QUEENSBURY — Pat Tunney pressed her palms together and raised her hands over her head.
Seated in a wheel chair, the Warren Center rehabilitation patient focused on her breathing.
Kundalini yoga instructor Susanne Margono told Tunney to expand her lungs as she inhales.
“You have more capacity than you think in your lungs,” Margono told Tunney and seven other patients at the Warren Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Queensbury during its “Yoga for Seniors” program.
The program is open to the community as well as Warren Center patients and residents at 10 a.m. the first and third Wednesdays of the month.
Participants are able to sit in chairs or wheelchairs and work with Margono on breathing, relaxation and healing.
Tunney, who participated in her first yoga class Wednesday, said breathing is a big part of her rehabilitation. She also noted that the exercise is good for her.
“Overall, I think all the seniors benefit from it,” said William Wohltjen, the field marketing manager at the Warren Center.
Practicing relaxation and increasing lung capacity nourishes the body, Margono said.
“They’re more alive,” she said. “It works on their vitality.”
Dressed in white, Margono put on a white hat, slipped off her shoes, sat on a chair draped in a lambskin mat and explained yoga to the group assembled in front of her.
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“It’s an Indian practice that connects the body and the mind,” said Margono, who has been practicing yoga for 30 years.
She taught the group a mantra, which translated means, “I bow to my creator and I bow to all that is creative in myself.”
Breathe in light and life and exhale the darkness and let it go out to the universe, Margono instructed.
Holding down her right nostril, Margono explained that breathing through the left nostril brings calm to the body, while breathing through the right, brings energy. She instructed the seniors to depress their right nostril, close their eyes and breathe.
“Just be like that,” Margono said, “and feel how calm you are by just having breathed through your left nostril.”
While some of the seniors, like Tunney, were able to perform every movement, others had trouble moving their hands, stretching their legs or pumping their belly buttons in and out. But that doesn’t matter, according to Margono. Just thinking about moving their fingers is progress.
“Even if they are attentive enough to look at me and close their eyes when they want to, that’s participation,” Margono said. “We create a group energy as a group so all are included whether they are participating or not.”
As people age, and lead more sedentary lives, they detach from their bodies. Margono wants to help increase awareness of their bodies. The techniques in yoga are beneficial for dementia patients as well.
The elderly are underserved, Margono added. She finds teaching yoga at nursing homes, in general, makes the residents happy.
“This inner spark gets ignited in some ways in the nursing homes,” she said.