Vankleek Hill’s favourite yoga instructor
OTTAWA -- As the morning mist surrenders to sunshine, a captivating community in rural eastern Ontario comes to life.
At a local yoga and fitness studio, Hannah Hamsa helps villagers with their daily awakening.
“Hear the breath, feel the breath,” she says serenely.
The 83-year-old took her first class almost seven decades ago.
“The first lesson, my yoga teacher said this will help you with the hurried, worried world,” she smiled.
Hannah’s been gifting strength and calm to students here for 35 years. Her classes are a favourite of yogis and yoginis of all ages, like 92-year-old beef farmer, Art Abbey.
“We’re very lucky to have her,” said Abbey.
“You can tell by the number that keep coming out that she’s obviously very popular.”
“She’s a great example of how to keep fit as you get older,” said Hannah’s student and friend, June Elliott.
“She’s very inspirational, very well known in the area and everyone loves Hannah,” she said with a warm smile.
Hannah loves her community.
“Everyone takes care of each other,” says the energized octogenarian with a bounce in her step.
She walks around Vankleek Hill four times a week, hoping her strides inspire others to get moving.
“When you do it a few times, you feel the benefits of it. You start to feel well, and you say, ‘Wow that’s why I feel better!’” she said.
While strolling through a Vankleek Hill Park, a yoga student stops Hannah to thank her.
“When I do your class, even once a week, it saves me,” said the student.
“To see a beginner walk through the door of my yoga class, I know in my heart something is going to change for them,” Hannah said grinning.
Hannah’s been active her whole life. As a young woman, she was a long-time, baton-twirling majorette.
“With the RoughRiders. We were called the O’Keefettes,” she said.
Today, Hannah’s spin is fitness. She encourages others to get strong and stay strong.
“I built muscle here (pointing to her bicep) in three weeks when I was eighty-years-old.”
As she pulled up her sleeve, she posed this question.
“Do you want to see my bicep? There it is,” she laughed, while pointing at the bulge.
Hannah’s mantra is simple. When it comes to improving flexibility, strength, and balance, it’s never too late.
“Just keep doing your best. Your body loves attention, so treat it well.”