RACINE COUNTY — Some people are content to sit back and relax when they retire, maybe traveling or working in their gardens.
Others want to turn their talents toward helping others. That was true of Jana Gasiorkiewicz.
About seven months ago, Gasiorkiewicz became a certified yoga instructor. Several months ago, she launched her Yoga on a Chair classes.
But her practice targets patients with multiple sclerosis and similar medical conditions. The classes are conducted on chairs “because so many people can’t get down on the mat,” she explains.
“You don’t need the stamina (to stand),” she said. “Without overtaxing those already weakened limbs and your heart, you can bring some movement and build some heat without exhausting yourself.”
Gasiorkiewicz retired in 2011 after working for 20 years for the Kenosha Unified School District. The last 11 years were spent teaching French at Bradford High School. She has been teaching one French class at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside since September.
After retiring, she said she had more time and started going to yoga classes at YogaRoots Racine, 518 College Ave., in Downtown Racine.
Gasiorkiewicz’s daughter, Suzanne Selmo, had become a yoga therapist in California. Gasiorkiewicz, 65, received her instructor certification in July. But then the question became whom would she teach?
She said a friend’s husband has Parkinson’s disease, and he benefited from yoga.
“It gave me the idea to target my practice to a particular audience,” Gasiorkiewicz said. “When I looked into it, I found there were many more MS patients than Parkinson’s patients.”
Multiple sclerosis is an often-disabling central nervous system disorder. Symptoms range from abnormal fatigue to memory, attention and vision problems, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Some patients may suffer some form of paralysis, or need help from a cane or crutches to work, according to the organization.
Because people with MS may have a limited range of motion, or may not be able to lie on the floor on mats, Gasiorkiewicz teaches her classes on chairs.
A relative with MS died about six years ago. And Gasiorkiewicz said she learned a few years ago that a former coworker with MS had died.
“Those two women — their lives were so changed by MS. Those reasons were in the back of my mind,” she said.
Some patients have mild symptoms. Others, she said, are in wheelchairs. Two participants, a married couple from Kenosha, have said they both benefit from the classes. But only the wife has MS.
“For me, it’s strengthening, flexibility, balance, stress reduction,” she said. “If they would try it consistently, after a few months they would see the benefits would warrant setting aside a little money or time.”
Yoga on chair
Yoga teacher Jana Gasiorkiewicz leads yoga on a chair classes from 7 to 8 p.m. on Mondays at Holy Communion Lutheran Church’s northwestern campus, 5040 Northwestern Ave. The cost is $5 per class or $40 for 10 weeks.