Sitting in at the Creative Chair exercise class at the Sellwood Community Center was more of a workout than this reporter expected. At the end of the class the youngest person in the group commented, 'This was not wimpy.'
Exercises for limbs and body parts from head to toe, performed both in a chair and standing upright, were invigorating. The steady low-key background beat of music from a boom box kept the pace lively.
In the current class, participants range in age from fifty-five to ninety-five (yes, 95!). Surprisingly, all manage to keep up - more or less - with instructor Linda Haynes, who invites people to take a time-out if necessary.
With nearly twenty-five years experience teaching fitness classes in New York and Hawaii, and a background in dance and aerobics, Haynes is at ease explaining muscles and movements, and how the body can be kept strong.
'One of the quickest ways to get strong in the legs is to do the exercise standing on one foot,' Haynes comments during one standing movement. While exercising the neck, she notes, 'If things are feeling lopsided, if you keep coming back to class, you'll feel more balanced with time.'
Before the class begins, Bonnie, a 75 year old who has been attending class for almost a year, confides that she has severe arthritis in her tail bone and arm. 'These exercises help me with balance and flexibility. I am able to get more movement out of my right arm and shoulder, and it helps increase strength,' she says.
'In general, the class gives people more strength and confidence, enhancing their ability to accomplish everyday activities such as carrying groceries and going up and down stairs,' Haynes observes.
Haynes says the chair class promises people a level of comfort, because they know they will be seated - or standing up, holding onto a chair - throughout the class. She realizes, however, that some class participants don't have those concerns, but are attracted to the class because of its creative approach and emphasis on building core strength.
In Hawaii, Haynes was a creative movement specialist for children for twenty years. From that experience she has learned to use interesting and fun imagery to help people visualize their bodies and physical body feelings. She also takes a creative approach to the chair. 'Rather than being a limitation, the chair is like a piece of exercise equipment. It provides increased opportunities to use leverage - pushing down, lifting up.'
A long-time student of modern and jazz dance, Haynes says she emphasizes posture. 'I use imagery to teach people how to stand tall, but be relaxed at the same time. A goal for each class is to have everyone come out of class with better posture, a feeling of walking taller.'
'Learning how to isolate one body part at a time gives body awareness and control,' Haynes adds. 'Recently in the chair class I have been experimenting with how to get a better workout for abdominal muscles and 'glutes', in addition to other body parts.'
Haynes believes that her varied background keeps the class interesting. 'I can put a lot into a class because I have a big repertoire. In each class session we do different exercises. And everyone gets individual attention. I watch people and see what they need.'
It is apparent that this teacher understands and respects the body. 'The body is a marvel,' she says.
Haynes started out at Sellwood Community Center teaching Creative Chair classes once a week, but enrollment is up, and currently classes are on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10:45-11:30 am.
In addition, Haynes teaches 'ToneZone', a class that combines yoga, Pilates, dance, martial arts, weights, bands, and aerobics, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 8:30-9:30 am. Her class 'Aerobics - Step and Dance' is taught Mondays and Wednesdays, 6-7 pm. All take place at the Sellwood Community Center, 1436 S.E. Spokane Street, a block north of Tacoma.
For more information about these and other classes, call the community center at 503/823-3195.