HEFLIN — A chorus of hypnotic mantras played over the sound system in a dimly lit room Monday morning at the Heflin Armory.
Strings of white Christmas lights — some attached to the walls — illuminated yoga instructor Kamaren Holland and her class as they stretched, twisted and bowed on mats. Holland, 37, has been teaching yoga and other fitness classes in Heflin for the last four years. A city employee, she also teaches pop pilates, pound fit, barre above and a circuit training class.
Heflin Parks and Recreation Department Tammy Perry said the city charges $3 per class. Discounts are available for Heflin Fitness members and city employees.
“We try to keep it reasonable because a lot of these classes — sometimes you can pay $10, $20 for just a yoga class,” Perry said.
The city also offers other classes including gymnastics and dance.
Statistics suggest there could be demand for such classes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Alabama ranks third in the U.S. for the highest obesity rate — 35.7 percent of Alabamians are classified as obese. Only Mississippi and West Virginia have higher obesity rates than Alabama.
That statistic does not set well with Holland, who is out to combat the obesity rate in Alabama.
“Those statistics are awful and they’re horrible and heartbreaking,” Holland said. She said she would love to see the obesity rate decline.
The city also offers a weight loss class at the Heflin Recreation Center every Monday night at 5:30.
Holland said her students want to exercise and stay fit. Some of her students are already fit and want to stay that way, while some just enjoy exercising in a group setting. Holland said she teaches a wide range of ages from teens and senior citizens.
Sue Pentecost, 73, said that besides the yoga class she also attends a free exercise class for seniors the city offers every Monday and Thursday. Pentecost said she really likes the classes and enjoys staying in shape “to be flexible so I can keep moving.”
CDC statistics for Cleburne County indicate about a third of the residents in 2013 were obese, and about the same number in 2014 reported getting no physical activity outside of their jobs. Obesity is defined by using a body mass index scale.
After the yoga class was over Santana Brandenstein, 25, said she loved the class and found it to be very calming and relaxing — keeping in shape is very important to her.
“I like the way it makes me feel — I like to be active — all of her classes are so much fun,” Brandenstein said.
Cindy Templeton, 61, said she only takes the yoga class.
“It’s just so that I’ll be more flexible, better balance. I’ve noticed as you get older these things are important,” Templeton said.