One of the best ways to spend reading week is to take up residence at Gerstein library. Of course, it is in your better interests to also take a break. I did just that by going to the Flexibility Fusion class at Hart House on a breezy Wednesday afternoon.

The first thing that I noticed when I walked in was that those in attendance seemed to already know what they were doing. It just so happens that the instructor, Edith Varga, has been teaching this class since 1984. Varga has known some of her students for decades. Since it was reading week, there were fewer students than usual.

Starting with a few moments of mindful breathing, we took time to sync our breaths and relax. This conscious act of breathing deeply activates the parasympathetic nervous system and promotes relaxation. Throughout the class, Varga would gently remind us of our breathing, maintaining that we should feel comfortable with the way we move and that we should not force ourselves into uncomfortable patterns.

After the relaxing introduction, 30 minutes were spent on the floor, using gravity and working against it for reclining warmups. Limited movements then became much deeper stretches — twists and turns facilitating the flexibility of the hips, shoulders, and neck, and also stabilizing the core. For the finale, another short sequence of relaxing motions pulled us all back down to our mats.

With every challenging movement, Varga offered alternatives, and with every simple pose, she offered more challenging variations. She would also offer tips to accommodate for and prevent injuries; for example, placing our hands off the mat to prevent wrist pain.

Maintaining a consistent stretching routine prevents muscle weakness and loss of flexibility, ensuring a healthy range of motion. Regularly stretching can relieve tension and prevent injury. A good rule of thumb is to hold a stretch for 30 seconds and not to bounce, which can cause injury.

According to Varga, the class is called Flexibility Fusion because she fuses poses from various disciplines that she’s studied, such as dance, martial arts, and pilates. She notes that creating new movements is a creative outlet for her, and that members enjoy the variety. I agree, as there were some stretches that I’d never encountered before, which I loved.

“I’ve never taught the same class twice in 42 years. There’s a structure and there’s certain things you have to cover, and there is a certain familiarity to the flavour, the patterning, but I like to vary it.”

Overall, Varga facilitated the class with visual language that allowed me to envision the way my body would move and helped me stretch beyond what I thought possible. She notes that many people think that they already have to be flexible to take this class, but that is not required at all. Whether you’re flexible or not, I would recommend this class.

Flexibility Fusion runs in the Exercise Room with Varga on Wednesdays at 1:10 pm and Fridays at 12:10 pm, with Martin Phills on Tuesdays at 8:10 pm, and with Debbie Sabadash on Sundays at 10:10 am.