Edna Garst has received the Fred A. Birchmore Award for Active Aging. Garst, 79, has been teaching yoga since 1997 at the Center for Active Living at the Athens Community Council on Aging.
Garst has inspired hundreds of people to pursue yoga and an active lifestyle. “She is always up for a challenge and has a presence about her that inspires you to do something active with your life. Her enthusiasm for life is contagious,” said Jaime Lange, the Center for Active Living Director.
Garst specializes in Integral Hatha Yoga. It’s a type of yoga that integrates the body, mind and spirit through gentle exercises.
“It’s yoga that deals with your body, mind and your spirit,” she said. “It’s not all these things you hear about hot, and fast and power – you know, you hear all those terms now. It’s about mind and sprit.”
Garst also teaches at the Loran Smith Center for Cancer Support. These classes are specially-designed for those who have survived breast cancer.
“We don’t do anything on our chest, you know, and we do lots of gentle arm work," she said. "It’s just – it reinforces the kind of exercises you’re given after you’ve had breast cancer.”
It’s a cause close to Garst’s heart because she is a cancer survivor herself. She was diagnosed with Lymphoma in September of 2002.
She’s been a healthy person most of her life and got involved with yoga 35 years ago after moving to Athens.
She was working as a medical technologist, while her husband, John, was a chemistry professor at the University of Georgia. She said that she felt the stresses of working and taking care of her children when she began a transcendental meditation class. It opened the door to yoga for her.
Being a certified yoga instructor for over a decade now, Garst emphasizes the importance of staying active during all stages of life, especially the later stages.
“(Yoga) is so valuable,” she said. “I think one of the first things you might be told is (about) the peace and the calm it brings to your mind."
Garst attributes the recent popularity of yoga to the increased information available on staying active while aging.
“I think we’re really aware of the benefits of moving your body around – some kind of physical activity – as you age,” she said.
Garst teaches at the Athens Council on Aging each Wednesday at 3 p.m. There are two other teachers that also teach at the center. Each class has at least 25 members, who range from 40 to 92 years old.
She added that the idea of yoga itself has evolved over the years, and that she believes yoga will continue making its way into the mainstream way of life.
“It’s not so esoteric as it used to be where you’d see a Buddha out on a mountainside humming on his belly in yellow and orange clothes," she said.