HARKER HEIGHTS — Healthy living was the topic at a mini-retreat Saturday at the Stewart C. Meyer Harker Heights Library.

Starting with an hour of yoga and finishing with tasty vegan dishes, the retreat was an effort to introduce local residents to habits they can take into the new year with them, according to Lisa Reyes, reference librarian and the event’s organizer.

“We thought this mini-retreat would be something different,” Reyes said. “We always have positive feedback from these things.”

Tawni Lay, a certified yoga instructor, reflexologist, reiki master and raw foods educator, taught the yoga and nutrition segments of the retreat.

She led a group of 15 or so attendees through a gentle yoga sequence featuring “heart openers,” poses that expand the chest and promote the release of stress and negative emotions stored there. The class also included introducing participants to “Warrior I” pose and many other asanas.

Harker Heights resident Cassandra Marsland said this was her first yoga class. She said her interest in the ancient practice was piqued after attending the Holistic Health Fair two weeks ago.

“It just relaxed me,” Marsland said after the class. “You can get in touch with your inner being.”

A wide variety of ages and skill-levels were represented at the retreat, including 72-year-old Shirley Stephenson and her 65-year-old sister, Cathy Winn.

Stephenson, who lives in Salado, said she was motivated to come to the retreat because of her back problems. “My chiropractor told me I need to stretch more,” she said, adding that her sister invited her.

Winn, a Killeen resident, said she also learned of the retreat from the health fair. Her favorite pose was final relaxation or “savasana.”

“Laying flat at the end and relaxing … that felt good,” she said. “I’d like to get involved in a good class now.”

Library director Lisa Youngblood is not new to yoga but still found value in the retreat.

“I really love yoga because it makes you calm your mind and think about your body,” she said.

Youngblood also said her health improved since taking up yoga several years ago. “My health has been better overall; I heal faster when I have a cold and my recovery was much faster after stomach surgery.”

Following the yoga portion of the retreat, it was time to learn about healthful foods and sample them.

Lay, who is a vegan, prepared several of her trademark recipes, including a spinach-and-banana based “Green Smoothie,” a large raw vegetable salad and her “chocolate pudding,” which featured avocados and cacao powder.

Lay said her health and skin improved dramatically once she eliminated meat and dairy from her diet.

“I used to have bad acne and lots of scarring,” she said. “Smoothies made a big difference.”

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