Yoga is one of the oldest forms of exercise in the world, yet it isn’t as widespread as some sports like football or baseball. It improves strength, coordination and can even relieve stress.
Marita Gardner-Anopol brought yoga to Kingwood after moving to the area from the Northeast. She has been teaching yoga for almost 50 years, but unfortunately had to close when COVID-19 hit and has yet to reopen.
“I’m at a stage in my life if I don’t know if I will go back to teaching classes,” Gardner-Anopo said. “Yoga has grown. When I first introduced it, everyone thought it was a religion. They didn’t know what it was, but it’s the oldest exercise form in the world.”
Gardner-Anopol is a pioneer when it comes to yoga. She is certified by the national association of yoga therapists and founded the Kingwood Yoga and Wellness Center in 2003.
COVID-19 has had a drastic impact on everyday life, but even more so on yoga. The purpose is to control your breathing and focus on yourself, and many times a mask can be a distraction, especially when practicing breathing techniques.
“It’s not like going to a gym,” Gardner-Anopol said. “There’s a lot of breathing techniques, so you can’t wear a mask.”
Although she was forced to close her doors due to the pandemic, Gardner-Anopol still has quite a bit of influence on the yoga scene.
“We are still closed due to the pandemic, but I have done some training via zoom,” Gardner-Anopol said. “I’ve also created a line of products, board games and even a written book.”
Gardner-Anopol’s work has earned her many accolades, like being interviewed for a story in Time magazine, starting the Kingwood High School yoga club and, in 2005, designing and implementing the yoga program for Lonestar College. However, her proudest and most passionate work is that of children’s’ yoga.
“I’ve created an interactive board game for the family,” Gardner-Anopol said. “It’s absolutely brilliant. I’ve been featured in TIME magazine, for my work with children in yoga. Among some of her products, Gardner-Anopol has the Yoga 4 Kids deck of cards, the family board game Yoga 4 Kids, an instructional yoga DVD for kids and has published “The Adventures of Yoga 4 Kids.”
The game has 52 cards in total, with the benefits of each pose and breathing technique listed on the back. She also facilitates the Yoga 4 Kids program at Texas Children’s Hospital and is endorsed by Kingwood pediatrician Dr. Soo Peen Chin.
“The time is ripe that families move their body, breathe and practice mindfulness,” Gardner-Anopol said. “Playing Yoga 4 Kids keeps it fun.”
Her life is dedicated to the betterment of her community through yoga. She taught a society originally unaccepting of what they thought was a religion to let themselves breathe and attempt to find peace. She continues to advocate for children’s yoga, one of her greatest passions.
“Children in yoga is one of the biggest things I’ve advocated,” Gardner-Anopo said. “Although COVID has me closed, I’m still finding ways to be busy and productive.”