A community can mean a lot of things to many different people. It can mean those who share your town. It can mean neighbors who share your culture. It can even mean the people who share the world around you. But for those who attend classes at their local recreation centers, they stand as a health community all of their own.
Starting in the early 1900s, cities in America took cues from health and playgrounds in Europe by starting what was then called the Playground and Recreation Association. This old version of our Parks and Recreations department, even as far as into the 60s, seemed a far cry from the vast network of today, compared to what we focus on today.
Susan Buller, the Wellness Coordinator for Iberia Parish Recreation, mused on those times past, alongside what brought about some of those changes through the years. Followed by talking a little about what today’s recreational centers have to offer their communities.
“What has shifted in the past 20 years is that people recognize (now) that our food was different. Our connection to our environment was different, lighting with work. Stress levels and the ever-increasing price of health care were different,” Buller comments.
What Buller, and the nine instructors of Iberia Parish Recreation, see from those who come into the Iberia Parish Recreation, evolves past the physical wishes for health and reaches into a greater sense of wellness. This wellness, as Buller calls it, stems not from a superficial want for the body, but from a cocktail of invigorating health classes, social satisfaction and a small dash of workshops on various health topics.
“This is your mind with the sense that your mind creates your physiology. Getting more and understanding more of where your body begins, where your health begins. It’s in the thoughts you keep,” Buller explains. “And the more consistent thoughts that you have, then adding your practice being consistent.”
With classes like aqua dance, Tai Chi, chair aerobics, line dancing and yoga, Iberia Parish Recreation makes sure it offers a little something for everyone. Recently, they took to the moonlight for their yoga class accompanying soothing movements with live music and the moon above. Both yoga and Tai Chi make up some of the most popular courses that Iberia Parish Recreation offers.
“There’s a variety of yoga classes, which is an integration of the mind and body,” Buller says. “And then there’s Tai Chi, which is great, in itself has a very ancient, very old lineage. That is also helping people with balance and coordination.”
With new ventures come new opportunities for community building, something Buller feels is breaking through in Iberia Parish and the citizens that inhabit it. A bond is built between classmates new and old, all looking for those same human connections.
“This is a shift that I believe is happening where it’s not just about ‘me,’ but where do ‘I’ fit in,” Buller muses. “A majority (of people) come because they know they’re working on themselves, but they also feel welcome. They feel like they’re around something that’s theirs”
So what does it take to try a class at Iberia Parish Recreation? A little bit of free time and a crisp $5 bill. With impressive equipment, three years of “Wellness” experience, and a summer camp for the little ones, there’s never been a better time to stop by Iberia Parish Recreation.
“You’re not going to get better until you start.” Buller laughs, “And what’s that quote? If you don’t try, you fail automatically.”
Welcome to the 60s
Sports - Recreational teams reigned king in the height of the 60s. Without our gyms of today to act as a home to our health needs, communities came together by spending a little time challenging each other to exciting community games. It was a time of rooting for the home team and making sure you were the ones coming back with both the prize and the bragging rights for years to come.
Stretching - Contrary to popular belief in the 60s, the self-titled vibrating belt did not, in fact, melt body fat away. After a time, what was to be an end-all-be-all solution to hard-earned work, eventually faded away and made room for women’s stretching. Today, what survives comes in the form of video’s featuring women’s stretching classes in office heels. Women wished for more flexibility in their lives and mimicked it in their bodies.
The Excitable 80s
Toning - The 80s were there to “pump you up.” With toned and muscled ideals gaining popularity, people sought out ways to shape themselves in the image the Hollywood stars they saw on their screens. Weights ruled supreme from the 2 lbs aerobic weights all the way to 50 lbs muscle makers. It was a time to get ripped and brag on that bod, and probably your super cute pink and green leopard leggings to accompany it.
Step Aerobics – You can’t mention the 80s without “Sweatin’ to the Oldies” and it’s lovable star, Richard Simmons. Simmons’ videos tossed out ideal “Jane Fonda-esque” back up dancer for normal men and women simply wanting to lose a few pounds by dancing to a few old classics. Recreational classes formed to mimic the infectious style, while being admittedly a little more forgiving than the intense “step” videos of the past.
So what about today?
Yoga - Today we’ve moved away from the traditional fitness classes and entered a realm of the spiritual. In a time when we’re constantly connecting to each other through technology, we also crave connection to the world below our feet. Yoga classes have surged in popularity over the past years catering to both young, and young at heart. From relaxation yoga to high-intensity weight loss yoga, the Eastern practice brings something for everyone to an unbelievably large table.
CrossFit - Popping up across the nation, CrossFit facilities combine training techniques of the past with standards we’ve developed today. Meant to tackle fitness for the entire body through intensive workouts, no one can deny that CrossFit doesn’t get results from those who try. Though it may sound daunting at first, with varying ranges most gyms can accommodate anyone looking to try CrossFit out.