Meet the Instructors

Meet the amazing individuals who teach fitness classes at The Paradise Center! Each one brings their own individual style and knowledge to help you get the most from their class.

Suzy Brenner, Stretch & Strengthen Instructor

Q: When and why did you start a Stretch & Strengthen class?
A:  It’s actually quite sad. The Paradise Center’s Tai Chi instructor a few years back passed away. The class had been held Monday mornings, and I wanted to offer them another option. We weren’t able to find another Tai Chi instructor at the time, so I stepped in and tried Stretch & Strengthen…and it was a hit!

Q: We know stretching and using hand weights for resistance is beneficial for all ages, but how is it especially helpful for seniors?
A:  Strength training is so important, not only for keeping muscles strong, but also for maintaining bone density.  Poor bone density can lead to falls, broken bones, and broken joints such as knees, wrists and hips.

Q: Why do you think stretching and strengthening is an important part of a healthy lifestyle?
A: Rule number 1 for seniors is ‘Don’t Fall!’  Strength, flexibility and balance are the keys to preventing falls.

Q: Do I need any experience or abilities to participate?
A: Not at all.  If you are a little unsteady, you may sit in or stand behind a chair and hold on for better balance.

Q: Do I need any special equipment or clothing?
A:  We offer a small selection of hand weights ranging from 2 to 5 pounds but you are welcome to bring your own, if you prefer.


Debbie White, Hula Dance Instructor

Q: When and why did you start practicing Hula Dance?
A: As a child growing up in Honolulu, Hawaii, I enjoyed dancing the hula with my cousins. We would entertain family and dance the hula at family parties and gatherings. Hula doesn’t have to be performed to “Hawaiian” music! We can dance hula to Elvis Presley, Celine Dion and more. Class participants are welcome to share a favorite song and I will do my best to choreograph it for hula!

Q: We know Hula Dance is beneficial for all ages, but how is it especially helpful for seniors?
A: Hula is very popular with seniors in Hawaii. Kupunas (seniors) know it is beneficial because it challenges both the mind and body. It is a great form of exercise and can be done sitting down or standing up. Remembering the motions for a song challenges our minds, and the gentle movement of our bodies helps us to increase our stability and strengthen our muscles.

Q: Why do you think Hula Dance is an important part of a healthy lifestyle?
A: Dancing the hula can contribute to a healthy lifestyle as it is an excellent form of exercise that is relaxing and fun. Remembering the motions and the lyrics to a song engages and challenges the mind. Hula will leave you smiling, stress free and healthy…hula promotes longevity!

Q: Do I need any experience or abilities to participate?
A: No experience is necessary, and we welcome everyone to give it a try! You can even do hula dance while seated.

Q: Do I need any special equipment or clothing?
A: No special equipment or clothing is needed. You may wear anything that is loose and comfortable, and you are welcome to wear one of the optional “grass” skirts I provide over your clothes to help add to your Hawaiian mood!


Reuben Fernandez, Tai Chi Instructor

Q: When and why did you start practicing Tai Chi?
A: I began studying Chen Tai Chi in 2003 with Master Yan Gaofei who is originally from China. Master Yan studied with Grand Master Chen Quanzhou who is a 19th generation Grand Master! After meeting Master Yan, I immediately became enthralled with Chen style Tai Chi. Not only is Tai Chi useful as a martial art, but it is also excellent for keeping in good physical and mental condition.

Q: We know Tai Chi is beneficial for all ages, but how is it especially helpful for seniors?
A: Many of my older students have said how it has helped improve their sleep, reduced their anxiety, and in general, improved their overall sense of well-being. Tai Chi movements are performed slowly and in conjunction with proper breathing. As a result, studies show significant benefits for seniors, including improved balance and the ability to concentrate and focus. It also helps increase muscle tone and stamina.

Q: Why do you think Tai Chi is an important part of a healthy lifestyle?
A: As we age, our overall health can decline; there is typically a loss of strength and our balancing abilities become compromised. Tai Chi can address these issues, but I always emphasize the importance of regular practice to derive the maximum benefits. Basically, you will get out of Tai Chi what you put into Tai Chi.

Q: Do I need any experience or abilities to participate?
A: In general, my Tai Chi class at The Paradise Center is for students who are ambulatory. However, it is possible to practice Tai Chi in a chair. Experience is not required; most of my students are first timers with little or no Tai Chi experience. All that is required is a willingness to make the effort and to practice!

Q: Do I need any special equipment or clothing?
A: I recommend comfortable clothes that are not tight-fitting and do not restrict your movement. Shoes should have low heels and soles. (Running shoes are generally not recommended.)


Sandi Love, Qi Gong Instructor

Q: When and why did you start practicing Qi Gong?
A: I had been practicing yoga (and a bit of Tai Chi) for 16 years when I met my Qi Gong teacher in a local shop. She had such a vitality and kindness about her that I was instantly intrigued! She was a nurse, so we practiced medical Qi Gong together; it was this practice that inspired me to become a Qi Gong teacher myself in 2015. I am truly passionate about teaching my students the benefits of Qi Gong — I hope to inspire them as much as my teacher inspired me!

Q: We know Qi Gong is beneficial for all ages, but how is it especially helpful for seniors?
A: Studies have shown that Qi Gong can slow the aging process by helping to prevent falls and chronic disease. It can also improve blood flow to the brain, reduce stress and help with faster recovery from illness. It may also help seniors reduce stress and sleep better.  The benefits are quite numerous!

Q: Why do you think Qi Gong is an important part of a healthy lifestyle?
A: Because it improves our outlook, helps us smile, lightens our spirit and adds a song to our heart! Everyone can benefit from a calm, focused mind while trying to live in harmony with nature. Humanity thinks it depends on industry, but we are still, all of us, completely dependent on nature to survive. In China each morning, parks are full of thousands of people practicing Qigong and Tai Chi. It has been this way for thousands of years!

Q: Do I need any experience or abilities to participate?
A: None, but an open mind can be beneficial. Qi Gong is easy, and anyone can do it.

Q: Do I need any special equipment or clothing?
A: No, but loose clothing is helpful.


Suzy Brenner, Zumba & Mat Pilates Instructor

Q: When and why did you start teaching Zumba & Mat Pilates?
A: About 10 years ago, I owned a women’s fitness center in Washington, DC. The members kept asking me to offer Zumba classes, so I took one at another gym, loved it and went and got licensed to teach it. As for Pilates, many years ago I traveled a lot for work and found that Pilates was something I could do anywhere to keep my strength and flexibility.

Q: We know Zumba and Pilates are beneficial for all ages, but how are they especially helpful for seniors?
A: Our Zumba class has a lot of repetition – like a dance routine – so it’s not only great cardiovascular exercise but remembering the steps helps with brain health, too. Everything is low impact (unless you choose to go high impact) which is much easier on our joints. Pilates focuses on core strength and full-body flexibility – these are two of the cornerstones to reduce the risk of falling.

Q: Why do you think Zumba & Pilates are an important part of a healthy lifestyle?
A: Cardio health is crucial, and Zumba allows us to get a great workout without feeling like work – it’s fun! Pilates is a perfect complement to our Zumba class by adding the strengthening and stretching for the last 30 minutes.

Q: Do I need any experience to participate?
A:  Absolutely not!

Q: Do I need any special equipment or clothing?
A: Supportive shoes (for Zumba) and clothes that let you move freely.

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