting mothers gathered for Karen Filardo's new Pre-Natal Yoga class.

"It's kind of a pilot effort, and so far I've had about a dozen moms since fall," Filardo said.

She said she works with the expecting mothers in the class to empower them so they are more relaxed with the pregnancy and upcoming birth. The classes focus on sharing, centering, breathing, yoga postures and making soft vocal tones.

"Yoga, in its essence, teaches you to focus on your own inner wisdom," Filardo said. "Body, mind and spirit is yoga."

At a recent Wednesday afternoon class, new mothers who had previously taken Filardo's class visited the expecting mothers for a time of sharing.

"(Yoga) just prepared me physically just to be able to birth him," said Hilary Horn of Guthrie as she cradled her 10-week-old son, Evan.

She said the lower body stretches and the breathing and toning exercises were especially helpful during labor.

Jamie Davies of Bemidji, who brought her 3-week-old son, Ramsey, to the class, agreed that the stretching she had done in class helped her during labor. She added that the sharing time during class was also good.

Kirby Ganske of Bemidji, who is only a few weeks away from her April due date, said she joined the class to stay toned and fit through the pregnancy.

"And hopefully it will help with labor," she added.

Tonya Prim of Bemidji, who is due in May, joined the class after learning that it was a good way to prepare herself for having her baby.

"It's a very fun class," she said. "I love it."

She noted that she enjoyed talking with the new mothers who had previously been in the class.

"That was great," Prim said. "It's always helpful to talk with new moms."