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Local yoga instructor poses for new "Boomer Yoga" book

Local yoga instructor poses for new "Boomer Yoga"  book
Photo courtesy of Holly Haywood and Bernie Meyers
Sheila Magalhas lends her flexibility to new book by good friend and yoga mentor Beryl Bender Birch

By Debbie Gardner
PRIME Editor

As the owner of Heartsong Yoga in East Longmeadow, MA, Sheila Magalhaes has been helping people throughout the Pioneer Valley discover the benefits of yoga for 17 years.

Recently Magalhaes and her husband, Tony, had the opportunity to be a part of the production of a new boomer-oriented yoga book by Magalhaes' mentor and teacher, Beryl Bender Birch.

Birch, who gained national fame with her 1995 book, "Power Yoga,, is a world-renown instructor in the yoga philosophy. Magalhaes has studied with her since the 1990s. Birch has also been an annual guest instructor at Heartsong Yoga every January for many years.

Recently, PRIME had the opportunity to speak with Magalhaes about her experiences working on "Boomer Yoga." Here's what she had to say:

Book cover photo copyright 2009 Fran ois Gagn e
PRIME: How did you get involved with "Boomer Yoga"?

Sheila: I've been a student of Beryl's for 14 years. I first met her in 1996, right after she published her first book, "Power Yoga."

Being a student, we became friends. I've traveled with her, trained with her, became an assistant and also completed the advanced level teacher training with her.

She'd been talking about the book [Boomer Yoga], and, as it was coming time to illustrate it, she asked [my husband] Tony and I to be part of it, and we said yes.

We were pose models along with another couple that lives in Vermont.

PRIME: What makes "Boomer Yoga" different from other yoga books?

Sheila: It was specifically designed for the boomer market. Beryl has had an evolution in her [yoga] practice from her "Power Yoga" book, where the poses were very challenging, vigorous and athletic. I feel she's brilliantly modified the poses to make them accessible to everyone, and added poses into the boomer sequences she calls back and shoulder therapy. She feels [this] is very important for people in our culture, with the way we work, sitting in chairs hunched over computers.

When you see the photos in Boomer Yoga you'll be inspired to [try this yoga] practice, not scared away. [Beryl] did a lot of research on the poses.

PRIME: Can you be specific about how the book addresses boomer issues?

Sheila: A lot of people [in the boomer age bracket] are facing knee and hip and shoulder limitations; every posture in [Boomer Yoga] that she's chosen for her sequence has modifications for these limitations.

Also, the book speaks the language of the boomer. It gives benefits and reasons why this practice [of yoga] is so healthy it brings in the health benefits. Again, she did a lot of research.

PRIME: Why did you feel you wanted to pose for "Boomer Yoga'?

Sheila: I really wanted to do it because I felt it would be supportive to Beryl, and because it would be fun .I've never done anything like this before.
One of the things that was very exciting to me is that [Beryl] invited both [my husband and I] to pose. It was an unexpected gift, because he's a very important part of Heartsong Yoga and the work we do there. He's the silent, strong backbone.

PRIME: What was the photo shoot like?

Sheila: It was very professional, very well run.
We traveled to Portland [Maine] and stayed in a beautiful Bed & Breakfast. The location for the shoot was a loft that was both [the photographer's] home and studio.
The book's editor was there, and there were two photographers working together, and there was hair and makeup [artists], which was very fun.
The whole thing was very organized, The photographer knew exactly what he wanted to do; it was a very tight schedule. We had two days to shoot all the pictures.

Editor's Note: The publisher informed PRIME that the names of the two photographers were Holly Haywood and Bernie Meyers and that "there was a seamless interaction between the photographers and the editorial team.

PRIME: How many poses did you hold for the book?

Sheila: I don't know the final cut, but they probably took a dozen photos of each of us.
It took all the people in the studio to go through the details of each pose . we laughed a lot. They took so many shots, looked at so many details [of each photo] . the drape of the clothes, the look in our eyes, our posture, did we look happy .
They were gorgeous color photos, but they'll be published in black and white [in the book].

PRIME: How did it feel to be a model for a book that will have national exposure?

Sheila: We had lots of questions for ourselves: What should we wear? [we supplied our own outfits]; How will we look? How dare we present ourselves as models when we're just regular folk?

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