Chair Yoga helps New Eastsiders embrace an active lifestyle

by Mat Cohen

When people think of yoga, they often think of twisting, sweating and breathing in a 95-degree room. However, that’s not always the case.

Chair Yoga is practiced around the neighborhood, including at Renaissance Court in the Chicago Cultural Center and a senior class at the Maggie Daley Park Fieldhouse.

Peggy Figiel teaches the class at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesdays at Renaissance Court.

“Seeing people move into the pose and smile and say ‘I did it,’” she said, “that’s one of the best things.”

Figiel began teaching yoga to seniors at a suburban park district 16 years ago. 

“I felt like (seniors) understood it better,” she said.  “It wasn’t about twisting and sweating. It was about relaxing, going inside and finding your inner peace. It was more of an inner exercise.”

There are benefits beyond calming your mind. In Chair Yoga, students do exercises sitting in a chair and standing beside it. They won’t be on their knees or lying on a mat.

“Even doing chair yoga you are still going to improve your balance, your muscles, your bones and increase range of motion,” Figiel said.

Fifteen women regularly attend the Chair Yoga class at Renaissance Court. Figiel  makes the environment welcoming for participants of all  abilities.

“There are so many ways to  modify and they can still do  yoga,” she said. “There are unmeasured benefits and I’m just  here to guide them along.”

 Rose Lathan, who has been taking the class for four years, said the modifications are very helpful.

“I also take a class at LA Fitness with the mat and I can’t do all the poses,” she said. “But here she shows me different ways I can do it and be successful. I always feel great after.”

Another regular yogi, Elvira Azarcon, clearly feels the bene- fits of the class. 

“It’s really great,” she said. “I’ve been coming for a while and I can feel a difference with my flexibility and my joints.”

Figiel also teaches classes in 400 E. Randolph, 360 E.  Randolph and 340 E. Randolph. She loves the New  Eastside community and working with the people in the neighborhood.

“Everyone is still very active,” she said. “You have to walk and you have to be mobile. People can’t run or ride their bike maybe as much as they  want to, but they can still get a workout doing yoga.”

For more information about  the Chair Yoga classes at Renaissance Court, visit chicago.gov and for information about the programs at Maggie Daley  Fieldhouse visit maggiedaleypark.com

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