For an hour every Tuesday at Kalkaska Memorial Health Center, a group of formerly un-limber, achy people are stretching, chilling, taking deep breaths and reaping the healing powers of the ancient Indian practice of yoga. And thanks to former Munson Healthcare CEO Jim Austin, it’s free.

Austin had experienced the benefits of yoga firsthand in Traverse City when he decided to initiate the Kalkaska program a decade ago.

“He wanted to encourage the community to take care of themselves,” says Daryl Busch, the certified yoga instructor and former kindergarten teacher who has been teaching the class since 2012. Yoga combines physical, mental and spiritual pursuits to relieve anxiety, depression, enhance fitness, body image, improve the cardiovascular system and mindfulness pertaining to eating, according to the Harvard Medical School.

“We have a lot of regulars,” says Busch. Her students range from a sixth-grader to a woman in her 80s. “Their doctors recommend them. I give them the tools to help relieve their symptoms. The more you move, the better you feel—you lubricate your joints. Many of my students say they have improved.”

Busch starts with easy postures. “I take it in stages and push to higher levels.” The meditative component of yoga helps her students let go of anger, stress and pain, and the deep-breathing element is great for the heart, lungs and chest, “opening up areas of the body that have just been stuck,” says Busch, adding that practicing yoga provides a nice relief from the day.

“It’s the greatest gift—a chance to have one hour a day and let go and give themselves the attention they need to relieve stress and pain.”

Free classes are open to the public and employees in the Cardiac Rehab Gym at Kalkaska Memorial Health Center. Contact Marianne Ewald, 231.258.7525.