Sit, Stretch, Smile
to mission for
The National Sporting Goods
Association says there were 20. 2
million yoga participants in the
U.S. in 2010. If this figure conjures images of masses of slim
young people climbing into pretzel poses, Dr. Howard
Louis Shareff ’ 82 (DDS) offers a different vision.
Seated in a chair, leading an orchestra of yoga students
with a host of physical limitations from age to crippling
injuries, Shareff teaches and practices “adaptive” yoga.
With a wry glance at the stereotype, he has formed a nonprofit, You Call This Yoga.
Shareff took his first yoga class during lunch hour at the
UNC School of Dentistry. It was interesting, but his focus
was on building a dental practice and honing his
body for triathlons. He forgot about yoga
until a dental patient who was a yoga
teacher suggested some poses to
counter injuries from Shareff’s vigor-
ous exercise habit. A few years
later, Shareff was hit with arthritis.
He had to give up the triathlons.
Dr. Howard Shareff ’ 82 (DDS),
shown teaching a chair yoga class,
says he would like to make yoga part
of the national health policy by making it
relevant and accessible to a broad range of
Eventually he had two neck surgeries, which forced him
to give up his dental practice. That’s when he turned full
time to yoga.
“I was trying to be relevant to the world,” Shareff says.
“I was really thrust into having a yoga business. I needed
to prove my own value to the community.”
That impulse led Shareff to develop a book and DVD last
year, Sit Stretch Smile. He earned certification in Lakshmi
Voelker Chair Yoga, adding restorative, gentle mat yoga and
core yoga to his program. Today he teaches in senior resi-
dences, offers free classes at the public library and leads a yoga
class on a public-access TV channel in Raleigh.
Through the nonprofit, Shareff is going after grants to
train more chair yoga teachers, with a vision of seeing that
form spreading to communities across the state. Shareff
also is working with Bridge II Sports, a Durham nonprofit
that provides physically challenged adults and kids opportunities to play sports, adding chair yoga to its wheelchair
“My intent is to make yoga part of the national health
policy,” he says. “I would like to get on the President’s
Council on Physical Fitness, to get access to yoga to peo-
ple wherever and whenever they need it.”
Shareff held YogaFestNC in April to “bring teachers,
service providers, vendors and all walks of the general
public together to improve posture, flexibility, balance and
relaxation,” he says. YogaFestNC 2013 is scheduled for
April 6 in Raleigh.
And yes, you can call this yoga.
— Susan Simone