Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


All Saints Class Fosters Good Posture, Vitality

By PRISCILLA GREEAR, Staff Writer | Published March 10, 2005

Beth Scupham begins her weekly yoga class at All Saints Church, with everyone standing erect in a quiet “mountain posture” and being mindful of their breath and focusing on what they’re doing in the moment.

They then do some different postures standing and later do some on the floor. Following a short rest they have some guided imagery and “get real quiet following their breathing. It’s all done pretty meditatively, quietly, very slowly. If they’re not feeling well they can do it on a chair or on the floor,” said Scupham.

It ends with everyone lying on their backs on the floor in the “sivasana” posture. “To me the real power of yoga is that it’s so simple. People need that when they’re going through something, a place to be quiet and catch up with themselves.”

Scupham has been leading a class for over four years, having been approached by former parish nurse Peggy White about leading a class as part of their Parish Health Ministry program. She said many are over 50 and some are over 60, wanting to improve mobility and flexibility.

The All Saints class typically draws 10-20 people and is held every Thursday. It is open to all from beginners to advanced practitioners. It emphasizes yoga as a key to improving flexibility, strength, pain and stress management, body awareness, energy level and mood. Many find it helps one relax, bringing a greater sense of ease and stillness to the body, breath and mind through the balancing of flexibility and strength from the postures and quieting the mind. Others use it to help with rehabilitation from an illness.

“I try to make it so it’s accessible to anybody of any level of fitness or injury,” Scupham said.

The class also fosters body awareness. The instructor is known for taking out an anatomy book and reviewing a certain system like the diaphragm and how it works. “If you’re 60 or 70 and have never exercised and don’t like to exercise, they have to have a place to start, to begin to see and feel different body parts and systems working together. It’s more to deepen your exposure and acceptance of your body if you’re young, old, fat or thin. You have to start where you are.”

She said that for certain conditions it can be a great tool to help with injury or pain management. “Just having a few little things you can do to make it better for yourself is empowering.”

The class addresses breathing properly and having good posture, which can foster more energy and stamina. It addresses “how to stand without wearing your body out. A lot of the time we’re working a lot harder than we need to just to walk around and breathe ,” she said. “If I had the posture now I had in my 20s, I’d probably be having surgery by now. It becomes more crucial as you get older. Some of the (poor) posture begins to cause structural problems.”

The All Saints instructor started taking yoga while living in New York in the 70s and doing a lot of dancing to help with injury and relaxation. She then taught herself more and practiced at home with her roommate.

“I was in my 20s then, and I started thinking I wished I knew it before in my teens … It helped my energy level. It changed my mood. I could pull myself out of a funk by just breathing better and standing up taller. It just seemed positive and helpful.”

Retired nurse and All Saints parishioner Pat Sarnie, 70, met Scupham when they were both working in the fitness center at Dunwoody Baptist Church and later started taking yoga from her. She said, “she does a great class” at All Saints and particularly likes how the postures move and keep her joints open and prevent inflammation and arthritis, thus helping her to stay active. She too reports improved posture.

“As we mature we tend to fall forward and get all slouchy. By her working with us and showing us how to stand up and breathe and use your diaphragm (my posture improves). And when you’re standing up and breathing right, everything works better,” she said. “It makes me feel younger. When you feel like you can move, it’s a good feeling and it makes you feel uplifted and happy.”

Parish nurse Dolores Riccardi, director of the Parish Health Ministry at All Saints, said that religious orders in the Middle Ages were the primary founders of health communities and that the church is trying to have people recognize the fruits of a holistic approach to wellbeing and to also consider some alternatives to Western medicine. “Our bodies are a gift from God and we have a sacred responsibility to do what we can to preserve our good health. Traditional medicine is finally coming to accept the fact that some of the ancient forms of exercise have very measurable benefits,” she said, adding that the parish also offers a Tai Chi class.

“We’re a graying parish … We’re trying to do everything we can to assist them in aging comfortably and show them there are some alternatives to just fixing ailments with a pill. (They’re encouraged) to look at lifestyle and practices and take a few positive steps … (to) decrease the likeliness of illness and injury. The church is interested in everything about them.”


The class at All Saints, located at 2443 Mount Vernon Road, Dunwoody, is held every Thursday from 9-10 a.m. Call Dolores Riccardi at (770) 393-3255 for information.