The benefits of practicing yoga have been touted for quite some time. Those who practice yoga may experience increased strength and stamina, better circulation, improved mood and brain function, deeper sleep, decreased symptoms of chronic illnesses, and a general improvement in their body’s homeostasis.
The idea of practicing yoga may seem near impossible to seniors; however, they are a population that could potentially benefit from the practice more than younger students. As we age it is said that we use the two hemispheres of our brain more equally, therefore seniors may be able to tap in to the mind-body connection needed for yoga better than their younger counterparts, according to Gretchen Stelter in the article, “7 Yoga Poses You Can Do in a Chair.”
While there are ways to modify poses and adaptive equipment that can be used to assist you when practicing, a more recent craze among seniors is chair yoga. Chair yoga is exactly what the name describes: it is a form of yoga that is practiced while sitting in a chair or using the chair as an assistive device.
Chair yoga workouts are typically a gentler yoga practice and the use of the chair allows seniors who may not be as flexible, have physical disabilities or are simply frailer perform the exercises safely.
As with traditional yoga practice, chair yoga aims to increase the strength and flexibility of the individual. The practice may also help seniors with body awareness, with the chair being used to assist with and/or improve one’s balance, and hopefully reduce the risk of falls.
Any chair may be used to practice chair yoga as long as your feet are able to reach the ground. If your feet do not reach the ground the use of blocks or a folded mat are recommended. A chair with wheels is not recommended.
Many traditional yoga poses can be modified so they can be executed while seated in the chair. The following are examples for yoga poses, from an article by Ann Pizer called “10 Chair Yoga Poses for Home Practice,” that can easily be found on the internet and can be executed while seated:
• Forward bend: Bend forward over the legs. Exhale while doing so. Rest your hands on the floor if you’re able and let your head hang heavy. Inhale and straighten back up, raising your arms over your head. Repeat.
• Spinal twist: Sit in your chair sideways facing to the right. Inhale, lengthening your spine. Twist your torso to the right, holding the back of the chair, exhaling for five breaths. Repeat on the left-hand side.
• Pigeon: Sit in your chair facing forward. Rest your left ankle on your right thigh, keeping the knee and ankle of your right leg in line as much as possible. Hold this position for three to five breaths. Repeat with the opposite leg.
If you are a senior interested in chair yoga, contact your local senior center, YMCA or yoga studios to see if they offer classes. There are also DVDs and online forums that can walk you through the mechanics of executing poses.
Michelle Craig is the administrator for Green House Living for Sheridan.