Teacher finds yoga is key to flexibility, tranquillity


Woody Luber reclines and sinks into sofa cushions at his Gamber home, his pleasant smile and light, easy breathing completing the picture of near-perfect tranquillity.

But his posture still appears tall, erect and controlled, the outgrowth of years of yoga training that provided the spiritual insight and inner peace he has shared with seniors at the Fairhaven retirement community in Sykesville since October.

"Yoga is the bringing together of mind and body. I started yoga and it kind of changed my life," said Mr. Luber, who is 57.

He said that, as a result of practicing yoga, he stopped drinking beer and eating red meat, and he lost 25 to 30 pounds "without really trying."

"I guess I got a little softer, a little more mellow," he said.

In the fall, Mr. Luber taught an hourlong class to the most physically active seniors, and two half-hour classes for less active seniors, including Alzheimer's patients.

"So many people, especially seniors today, I find they take their bodies for granted," said Mr. Luber, a former videocassette recorder repairman. "They just live with it and think that they can't do anything with it. But you can do something with it."

Mr. Luber said he teaches the seniors a modified form of yoga that helps them become more aware of the positions in which they place their bodies.

He encourages better posture and the stretching of muscles and ligaments.

Another aspect of the training is breathing, which he said is the key to controlling and understanding the workings of the body.

Seniors may find it easy to work on their breathing because it requires minimal movement.

"Breath is really our energy, so the more you can get in the more you can get out with the least amount of effort, the better off you are and the more you can do," Mr. Luber said.

For example, he said, his Saturday morning lessons at the Greater Baltimore Yoga Center renew his strength and give him energy.

"I can go there feeling down and blah, but no matter how I feel when I come in there, I come out feeling like, wow, I have so much energy," he said. "I get more done that day than any other day of the week."

Yoga training also can deflect some of the ailments that come with age, such as osteoporosis and arthritis, Mr. Luber said.

"Instead of the more movement-oriented exercises which heat up muscles, with yoga, you can cool them down and stretch them. They can stretch big and relax into the stretch," Mr. Luber said.

He demonstrated a stretch, reaching one hand over the shoulder and the other around the side to clasp in the middle of the back: "It stops the dowager's hump on the back and the head hanging over."

Arthritis can be held off by moving the aching appendages and "sort of enjoying the pain" to exercise the stiffening joints, he said.

With Alzheimer's patients, Mr. Luber said he concentrates on "stretching and movements being aware of where they are at the time."

One exercise involves throwing and catching a beach ball, which some of the patients can do, but Mr. Luber said success at the tasks is not the point.

"It's not so important that they can all do this, but that they make progress," he said.

Mr. Luber began teaching yoga classes at Fairhaven when the former instructor moved to Florida. His classes, part of the Continuing Education for Senior Adults program at Carroll Community College, will resume Tuesday.

Mr. Luber also teaches private classes in Westminster, Woodlawn and Baltimore. For more information, call him at 795-9259.

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