As calming music plays, several senior citizens slowly stretch their limbs, stand up, and settle into poses.
Yoga mats are laid out, and the room is illuminated only by natural light coming in through the window, giving the scene a serene feel.
This is where residents of Rancho Mission Viejo’s 55-and-older Gavilán neighborhood meet on Wednesday and Friday mornings for yoga sessions, led by resident Dale Eisenberg.
Eisenberg started the group sessions a few years ago when his neighbors wanted to start doing yoga but were intimidated by the possibility of being judged if they went elsewhere.
“I’m dealing with folks that have never done yoga before and, in some cases, have had hip replacements,” he said.
Eisenberg started the practice in his garage. The meetups have since moved to RMV’s Hilltop Club, a community space available to residents, after the group got to too big for his house.
He has been practicing yoga for 12 years and was certified to instruct a few years ago. Eisenberg has been active his entire life, having previously taught martial arts classes. He holds a black belt in Aikido, which teaches people to use an opponent’s momentum to their advantage.
Eisenberg’s neighbors still make up the core of attendees.
“They all rave about how better and stronger they feel,” he said. “It makes me feel good to participate in helping these people improve their lives.”
A focus of his instruction is helping his peers manage their mobility and stability. Techniques that Eisenberg teaches include standing on one leg and controlling breathing.
“Some of these folks have had health issues,” he said. “It helps calm their bodies and minds.”
While in good shape, Eisenberg himself had to find that sense of stillness after his first exposure to yoga came during a hot yoga class—an experience that was taxing for a fitness enthusiast who has done marathon runs and 100-mile bike rides.
He has spent two and a half years perfecting one pose, for instance.
“I found it, particularly the hot yoga, super-challenging—physically and mentally,” Eisenberg said. “It helps your mind and body and nervous system and balance. I love it. The people are wonderful. It’s the real thing.”
The sessions for Gavilán residents are to help them if they go on cruises and hikes, he said.
Yoga is also great for people who have Parkinson’s disease, Eisenberg said.
The group meets on Wednesdays and Fridays at 10:15 a.m.
“I want to reach out to everyone in the neighborhood,” Eisenberg said. “It’s free.”