Local resident expands reach of Have-A-Seat Yoga program

Kelly Wislar, the founder of Have-A-Seat Yoga.
(Micaela Malmi)

During the pandemic, Del Mar yoga instructor Kelly Wislar practiced what she teaches and got flexible—adapting her Have-A-Seat Yoga program to reach a whole new audience.

Wislar’s true passion is to enrich and enhance lives through yoga and last year she released a new book “Have-A-Seat Yoga: Inspiration to Get Started, Stay Connected and Keep Going”, sharing her healing and transformational yoga program that can be done from the comfort of a chair. The program, which initially targeted the senior population, now reaches out to anyone who has found themselves confined to working or learning from home, increasingly attached to their seats with mounting levels of stress and anxiety.

“No matter what age, Kelly offers simple tips and inspiring quotes to stay focused and motivated,” said Dr. Diana Hoppe in a review of the book. “It’s never too late to reap the mind/body benefits of yoga - and Kelly helps you every step of the way.”

Wislar has lived-in North County San Diego for 20 years, raising her children in Rancho Santa Fe before moving to Del Mar. She took up yoga eight years ago when she was recovering from thyroid cancer. After three surgeries and a round of radiation in one year, the stay-at-home mother to three children was looking for something that would give her energy and help cope with such a traumatic experience.

“I was always active and I was so weak and completely worn out from treatment,” Wislar said. “I found yoga was very forgiving, gradual and something I could do at my own pace.”

Yoga changed her life. She found herself not only getting stronger physically, but also emotionally and spiritually: “That really surprised me.”

Wislar was hooked on yoga and took the step of becoming a certified yoga practitioner. At that time, she wasn’t so sure about getting in front of a group of people and leading a class.

In her heart, she knew she wanted to give back what she had learned to help others, particularly to serve a community who perhaps never had access to a yoga class. She started with an assisted living community, reaching the underserved population of seniors with a seated yoga program that she developed.

“I took what I learned and adapted the yoga postures that can be done in a chair, incorporating visualization, meditation and breathwork,” she said.

According to Scientific American the benefits of this type of program include reduced anxiety and insomnia, lowering cortisol the stress hormone, improved memory, immunity and neuroplasticity, and improved attention and emotion control. Yoga can also lead to increased levels of “happy neurotransmitters” such as serotonin, melatonin and oxytocin, and it also stimulates the vagus nerve which slows heart rate, lowers blood pressure, relaxes muscles and increases feelings of peacefulness.

According to the Mayo Clinic, yoga is beneficial for chronic health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic back pain, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis.

Working with seniors, she could see the benefits at work and how the seniors would react and respond was amazing. As part of her program’s focus on meditation and gratitude, she would ask participants to close their eyes and think about something they might miss or a warm memory. She would see some tear up and cry: “It was a beautiful interaction.”

Through her program she was able to give the gift of an approachable yoga practice to a 99-year-old who maybe never thought they could move in that way. The hesitancy she had about teaching in front of a group melted away.

“The more I became confident with my program, it really became a part of me,” Wislar said. “When I’m teaching, I almost feel like I’m in a meditative state. It’s very comfortable for me and I don’t have any anxiety about it.”

Over the next two years, Wislar expanded into more facilities, trademarked her Have-A-Seat program and worked with author Susan Marg on writing an accompanying book.

Kelly Wislar's book "Have-A-Seat Yoga".

The book came out in January 2020 and Wislar had just begun promoting it when COVID-19 hit. She was no longer to reach the senior population and worried that her program hit a permanent wall.

Through a happy bit of fate, she was contacted by someone who had seen Have-A-Seat Yoga in action and interested in using the program for their workforce that was now spending the majority of time at home, sitting in front of a computer screen all day.

Wislar started teaching Zoom classes to corporate clients nationwide, sometimes with 100 people at a time on a call.

“This was one of my original goals, to reach as many people as I possibly could. I never imagined it would be in this fashion,” Wislar said. “With COVID, it’s exactly what people need right now. There’s so much more isolation, stress and anxiety that my program helps relieve through physical and emotional benefits.”

Over the last year she has worked with several corporations including American Technologies Inc., Morgan Stanley and The Ganton Agency. She also works with several charitable organizations including The Red Cross, Meals on Wheels and Serving Seniors.

Wislar really does miss her seniors. While she still teaches some through Zoom, she misses that one on one, in-person connection and is looking forward to when they can be together again.

For now, she is focusing on what she can do right now, which is offering classes on her website and reaching seniors, corporate clients, those adjusting to a more sedentary work-from-home lifestyle and those recovering from injury.

She calls her book and program her fourth baby and she hopes to continue to raise it and watch it grow for the rest of her life.

“I can do this forever,” she said. “I want to help as many people as I can. It’s a simplistic goal but it’s really the truth.”

Sign up for a Zoom class on her website, haveaseatyoga.com ,or reach out to schedule a complimentary Zoom class for your employees, staff or customers/clients. The book, Have-A-Seat Yoga, can be found on Amazon.