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Clara Frazier/yoga

Clara Frazier, 71-year-old yoga instructor

with several PHOTOS and SIDEBARS

By Pete Letheby

pete.letheby@theindependent.com

Clara Frazier is proof that life begins anew at 50.

“I was experiencing back pain, digestive problems and stress related to life in general,” said Frazier, 71. “My posture had gotten tight. I had a spine condition.”

Then she discovered yoga.

“As a registered nurse, I had always listened to the medical community,” Frazier said. “I had never listened to my body.

“My massage therapist recommended yoga. Moonyeen Park (a yoga trainer) had moved here and was offering yoga in her home. At the end of my first class, I lied on the floor and cried. My body was in shock. Stretching all those areas brought blood supply and life to areas that had been stagnant. And I realized that I had not truly breathed for a long, long time.”

And 21 years later?

“I am in as good a physical condition as I’ve ever been in,” Frazier said. “I’m more happy in life than I’ve ever been.”

Frazier has been teaching, guiding and helping “students” to relax for 17 years now as a yoga instructor. Before that, she was a certified nurse for 33 years.

Yoga’s popularity is surging in the United States. Yoga Journal’s 2012 “Yoga in America” study found that 20.4 Americans practice yoga — a whopping increase of 29 percent over the number just four years earlier in 2008. Also, another 44.4 million Americans expressed an interest in trying yoga.

While most yoga participants in the U.S. are under 50 years old, the practice is also growing rapidly among seniors, too. Of the more than 20 million Americans practicing yoga, more than 15 percent of those are age 60 or older.

Frazier’s weekly Monday class at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church attracts between 10 and 20 people, including several age 60 or older. Participants come dressed in loose-fitting clothing, take their footwear and socks off, and roll out their mats. Under Frazier’s leadership, they then begin the variety of yoga poses and exercises that stretch and reposition a variety of the body’s limbs, joints and muscles.

“I teach yoga to improve the quality of life for myself and other people,” she said.

“It’s one of the best things seniors can do,” Frazier added. “Balance is one of the main things we work on.”

Breathing and mindfulness are also emphasized.

“When we hear the sound of our breath, our mind has something to focus on,” Frazier said. “It’s magical.

“We’ve been to immersed in shallow breathing in our lives,” she added. “Our slogan is ‘One thing at a time, with breath and mind.'”

During the last 10 to 15 minutes of her class, participants simply lie down and close their eyes while Frazier places an aromatic towel over their faces and gives them brief head massages.

Jan Spiehs, 61, is one of the participants grateful for Frazier’s class.

“Clara is always in such an upbeat mood,” Spiehs said. “She’s happy to see everyone. She embraces the child in herself. That’s really neat.”

Clara and Bob Frazier have been married for a half-century plus one year. Both were born and raised in rural Illinois.

And how has he taken her passion for yoga?

“He’s always thought I was weird,” she laughed. “We let each other be who we are. That makes our marriage work.”

Clara Frazier studied Buddhism at the Crestone Mountain Zen Center Crestone Mountain Zen Center, which is located on the western slope of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in south-central Colorado. There she began discovering some of the spiritual benefits of meditation and yoga.

“My first class there was like an intervention from God,” Frazier said. “I learned that I was responsible for my own well-being.”

Although yoga traditions originated in the Asian religions of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, many Christian faiths are incorporating it as a Christ-centered approach to physical and spiritual health. There are now Christian retreats that offer yoga to help cultivate a receptive spirit and reflective prayer.

“The spirit is available to all of us,” Frazier said. “God doesn’t make it available to just a select few. Inside of us there is so much wisdom that is untapped.”

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