BETHANY - Where can those 50 and over go to truly relax, improve flexibility and gain strength all at the same time? Try an hour of yoga once or twice a week with well-known area instructor Nelle Reichbart.

Yoga calms the mind and slows the pace of daily life while gently stretching the body, Reichbart said. It increases joint mobility, flexibility and muscle tone and stimulates diaphragmatic breathing, while enhancing a state of calmness and wellbeing, she said. Soft, somewhat exotic music subtly enhances the experience.

Her popular course, held on Thursdays at 10:30-11:30 a.m. in the Bethany Senior Center, will expand to include a Tuesday session, beginning Feb. 3. The 10-week sessions will run concurrently through the first week of April.

Each session is limited to 15 participants so early enrollment is suggested. Call Jeanne delVecchio, Bethany human resources director, at 393-2100, x124. Checks should be made out to the Town of Bethany, marked "yoga" and mailed to delVecchio at Town Hall, 40 Peck Road, Bethany, CT 06524 .Each 10-week session is $40. For both days the cost is $80. There is no residency requirement.

Course participants, many of whom have only recently discovered yoga, are enthusiastic about its benefits: "I like the peace and relaxation." "It keeps me flexible." "It's a restful experience. You stop worrying about other things for awhile.".

Gerontologist Cathy Weiss, another participant, strongly advises yoga for those 50 and over because it emphasizes balance, cardio-vascular, muscle and stretching exercises. Becoming more flexible and aware of your body can prevent falls and other injuries, she said, adding, "And it's great for managing stress," She conducts a caregivers support group at the Bethany Library.

Suggestions for new yoga participants are: bring your own floor mat, wear comfortable, loose clothing, eat at least two hours before the session and consider bringing a water bottle.

Reichbart teaches corporate classes and at the Connecticut Yoga Center in Hamden, West Haven Senior Center and Creative Body Therapies in New Haven.