From left, Louise Lavergne leads Cydne Collins and Bonnie Folick in a Yoga on the Go class at the Child Welfare offices.

Remembering to breathe

The noontime meeting offers only the barest resemblance — participants' bare feet — to a typical yoga class.

When they finish stretching, strengthening and relaxing, students won't have to roll up their yoga mats or shed workout clothes. This is Yoga on the Go, a workplace-based program that takes the traditional Indian regimen off the floor and onto tables and chairs.

"It was perfect — exactly what I was looking for," says 54-year-old Sue Cate. "If I had to go to a class and change my clothes, I wouldn't get as much yoga time in."

A child-welfare worker for the Oregon Department of Human Services, Cate is one of about 15 in her office who practice Yoga on the Go during their lunch hour. The program is designed to reduce job-related stress and improve workers' overall health and productivity, but it also appeals to students with physical limitations, including the elderly, says founder Louise Lavergne.

"It's not just exercises," Lavergne says. "The Yoga on the Go seminars include strategies and techniques in your everyday life."

Blending the Hatha, Kundalini and Naam schools of yoga, Lavergne developed Yoga on the Go in 2001 for use in the corporate environment. Lavergne, then a national marketing director for a Southern California advertising company, noticed that many business colleagues were familiar with yoga, but even avid practitioners never thought to implement the discipline during their daily grind.

"I could see how stressed people were in the workplace," Lavergne says. "All these things are great, but if you don't use them, they don't really do you any good."

Once they punch in and phones start ringing, office workers forget to use the deep, calming way of breathing characteristic to yoga, Lavergne says. Her seminars and classes impart the importance of taking the time to just breathe, she says.

"There's one thing I can guarantee you're going to have to do is breathe."

Since moving to Jacksonville three years ago and founding JoyFull Yoga, Lavergne, 45, has taught yoga in many local venues, including senior centers and medical facilities, and has renewed her Yoga on the Go focus within the past year. With Yoga on the Go clients across the country, Lavergne plans to launch live Web casts in June and hold a yoga seminar at Crater Lake National Park in August.

Cate connected with Lavergne more than two years ago at Triune Integrative Medicine, which prescribes yoga as a complementary therapy. When Dr. Robin Miller moved her practice across town, Lavergne offered to bring Triune's weekly class to a conference room at the Medford offices of DHS' child welfare division. It's not open to the public, but Lavergne says she provides a vital service to local social workers, who pay for yoga out of their own pockets.

"They deal with such a huge amount of stress."

Sitting on the edges of their seats, feet flat on the floor, Cate and four other students restore their posture without leaving their cushioned chairs. They alternate rounding and arching their backs as if rowing a warship. They circle their spines to "adjust digestion." Stomping their feet shakes the room and reinvigorates the body.

Not every exercise confines practitioners to their chairs. They use conference-room furniture to stabilize "tree" pose. Modified "cat-cow" stretches keep students off their knees, palms on their chairs. Lavergne ends class with the "yoga shimmy," clasping her elbows with the opposite hand and twisting her trunk from side to side.

"I think her class gives me as much as a traditional yoga class does," Cate says.

After class, Cate is more aware of painful habits, such as hunching her shoulders at her computer or gritting her teeth. In response, she rolls her neck and shoulders or lays her hands flat on her desk and bends over until her head is level with her shoulders. Lavergne's method is so "transferable," Cate says, she can even practice it on a plane or in a car.

"It's not a wimpy chair class," Lavergne says.

Lavergne teaches Yoga on the Go sessions open to the public Saturdays at 12:15 p.m. at JoyFull Yoga, 225 E. C St., Jacksonville. The drop-in fee for non-members is $12. See the Web site www.joyfull-yoga.com for more information and package rates.

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