Age no barrier for Mabes’ Yoga Babes

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Mabes Morrill, 94, smiles as she leads Mabes’ Yoga Babes in a class at Westminster Village in Dover earlier this month. Mabes’ Yoga Babes meets three times a week at Westminster and consists of students ranging in age from mid-50s to mid-80s. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

DOVER –– Since learning the discipline more than 40 years ago, 94-year-old Mabes Morrill continues to practice yoga nearly every day.

After her neck became nearly immobile due to arthritis, Ms. Morrill said yoga changed her life.

“I learned from an Indian guru in Venezuela and yoga helped me conquer the arthritis and I was so grateful to this person who had helped me at no fee,” she said.

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Kelley Rouse of Salisbury, Maryland does “The King’s Dance” during Mabes Morrill’s yoga class at Westminster Village.

Ms. Morrill decided to go on and bring yoga with her back to the States and spread the practice and its benefits.

“I wanted to share yoga with others and following the guru’s policy, I’ve chosen to do it without payment too,” she said.

Ms. Morrill, who is now a resident of the Westminster Village in Dover, began regularly teaching in Sussex County when her husband’s job took the pair to Washington, D.C.

“We were looking for a place close to the beach and we decided on Rehoboth Beach,” she said. “And that’s when I started teaching at the YMCA. I did classes starting at 6:30 a.m.”

She later taught at churches in Lewes before moving to Westminster Village in 2006. A couple years after the move, Ms. Morrill decided to pick up teaching where she left off and now has a class of 35 women.

The self-named group Mabes’ Yoga Babes meets three times a week at Westminster and consists of students ranging in age from mid-50s to mid-80s.

“We all come from various backgrounds and locations but the one thing we all have in common is our love of yoga,” said Joan Carpenter of Dover.

“And since joining the Yoga Babes, yoga has become a big part of all our lives.”

Yoga isn’t only a part of life while in class, many of the students have realized changes in their lives outside of class.

“She always pushes us to the limit and I think yoga has really improved many aspects of all our lives,” said Michele Szydlowski of Camden.

31dsn Mabes Merrill 004 by . “Yoga is about so much more than just physical work,” Ms. Carpenter said. “It’s about relaxation, meditation and keeping a clear mind.”

Ms. Merrill plans on having yoga remain a big part of her life for as long as possible.

“Teaching yoga is just wonderful for me,” Ms. Merrill said.

“I’ve met so many wonderful people and it gives me a reason to live a happy life and I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon.”

And although she offers all her services for free, Ms. Morrill isn’t the only one who doesn’t charge for the class –– Westminster doesn’t charge for the class space even though most the members aren’t residents of the community.

“We felt that since Westminster doesn’t charge us anything, we should do something to give back so we decided the TCU would be a good project to support,” Ms. Szydlowski said.

The TCU –– Transitional Care Unit –– is a rehabilitation unit of Westminster now under construction to help patients during the time they are too healthy to be in the hospital but not well enough to manage at home by themselves.

The Yoga Babes raised $3,000 designated for the TCU’s physical therapy room which they dedicated at a ceremony on Jan. 22.

“We are blessed that Mabes calls us home,” said Mary Ann Poling, CEO of Westminster Village said. “We didn’t ask for anything, they just took it upon themselves to donate.”

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Bea Strupe of Smyrna, left, and Gilda Jennings of Frederica do the “tree position”.

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