Category Archives: Classes

Chair Yoga at OLLI


Chair Yoga lge

Many adults aged 50+ in the greater Raleigh area eagerly await the opening of registration for OLLI at NC State University’s fall program of classes, lectures and study trips – coming soon! In the meantime OLLI member, Barbara Haddad Ryan, highlights one that took place earlier in the year….

Among the enticing offerings in the spring 2017 OLLI catalog was one that offered different benefits from any other course: “Adaptive Chair Yoga — All Bodies Feel Better.” What, many members must have wondered, is that? Simple: It uses a chair “to sit, stand and move with more comfort and stability.” This is exactly what students discovered, in the welcome atmosphere inside the JC Raulston Arboretum.

The instructor was Howie Shareff — make that Dr. Shareff — whose lively personality and sense of humor made every class an experience in physical and emotional uplift. A native of Queens, N.Y., Howie majored in chemistry in college and decided on a career in dentistry because he liked his family’s dentist. He came to North Carolina in 1977 to study dentistry at UNC, and first heard about yoga there when a college hygiene instructor offered some classes. But he didn’t try it until one of his patients recruited him as a student in 1996.

And Howie needed it. Initially arthritis — part of family history — was only a minor problem. But poor posture was unavoidable in treating patients, and eventually he couldn’t raise his right arm above his head. “So I used yoga,” he said, “but also surgeries and plenty of additional therapies.” So for 25 years he practiced dentistry, first in eastern North Carolina and since 1984 near Cameron Village. Eventually, however, the arthritis caught up with him, along with sports trauma from football as a teenager, the repetitive motion of triathlon training in his 30s, and a collision playing softball in his 40s, along with the posture required in his work, and the physical and mental demands of owning a dental business.

All of this led Howie to retire early — and to start a truly unusual second career. He studied Chair Yoga with Lakshmi Voelker in 2008, and was certified that year in the practice. Then he received additional training in yoga for seniors from Carol Krucoff, a yoga therapist based at Duke Integrative Medicine in Durham. He explains that “Adaptive” refers to the use of props, not only chairs but also pillows, towels “and other creative modalities to experience a neutral spine, and let the natural curves of your bones support you without strain.”

Last spring’s course was Howie’s second for OLLI. “Chair Yoga still isn’t widely known around the country,” he said. “It’s a supplemental class in yoga studios. But in senior wellness programs it’s a foundational class.” In 2011 he wrote a how-to book and made a DVD about it: “Sit Stretch Smile” (available on Amazon), dedicated to his wife, Barbara, “for helping me maintain a fun disposition, and for a life full of love and laughter.”  She’s a psychologist and part-time yoga instructor, “but not Chair Yoga in the formal sense,” he said. They have two grown children, who “use yoga occasionally to manage stress.”

In 2010 Howie founded the nonprofit You Call This Yoga, where he’s the volunteer director and lead teacher. It provides instruction for an impressive variety of hosts, among them the Alliance Medical Ministry, the Lupus Foundation, the Multiple Sclerosis Society, diabetes support groups, Boys & Girls Club, Durham VA, and senior centers in Wake County. Last April the 8th annual Yogafest NC drew 500 participants and exhibitors to the McKimmon Center. You Call This Yoga also has a website , a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a blog and newsletter. Howie’s second career has turned out to be bigger than his first!

Barbara Haddad Ryan


The Gift of OLLI Membership


OLLI Member and Chair of the Advisory Council, Carol Rahmani, shared with us some of her memories of her 2016 OLLI experience. Here is an excerpt:

“So, the bulk of my time continues to be spent in …OLLI-NC State. I am in my second year of a two-year term as Chair of the OLLI Advisory Council, which entails leading the Council and attending meetings of all the standing committees within OLLI.

I enjoy my opportunities to collaborate with the stellar OLLI staff and to interact with other members who serve on committees. When I joined OLLI in 2009, I was interested in partaking of the fine course offerings, but my involvement in the organization has led to far more than that. I’ve enjoyed developing collegial relationships through committee-work, and have also established lasting and meaningful friendships with other members of what we refer to as our “community of learners.”

Last week marked the end of our fall semester courses, and on my final day of class, I attended a genetics class in the morning and a class on ancient Greece in the afternoon. ……It occurred to me at the end of that final day of the semester that, in one day, OLLI had enabled me to engage in a virtual time-travel experience spanning 2500 years, from the frontier of today’s scientific advances back in time to the Bronze Age. Wow!”

As 2016 comes to a close and you start to make plans and set goals for 2017, consider becoming more involved in the OLLI program as a volunteer. You will be making a valuable contribution to the program you love and will receive many benefits in return. Just come and visit us in the OLLI office in room 225 on the second floor of Mckimmon Center to find out what opportunities there are.

Have a wonderful holiday and we’ll see you in 2017 for another year of educational programs spanning the whole spectrum of topics and eras!

Joan Hardman-Cobb (Assistant Director, OLLI at NC State)