| Strength In Numbers and Yoga
Fortunately, there are still a few “cell phone free zones” where one can find respite from the unwanted and often startling interruption of a cell phone ring.
The J’s group fitness classes are one such island. So a yoga class was recently surprised when instructor Shane Ortega’s device rang during their practice. Red-faced, Shane answered the phone and sheepishly said, “It’s my mother.” Without missing a beat, he held up the phone and pointed it toward his students. “Hi Mom,” they shouted in unison, before breaking out in laughter.
Addressing Shane’s mother as “Mom” doesn’t seem like such a stretch for students in Shane’s Thursday, 10:35 a.m. yoga class, who say they feel like one big happy family.
That’s certainly true for students in all of Shane’s yoga classes. The diversity of participants is what you might notice first. Men and women of many races, ethnicities and religions range in age from a 20-something man who works the night shift to retirees in their 80s. Influenced by Shane’s inclusive teaching style, the eclectic group supports each other through yoga poses and breathing during class and finds themselves kibitzing outside of the Rzepka Yoga Studio before and after sessions. They all bemoan that their weekly classes simply aren’t long enough.
“Several years ago, some of the regulars began having lunch together and that group grew as more people practiced yoga,” Shane said. “As recently as last month, more than 20 of us went to a restaurant for lunch immediately after class. We’ve also had different members host potluck luncheons at their homes. It’s wonderful to see how our class has become a community and grown together.”
Connecting Through Yoga and Lunch
“Our yoga class is unique because we all feel like family,” said Judy Zwick, who has been a member of the Mandel JCC since it opened in 1986. “We all started together at The J, Shane was originally a participant and then progressed to becoming our teacher. As a class, we have become very attached to each other and feel everyone’s joys and sorrows.”
That connection among students is a common denominator at all of The J’s group tness classes. “It’s really empowering and motivating to be in a class with an encouraging and supportive instructor,” says Kate Toohig, The J’s Director of Fitness, Wellness and Recreation. “A close knit, ‘we are all in this together’ bond is formed when you stretch, work out and sweat together as a group.”
The J fosters that sense of community by being so welcoming to students of all levels and all abilities and by offering several yoga styles taught by instructors with varying backgrounds. “Yoga attracts people of different ages because its practice has so much to o er every type of body,” said Shane, whose classes cover the fundamentals of yoga as well as slow ow and traditional Vinyasa styles. “Unlike some studios where you have to conform to one style of practice, our members are able to find the type of yoga and class that ts best for them.”
Shane, who leads five yoga classes a week, plus teaches yoga to children in the Early Childhood program, is equally at home at The J’s Membership Desk where he also serves as a Membership Associate. He began practicing yoga almost a decade ago when he found himself at a low point physically, mentally and spiritually.
“I discovered my practice at The J and a friend suggested I enroll in teacher training,” he said. “Since then, I’ve taught all over Cleveland and Akron, but now I make The J my full-time home. The J’s Yoga classes build friendship and community and this helps us all connect on a deeper level. The sense of belonging and caring we all have for one another is very special.”