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A Weekly Break to Breathe, Stretch and Let Go

Chair yoga classes release tight necks, wrists and backs.


July 9, 2013—Every week, Marilyn Morgan, manuscript cataloger at Radcliffe’s Schlesinger Library, leads Chair Yoga for Librarians in the Wadsworth House Conference Room. “I find that librarians especially tend to be very service-oriented and put themselves last,” Morgan said. “We often feel guilty about taking time for ourselves. This class is great because anyone can carve out 30 minutes once a week.”

The class starts with a simple breathing exercise to help ground and relax participants; it also serves to reset posture—which has a tendency to sag after a few hours in front of a screen. She then moves on to gentle neck stretches, seated spine twists and hand and wrist stretches, which are especially helpful for people who type a lot. Morgan ends with a series of stretches for hamstrings and hips. “I choose exercises that can easily be done at your desk,” Morgan said. “I suggest that everyone take a few minutes each day to stretch and breathe.”

Qing Gao, a preservation cataloger, regularly attends Morgan’s classes. Gao worked as a librarian in China before she moved here 20 years ago and observed, “In China everyone took 20 minutes once a day to stop and do exercises. Marilyn does a great job with this program. Even when it's raining or snowing, she teaches the class. She will even teach when there are only one or two participants.”

Morgan holds a PhD in American history, but she’s also always been interested in health and wellness, especially yoga; she was trained at the Baron Baptiste Power Yoga Institute in Cambridge. Morgan began teaching the weekly class for library staff in fall 2011, an idea she first proposed to the Harvard Library Strategic Conversations committee.

Maureen O’Drisceoil, production system programmer/analyst for Library Technology Services, is another regular. “The class is very gentle and mellow, but the time flies by. Marilyn is attentive to newbies. I occasionally do some of the less conspicuous chair yoga postures during meetings—and I often do them at my desk to stretch and revive,” she said.

“We live in a culture that cultivates stress,” Morgan concluded. “I love the Harvard Library community, so I am so glad to be able to share my skills with other staff members. I appreciate knowing that the Harvard Library supports this emphasis on wellness.”

In July, Chair Yoga for Librarians will be held every Tuesday from 1-1:30pm. In August, the classes will be held every Wednesday from 1-1:30pm. Sessions are in the Wadsworth House Conference room. They are listed on the Library calendar.