As the morning mist gives way to sunshine, a captivating community in rural Eastern Ontario comes to life.
At a local yoga and fitness studio, Hannah Hamsa helps villagers wake up every day.
“Listen to the breath, feel the breath,” she says serenely.
The 83-year-old took her first class almost seven decades ago.
“The first lesson my yoga teacher said would help you with the rushed and worried world,” she smiles.
Yoga teacher Hannah Hamsa. (Joel Haslam/CTV News Ottawa)
Hannah has been giving strength and calm to students here for 35 years. His classes are a favorite of yogis and yoginis of all ages, like Art Abbey, a 92-year-old beef farmer.
“We are very lucky to have him,” said Abbey.
“You can tell by the numbers that keep coming out that she’s obviously very popular.”
“She’s a great example of how to stay in shape as you get older,” said student and friend of Hannah, June Elliott.
“She’s very inspiring, very well known in the area and everyone loves Hannah,” she said with a warm smile.
Hannah loves her community.
“Everyone takes care of each other,” the energetic octogenarian says with a bounce in his step.
She walks around Vankleek Hill four times a week, hoping her steps will inspire others to move.
“When you do it multiple times, you feel the benefits. You start to feel good, and you say, ‘Wow, that’s why I feel better!’ “, did she say.
Hannah Hamsa on one of her many walks in the community of Vankleek Hill, Ontario. (Joel Haslam/CTV News Ottawa)
While walking through a park in Vankleek Hill, a yoga student stops Hannah to thank her.
“When I do your class, even once a week, it saves me,” the student says.
“To see a beginner walk through the door of my yoga class, I know in my heart that something is going to change for them,” Hannah said with a smile.
Hannah has been active all her life. As a young woman, she was a lifelong baton-twirling majorette.
“With the RoughRiders. We were called the O’Keefettes,” she said.
As a young woman, Hannah Hamsa turned the stick with the “O’Keefettes”. (Provided)
Today, Hannah’s spin is fitness. She encourages others to grow strong and stay strong.
“I built muscle here (showing his biceps) in three weeks when I was eighty.”
As she rolled up her sleeve, she asked this question.
“Do you want to see my biceps?” There it is,” she laughed, while pointing at the bulge.
Hannah Hamsa, 83, of Vankleek Hill, flexes her biceps to show the importance of staying strong. (Joel Haslam/CTV News Ottawa)
Hannah’s mantra is simple. When it comes to improving flexibility, strength and balance, it’s never too late.
“Just keep doing your best. Your body loves attention, so treat it right.