In Tribeca, Seniors Gather Weekly to Help Heal Knees, Hips and More

Maura Nolan, lower left, leads a group of seniors in a knee-lifting exercise. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

May. 05, 2017

Seated in a circle, eyes closed and breaths slow and deep, seven women and one man followed the soothing directions of Maura Nolan as she guided them in a meditative pursuit of freedom from physical and emotional burdens. “Sending them,” as she put it, “out into the universe.”

“I want you to feel yourself take in this lovely healing energy and let it move around the body to the places where it is needed,” she told her students one recent Thursday afternoon in a small community room in Tribeca’s Independence Plaza.

For this group of seniors, many in their 80s, that healing is needed for aching backs, poor balance, painful knees and hips, and limbs still hurting from falls. Each Thursday, in a 10-week class that ends on Thursday, June 29, they come together for gentle movement and yoga-infused mind-body exercises as part of a program offered by the Independence Plaza Senior Center.

The class is called “Fit and Flexible Knees” and Nolan, 69, gives her students a variety of knee and hip workouts, some seated, some standing. Participants also report that more than just the knees are treated in each of these one-hour sessions.

“Energized!” exclaimed sisters Edith and Hilda Merle, 83 and 85 respectively, when asked what they get from the class. Hilda was back after a month in the hospital for leukemia treatment, where she complained that she had too little room to exercise her legs. “You have to move!” she said.

That sentiment was echoed by wheelchair-bound Jean Brown. “The more I move the better it will be for me,” said Brown, who contracted polio as a child. “So I’ve been going to all the classes. I sit in the chair and make all the moves.” At that she wiggled her legs and laughed. I feel like I’ve accomplished something,” she added.

Nolan, a veteran yoga teacher, tore a ligament in her knee 30 years ago and through yoga staved off a knee replacement, until last year. That’s when she got the idea for her knee class and now, she believes, it is the only one of its kind.

“We do work on the whole body. I want them to feel confident, not only about being out in the world but even in their apartments,” said Nolan, who gave her students a lesson on how to safely rise to their feet after a fall. “I bring a lot of my yoga to bear.”

Charles Weinberg, 84, who suffers from arthritis in both knees, said his doctors have told him that if he doesn’t have surgery within the next four year he will no longer be able to walk. But Nolan’s class, he said, is helping him slowly improve.

“I’m persevering,” said Weinberg, a two-time marathoner in his 50s who now counts on that same determination to beat his ailments. “I want to prove my doctors wrong.”

New students seeking help with knee and hip problems—or who want to avoid them—are welcome to join the group, Maura Nolan says. The free class meets at 2 p.m. on Thursdays (until June 29) in the small second-floor community room of Independence Plaza, 310 Greenwich St.