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Teacher brings yoga, strength training to area

March 23, 2009|By JANET HEIM

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Candice Valencia has converted skeptics to believers. As she guides the seniors in her Wednesday chair yoga class through the positions of sunflowers, down dog and warrior I, a calm overtakes the group.

"Please listen to your body," Valencia advises members of the group.

Valencia, 43, teaches two yoga classes and two strength-training classes each week at the Washington County Senior Center at Girls Inc. She also teaches exercise classes at the Frederick County (Md.) Senior Center and in Brunswick, Md.

Her students have seen the light.

Betty Kunkle said she read about the free exercise classes in a story in The Herald-Mail and admits she was skeptical.

She said she didn't know much about yoga, but was having trouble with her balance and decided to try Valencia's classes. Her balance and flexibility have improved significantly.

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"It makes me feel better. Now I'm a proponent of yoga," said Kunkle, whose husband also takes the class.

Colleen Levey had surgery to replace her left knee and uses a cane for support. She's been a regular in Valencia's classes since November and looks forward to coming to exercise classes with her neighbor, Shirley Wright.

Valencia grew up in Frederick, Md., and now lives in Smithsburg with her husband, Derek, and 13-year-old son. The couple's 19-year-old daughter is in college.

After their children were born, Valencia joined a fitness club and decided to go through training to become a personal trainer. She then started substituting for the exercise teacher at the Frederick County Senior Center in 2000 and became a certified YogaFit instructor in 2003, with a specialty certification for teaching seniors.

"I can't say enough about how important it is to do something with your body, whether it's yoga, strength training or walking. We just can't be sedentary as we get older," said Valencia, who began teaching exercise classes at the Washington County Senior Center in the fall of 2008.

She said anybody can do her classes. Yoga participants use chairs as a modification, but some in her Frederick County classes do floor yoga along with others who use chairs.

Valencia even has people who have had strokes, are in wheelchairs or use walkers come to her classes in Frederick County. She works with them on balance and on doing basic movements.

"No excuses. I ask new people who are unsure to talk to me before class and just tell them to do what you can do," Valencia said.

For strength training, students are asked to bring their own weights, starting with 2- to 3-pound hand weights. As they get stronger, the amount of weight they use most likely will increase. Valencia said one of her students came to her class with juice boxes because that's all she had to use for resistance.

For Valencia, the best part of her job is receiving positive feedback from her students. Students have told her they were able to rake leaves, bend over and pick them up, or that they were able to walk a mile.

"People tell me what's working and what's not. That's the best part," she said. "It's very rewarding. It works. I've seen it."`

Check out Washington County Senior Center at Girls Inc. for more information about the programs.

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