Chair Yoga gets a standing ovation

Published 10:02 am Tuesday, February 21, 2023

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Dancer and yoga instructor Sonya Rice, offers Chair Yoga at Sonya’s Dance and Fitness Studio in downtown Greenville with classes meeting every Tuesday and Thursday morning at 11a.m.

The class is open to anyone and everyone and boasts students from Butler and Lowndes Counties.

Sylvia Ellison, a Greenville resident and Cancer survivor, said she enjoys not only the class, but the way it makes her feel.

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“I was getting stiff and beginning to feel really old,” Ellison said. “This class has made me realize that my body still cooperates with me if I make it.”

Ellison said she feels better about herself because of the class and enjoys being around the other people who the class.

Although Rice started out as a dancer and still teaches this art, she has practiced yoga for several years now. She took her first class in New York City, on the Upper East Side.

“I hated it,” Rice said. “It was very slow paced and all about breath and meditation and I was a dancer.”

Rice was used to pushing her body as hard as it would go, or as she calls it, “How hard can we work?” 

“Over the years, I came back to yoga because of the deep stretch and I started taking the Yin classes,” Rice said.

The calm movements and slow pace of yoga was exactly what Rice needed at the time, she explained.

The classes taught her to stay in a deep stretch and pay attention to her breathing.

“I loved that class,” Rice said.

By the time she reached her early 30’s, yoga became a regular practice for her. And when she reached the Ashtanga style, she had fallen in love with it.

Ashtanga style yoga links every movement to a breath. It follows a specific sequence of postures or yoga poses and is also the hardest form of yoga Rice said

Yoga movements are graceful, Rice said, and the stretches help to heal both body and mind.

Yoga does not require jarring or jerking movements, and Rice plays background music to help calm the nerves and relax the body.

In addition to yoga, a lot of her students enjoy other activities too.

Hiking, biking, and marathons are high on the list of activities her students participate in.

“I recommend outside activity because people don’t get outside enough,” Rice said. “Just going outside and sitting with your face in the sun and getting that natural vitamin D is good for people.”

And, when they’re ready, Rice recommends that participants come in to explore the other classes available at her studio. 

“I also have the deep stretch classes and the Pilates classes,” Rice said.

Rice conducted a class just for men before the pandemic began in 2020

“I had a class on Saturday morning just for men,” Rice said. “I called it the He-Man Yoga Club. We started off really slow, using those big balls, because a lot of men have back issues. I wanted to see where they were. It was an hour class, and each week we would hit on which issues were going on with them.”

“The men got really good until football season,” Rice recalled.

Then, hunting season rolled around but it was COVID that finally brought them in.

If students face special considerations, such as rods in the back or legs, Rice offers one-on-one training with those individuals to help them achieve their goals.

Rice says absolutely that yoga helps with stress. It focuses on the slow movements coupled with breathing.

“By the time we’re done, they’re tired,” Rice said of her class. “They just want to sit and relax.”

Deep breathing helps students take stress down a notch or two, Rice noted 

“It’s about the breath and the movement,” Rice said “It takes everything and just slows it down.” 

Ellison agreed and explained that she attends yoga class to improve her emotional as well as physical health.. 

“Yoga class is something I do for me; not only my physical health, but my emotional health,” she said.

Sonya’s Dance and Fitness Studio is located at 508 E. Commerce Street in Greenville. For more information contact Rice at 334-546-2923 or check out the studio on Facebook.