Heather Eldridge is one person you won’t hear utter the words, “I’m too old for that”.
After teaching the dance sport, physical culture, or ‘physie’, for decades, she decided to start doing yoga.
A trip to India when she was in her sixties then inspired the grandmother to go a step further and become a yoga instructor.
“Yoga has allowed me to shift my own perception of what I could or couldn’t do. I became a yoga teacher in my sixties when many people start to think about retirement,” she said.
Heather Eldridge continues to practise and teach yoga regularly in her beachside town of Port Macquarie. (ABC News: Emma Siossian)
Ms Eldridge, who lives in Port Macquarie on the New South Wales mid-north coast, said when her yoga instructor first suggested she join a teacher training program, she wasn’t convinced.
“Initially I thought, ‘Well yes, if you’d asked me that 30 years ago it would have been a good idea’,” she laughed.
“But obviously it didn’t take too much to convince me and I went ahead and really have enjoyed every minute of it.”
Yoga part of a life change
Ms Eldridge now teaches yoga throughout the week, while continuing to offer teaching support to the physical culture club she started in Port Macquarie more than 40 years ago.
Heather Eldridge started the Port Macquarie ‘physie’ club more than 40 years ago. She still helps teach physie and is also a yoga instructor. (ABC News: Emma Siossian)
She said she took up yoga at a time in her life when she needed it and it had helped her physically and mentally.
“A friend of mine suggested I take up yoga as something to do just for myself and right from the very first class I really enjoyed it and to be part of a class again was really lovely,” she said.
Heather Eldridge practising yoga at a Lino Miele workshop at Kovolam, India. (Supplied: Heather Eldridge)
“I think there are many, many benefits from yoga. Yes it’s exercise, but it’s also a very meditative practice, very focussed on the breath, which calms the mind and it has made a difference to my life.
“Also, for people perhaps suffering with arthritis as well, strength building exercises are always beneficial and to me it’s made a huge difference.”
Ms Eldridge will head to India for another yoga workshop later this year.
She continues to inspire those around her and said anyone considering taking up a new sport or interest later in life, should give it a go.
“If you think about taking something up and it appeals to you and you’d like to give it a go, well you’ll never know unless you try it.”
Meeting like-minded people… and animals
A dog joins its owner for the relaxation pose, Shavasana, at the end of one of Heather Eldridge’s yoga classes. (Supplied: Heather Eldridge)
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Ms Eldridge said she had met many lovely and like-minded people through yoga, who had added to her life.
Among them was Leanne Prussing, who regularly attended yoga classes with her canine companion, Olley.
“Olley would wait patiently outside for her. Then one very hot morning, I suggested that we put a mat down inside out of the sun and from then on that became the norm,” Ms Eldridge said.
“At the end of class when the students were lying in the final relaxation pose, Shavasana, Olley very quietly moved over to Leanne and lay down beside her, so that also became the accepted routine.
“Now that Leanne is living overseas we all miss Olley who managed to endear himself to everyone.”
A love of ‘physie’ through the years
The Port Macquarie Physical Culture Club founder, Heather Eldridge, after winning the Over 43s National Championship title in 1991. (Supplied: Heather Eldridge)
Ms Eldridge embraced a love of dance and movement as a child.
She started physie at the age of 10 in Sydney and later taught the sport in Sydney and Newcastle, before moving to the mid-north coast, where she founded the Port Macquarie Physical Culture Club in 1976.
“I thought, ‘Perhaps I will have a daytime ladies class while the children are at school’,” Ms Eldridge said.
“So I advertised in the local paper and a friend had suggested I not mention physical culture as it wasn’t very well known or heard of in Port Macquarie, so I captioned it ‘fun, fitness and friendship’ and that first week I had eight people turn up to class.
“That year we had a team and one of the ladies from that team also won the individual competition in the Newcastle zone.
“Following the coverage we got in the newspaper from our results, unbelievably the next week we had not eight ladies turn up but 98.”
The Port Macquarie Physical Culture Club ladies team in 1977. (Supplied: Port Macquarie Physie and Dance Club)
Under Ms Eldridge’s guidance, the Port Macquarie club enjoyed much success at a national level and Ms Eldridge also regularly placed in national finals, including taking out the top prize.
“I think a lot of it is the friendships that you make. Certainly keeping fit was the prime reason and we had a lot of fun and a lot of great experiences. Being in a regional area, any competitions we had we would travel to,” she said.
“Some of the initial ladies from when I first started the physie club in Port Macquarie, I teach now at yoga.
“It’s so nice, you do make some amazing friendships and lasting ones, because that’s been over 40 years.”
Heather Eldridge teaching yoga in a Port Macquarie surf club. She said yoga had many benefits for the body and mind. (ABC News: Emma Siossian)