Love of yoga no stretch for Penn Hills instructor
George Bender’s students have such an appreciation for his style of yoga instruction, they coined a term for it.
He even has a T-shirt featuring the word: Georga.
“It’s like a combination of ‘George’s yoga,’” Bender said before a recent class, pulling tight his shirt to show the text. “My students – that’s what they call it. They made this for me.”
The aptly-named Penn Hills resident, 59, has been a yoga instructor for around 15 years. His weekly yoga class at Penn Hills Library attracts a core group of 10.
Most of his students are middle-aged to seniors, but all are welcome, Bender said.
“As long as you’re relatively fit and you can get up and down from the floor, just show up. If you want to get in shape, it’s a good class,” he said.
Bender is a personal trainer at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh in Squirrel Hill and also works with cancer patients at UPMC Shadyside as a restorative technician. He has logged a thousand hours instructing the ancient Indian discipline.
When he started, his classes incorporated elements of the Hatha, Iyengar and Ashtanga yoga styles, but Bender likes being able to offer his students an exercise that will whip them into shape. Over the years, his class has morphed to include exercise and positions targeting different muscle groups.
“I incorporate all sorts of body exercises, calisthenics, whatever, along with the yoga. And they never know what to expect,” he said with a smile.
Bender remembers taking his first yoga class in 1979 when he attended Penn State at the McKeesport campus. He said he got the idea from his mom, who practiced it regularly.
He still tries to get two sessions of yoga in personally outside of his own class.
The weekly instruction Bender offers is secondary to the sense of community that has blossomed in his class throughout the years. The teacher greets everyone by name as they trickle into the room – even a newcomer, whom he mistakenly greeted with a name of an absent lookalike.
The mistake was laughed off by both as Bender welcomed her and gave her an idea of what to expect during the hour-long class.
“How’d you feel after that last class?” he asked one regular. He laughed knowingly when the student’s response hinted at slight agony.
In his free time, Bender hikes to stay fit for the Rachel Carson Trail Challenge, plays guitar in a band and enjoys mindfulness meditation.
But he insists he’s no hippie.
“My brother maybe,” he said. “I was too young – born in 1959.”
Bender charges $6 for his Yoga Fit class held every Wednesday from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the library’s community room. Details: pennhillslibrary.org
Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Dillon at 412-871-2325, [email protected] or via Twitter .