By Melanie Lee
Author, “A Year In Sedona~Meeting The Muse At Wisdom’s Edge”
(May 7, 2018)
Yoga classes were abundant when we moved to Sedona, and we soon found a number of smart, funny and knowledgeable teachers at the Hilton Resort health club in the Village of Oak Creek. Just what we needed as we took up our second half of life — a Muse-inspired, imaginative and instructive yoga experience with a creative approach that promised a real shot at maintaining healthy aging.
Since I’d trained several years back as a yoga teacher, I knew how much a daily practice could contribute to overall radiant well being, so when I decided to start teaching yoga again myself I swiped some of my yoga teachers’ most creative healthy aging poses. Of course I always gave Sara Woolsey, Jesse Bertolini, and Marc and Heather Titus (who now run Aumbase Yoga Studio and the Sedona Yoga Festival) proper thanks and credit for their inspiration and skill as yoga teachers and spiritual lights.
Gearing up for teaching again in a home studio, I turned the living room into a tiny yoga space big enough for practicing basic poses to maintain flexibility strength and balance. It was an idea whose time had come and after banishing all the rugs, tables and bulky furniture, I filled the room with folding chairs, colorful mats, thick blankets and sturdy blocks. Soon, Yoga As Muse, my weekly chair yoga class, was born.
I invited Izzy the cat, and Louis the husband, to be my first sign ups. They agreed and the three of us sallied forth, a convivial and motivated, albeit slightly unorthodox, group of senior yogis, each with a little health issue to work on. I was in my sixties, facing the new physical changes and hormonal challenges all women of a certain age experience. Louis, in his seventies, was rehabbing a recent knee replacement, but in pretty good shape otherwise. He’d recently become a student of Buddhism and offered to share a dharma moment, simple thoughts about how to use what we experienced in yoga class to heal ourselves and live more fully in the present moment.
Izzy, our third class member, had some lingering issues from a few ill-considered tussles in his tomcat years but turned out to be a perfect Muse and mascot. He never complained about his advancing age, showed up on time with an unflappable demeanor, and always lent considerable moral support with a feline wisdom that expressed itself in his favorite posture, svasana, the relaxing-on-a-blanket pose.
Iyengar-style yoga had become my first choice ever since I’d trained as a yoga teacher almost eight years ago, as I looked for ways to heal a frozen shoulder that remained painful even after a course of physical therapy. Iyengar’s definite and precise style of yoga emphasizes safety and repetition through the use of props, and is often recommended for healthy aging issues, particularly those involving flexibility, strength and balance. A six-month yoga course had not only fixed my shoulder, it had given me back a level of strength and health not seen since I was eighteen. Our chair yoga class was turning out to be a splendid adaptation of what I’d learned in my training program.
As we went along, in time I began to wonder if our weekly three person chair yoga class could turn into something bigger, inviting more people. A bit shy about including others at first, I nevertheless felt urged by the Muse to explore the idea…maybe there were others who would enjoy and benefit.
Screwing up my courage, I put together enough lesson plans for a month and asked four of our neighbors if they wanted to join, gratis of course. Susan, Rob, Sherry and Scott signed up and they were perfect for the class, showing up faithfully every week to practice healthy aging yoga in a chair. The six of us (Izzy had dropped out by then, after learning the basics) went at it with jollity and high spirits that spilled over into every other parts of life.
With high spirits and self effacing bouts of laughter, we all tackled whatever ache or pain or ailment or malaise was up for that week’s class. Happily, we all noticed that most of the health issues, pretty much the usual for our age group, became increasing manageable. Spring allergies? No worries, we’ll try that amazing breathing practice called Agni Sara! Hip replacement? Can you say asana modifications and adjustments? Arthritis? Here, just sit right down and keep it simple, no pretzel twists for us! Stressed out? Chanting Om and visualizing the ocean works wonders to accommodate and soothe aches or pains.
With unabashed noshing and non-toxic fretting over the more intractable effects of advancing years, the group shared healing stories that supported well being on numerous levels, which gave us all a little spiritual uplift. We came to rely on the chair asanas, breath work, short meditations, healing visualizations, and Louis’ inspirational dharma moments to get us going for the week ahead.
After nine months, a semester’s worth of classes, we called it quits for the summer and agreed to celebrate our last gathering with a special class. My writer/yogini friend Lisa, came up from Phoenix to help lead an excursion into nature to search for symbols of unifying elements that would show us how the integration of nature, writing and yoga could lead to enhanced well being. The class seemed quite proud of the creative endeavors and I posted the finished personal narratives with photos on my blog (atwisdomsedge.blogspot.com).
Reflecting on the chair yoga class, I realized that offering what I knew to others on the path had been a major lesson in the transformative power of heeding the call of the Muse. We just never know which small gift we’ve been given that, when shared with others, will end up making a positive, maybe even dramatic, difference in the life of someone else.
In looking back on the experience, I can truly appreciate the wry power of a mix and match set of seasoned clichés: When the heart is at ease, the body is healthy, you can leap, the net will appear, and when the teacher is ready, the students will arrive.
Melanie Lee is an award-winning writer, editor, artist and author. Growing up in Texas, she read mostly biography and autobiography and dreamed of being a writer who could help inspire others to meet their muse by honoring beauty in everyday life. She holds degrees in languages and journalism and was a features editor and columnist, writing everything from lifestyle stories and business news to profiles of entrepreneurs, artists and inventors engaged in the creative pursuit of right livelihood. She lived for ten years in Northern New Mexico where she was creator and director of Sojourns Writing Workshops of Santa Fe.
At the second half of life she moved to Sedona with her husband Louis Michalski. She met her muse anew, took up painting, became a yoga teacher and avid hiker and wrote “A Year in Sedona~Meeting the Muse at Wisdom’s Edge“, available on Amazon.com or from the author. She can be contacted at
P.O. Box 1419 Sedona, AZ 86339 or firstname.lastname@example.org