AMHERST – His wake-up call came at a staff planning event. A facilitator asked everyone to perform a few stretches during a break. Frank Allen, then in his 50s, found his shoulder wouldn’t allow him to extend his arm straight overhead.
It scared him.
Times have changed. Now 64, the retiree has been doing yoga for four years at Hatha Yoga Room in Amherst.
“(I’d) highly recommend it,” said Allen.
He expressed surprise at the level of flexibility he’s been able to achieve – flexibility he hopes will allow him to tie his own shoes well into his 80s.
“You come for your own reason,” said owner Sherry Smith.
Smith has been doing yoga “off and on” for 15 years.
“I had no idea what it was about,” she said, when she went to her first class. It was offered by a Moncton instructor who traveled to Amherst to teach in the gymnasium of the old R.B. Dickey elementary school.
She said she loved it, finding it challenging but relaxing. Fast forward to the new millennium and, after three years working on a yoga certification, Smith opened HathaYogaRoom in 2004 in a 600 square foot space. The studio has moved upstairs in the intervening years and instructors have come onboard, offering a range of classes. Her passion for yoga sounds undimmed.
“It’s not a hobby,” she said, but later acknowledged she can’t make a living from the studio, either.
Not a hobby, not a large income. Something else.
Smith talked about the community of yoga practitioners, about sharing knowledge, and about healing.
She said hatha yoga is a gentle form of yogic practice and the beginning of yoga. Some of the poses we’ve all absorbed from pop culture – downward dog, warrior pose – are among those performed. The instructor called yoga a meditation in movement, with the aim of calming the mind.
For Smith and Allen, there’s a spiritual element to the practice, but neither proselytized a belief system.
The owner said the studio has 50 or more clients.
“We’ve got lots of things going on,” she said.
The studio on Victoria Street will be hosting a June 21 summer solstice celebration, featuring art and yoga and, she hopes, live music.