Yoga instructor Donna Rixmann, right, helps new student Paula Marchand during the adaptive chair yoga class at the El Dorado Hills Senior Center. Village life photo by Noel Stack

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Just breathe: Yoga instructor Donna Rixmann takes a gentle approach

By December 21, 2011

Donna Rixmann didn’t know what to expect when a friend invited her to a yoga class several years ago. But she knew exactly how great she felt when it ended.

“I had no idea how stressed out I had been until I opened my eyes and realized the sky was a little bluer, the sun a little brighter,” said Rixmann, 60, of El Dorado Hills.

Immediately hooked, Rixmann, a former stockbroker, began studying yoga and yoga instruction. “My intention was not to be a teacher but …. ” Rixmann began as a student with Susan O’Farrell in Placerville and later took over one of O’Farrell’s classes. “Basically she kicked me out of the nest and said, ‘It’s time for you to teach,’” joked Rixmann, who recently received her certification in yoga therapy.

All that education is put to good use at the El Dorado Hills Senior Center, where Rixmann has taught adaptive chair yoga for the past two years. This isn’t a wrap-your-leg-around-your-head class. Students are simply asked “to do what they can do,” Rixmann said.

“It’s important as we get older, especially, to keep moving,” she explained. “You don’t have to do a lot of moving to make a positive difference.”

Her gentle yoga class proves that, according to Rixmann’s students.

“It helps me a lot with my back,” said Nora Kolthoff, 72, of El Dorado Hills. “The stretching is good for my flexibility.”

Nora and her husband Al, 69, have come to the Monday afternoon class for the past two years and have nothing but praise for their instructor. “Donna’s great. She adapts to everybody,” Nora explained. “She’ll modify to fit the abilities of the people who are here. She also makes it fun.”

Marlys Hoshall, 81, of El Dorado Hills has studied yoga — “stretching, bending and breathing” as she puts is — with Rixmann for seven years. “She’s so caring and considerate,” Hoshall said of Rixmann. “She takes good care of everybody.”

“Everybody needs something different and I wanted to offer that,” Rixmann said, explaining that at her Senior Center class no one gets on the floor. Instead, students use a chair — working in, behind and around that stabilizer.

“If you’re not physically able you can still do the stretches,” said new student Paula Marchand, 52, of Shingle Springs. “Just in the first week I’m not stiff all the time.”

Rixmann said she welcomes new students like Marchand. Her class size ranges from two to 20, depending on the season.”I think there are a lot of people out there who’ve wanted to try yoga but are too timid,” Rixmann said. “This is a very welcoming climate and there are no expectations.

“If they come they are my guest the first time,” she added. “They don’t have to pay.”

The regular fee is $37 for five classes (not necessarily in a row). Call the El Dorado Hills Community Services District to sign up at (916) 933-6624 or stop by the class held every Monday at the Senior Center, 990 Lassen Lane, from 3 to 4 p.m.

Rixmann said her goal is to make a difference in her students’ lives through yoga. She has a master’s degree in health services and owns Yoga Peace, through which she teaches other classes in El Dorado Hills and Folsom, and she also offers private sessions, workshops and yoga therapy.

“I love teaching,” Rixmann said. “I really enjoy the quality of the people I meet. Everybody is so lovely.”

Her yoga practice revolves around Viniyoga, “a breath-centered style of yoga that improves effect, calm, and focus, through synchronizing breath and movement,” according to the Yoga Peace website, She studies with teacher Gary Kraftsow, director of the American Viniyoga Institute.

Noel Stack


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