Karen Sheingold of Amherst is a 67-year-old educational research consultant and an Anusara-inspired yoga instructor who didn’t discover yoga until she was already middle-aged. Anusara is a form of yoga that emphasizes proper physical alignment, a positive philosophy, and openness to students of different abilities. Today Sheingold offers classes in her home studio and also teaches at Yoga Sanctuary in Northampton and at the Hampshire Athletic Club in Amherst. She started practicing yoga about 20 years ago, and has taught for five.
On a recent Monday morning a little before 8 a.m., a group of women – most of them middle-aged and older – began the day at her class in a studio at the Hampshire Athletic Club. After unfurling our mats, we went through some sun salutations, a series of linked, flowing poses that stretch every part of the body, followed by other postures that brought us out of our early-morning stiffness and beyond. The music was lively without being jarring, the movements were challenging but not overwhelming, and those of us headed for work were at least starting out in good shape to face the day.
Sheingold says that she doesn’t necessarily fit the media stereotype of the yoga devotee. She has gray hair and, unlike those gazelle-like women whose photos often accompany articles about yoga, she stands just 5 feet tall.
“As an older teacher,” she said, “I can’t do the most advanced poses, I can’t offer a rah-rah style. That’s not who I am. There are moments when I beat up on myself about that, and I have to say, wait a second! I’m still strong, I’m flexible and I feel terrific.
“I do think yoga has a huge amount to offer us as we get older,” she said. “It’s a deeper kind of engagement.” It’s not about what you could do 10 years ago, she says. “It’s where you are now, in this moment, in this pose. It enables us to stay healthy and keep functioning physically as well as we can.” And for her, she says, the spiritual nature of the practice has become more important with age.
Sheingold believes that just about anyone can find something in yoga.
“Just showing up is the bottom line,” she said. “If you’re there, something beneficial will happen.”
Reprinted with permission of the Daily Hampshire Gazette. All rights reserved.