by DJ Cracovia
“Delightful, tough-as-nails, encouraging, unique, and wonderful” are some of the words Paula Heitzner’s students use to describe their yoga teacher. Heitzner has been actively teaching yoga for 45 years and has been practicing even longer.
“Paula has been a godsend,” says student Bob Rubin, who has been taking Heitzner’s classes with his wife for over 35 years. Bob and his wife Ferida, both now their late eighties, play tennis and take aerobics in addition to yoga every week. “Because of Paula we are able continue our active lifestyle.” Bob spent two days shoveling snow earlier this month without any negative effects. “She is still an inspiration to us,” Rubin says. “We love her dearly.”
After the birth of her fourth child, Paula knew she needed to find a good yoga teacher. That’s when she found Blance Devires, the wife of the late Pierre Bernard, an early pioneer of the American yoga movement. What Paula learned from Devires and fellow student Elizabeth Spohn were “intangible things, like how to carry oneself with intention and grace.” Simply by watching them and keeping a record of each class in her notebook, Paula built the foundation that would lead to an esteemed career as a Yoga Instructor’s Instructor.
Paula first taught yoga at the The Montessori School in Suffern before moving her classes to what is now The New Age Center of Nyack. Currently she offers a 200-hour certification program through the Yoga Alliance Center. Heitzner calls her style of teaching “Mentor Apprenticeship, [where] you learn by observing and doing.” There is a strong focus on the mental, emotional, spiritual and physical practices of yoga in each class, which are never the same. Paula admits to not having a set routine before each class, instead she listens to each student, working with them on their needs. “She’s a natural born choreographer,” says Lynda Brothers, who has been a Heitzner student for 27 years. “She is a god-send and has helped me with stretching, balance and most of all strength.”
All of Paula’s classes begin with grounding, followed by finding center, aligning the body and finally breathing. “The goal at the start is to discard the baggage,” she says. “Once that is done the mind then becomes focused on its internal deep center. That in turn allows for the breath and bone principal. With each breath you let your muscles follow the movement of your bones.” Heitzner says the key to all of her teachings is let your muscles follow your bones and not let the mind motivate the muscle movement.
Paula has taught hundreds of current yoga teachers in the tri-sate area and many of her students have gone on to open studios. Betsy Ceva and Charlene Bradin, founders of Birchwood Center in Nyack, are former students. Yoga Mountain, a yoga practice in New City, was started by another former student, Gail Bentley Walsh.
Now in her fifth decade of yoga practice in Nyack, Heitzer continues to teach at the The New Age Center of Nyack. Visit Yoga4you.com to learn more about Paula Heitzner and see her class schedule.
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- 2014 Local Health and Wellness Guide
Photo credits: Lynda Brothers