While browsing YouTube in search for a video I remember I saw some time ago, I instead kept on running into a lady teaching what seemed to be a very gentle yoga for seniors, called – Chair Yoga. The elderly she was teaching seemed to quite enjoy themselves, so, of course, I simply had to research it a bit deeper. While I can’t say that I practice yoga myself, (yet) I do know that yoga is a great way to achieve or increase physical activity, flexibility, balance and strength, endurance. Any yoga practitioner will also tell you that the main purpose is to build awareness and harmony in both the mind and body.
Depending on the type, it will usually not make you sweat, but can make your heart and lungs work a bit harder to keep up with the body’s need for oxygen. Yoga can make your blood moving by improved circulation and, depending on the type, it can practically give you a full-body workout, without any harmful impact on the joints.
The combination of strengthening and stretching poses, along with deep breathing can help you relax and boost your mood for long after the “work out”. You might have heard all of this already.
It is also a fact that less mobile and frail elderly become confined and far too often dependent on the help of others. Hence, seniors should make an effort to stay mobile and flexible, for as long as they can, to avoid having to rely on someone.
Yoga, being suitable for all ages and all levels of experience, including beginners, deserves to be considered as a way to achieve that. After all, no one really wants to impose on their children or relatives for the sake of existence.
But, what if you are aged and have never-ever practiced yoga in your life? If you have always viewed it as a collection of ridiculously weird and hard-to-achieve poses that you couldn’t possibly even try and also never cared to?
What if your mobility is limited already, if you are not that safe on your feet anymore and if your balance is far away from a good one?
What if you also struggle with diabetes, heart problems, high blood pressure, carpal tunnel syndrome, osteoporosis or a bunch of other health conditions which will make it very difficult getting down on a mat on the floor? You can try sitting on a chair!
What Is Chair Yoga
Chair yoga is a great way for you to still enjoy health benefits of yoga. Sitting in a chair, even frail or mobility limited seniors are able to do the exercises and be perfectly safe, without a risk of injury. While chair yoga appears to be a separate type, a good yoga instructor will be able to adjust a good number of poses for the chair.
Also, it can be done in a fun way:
What Are the Benefits of Chair Yoga?
Better Body Strength
Chair yoga is considered to be highly therapeutic for the elderly, as the exercises tend to work the whole body and everyone can adjust it to the best of their current ability.
Your painful muscles will thank you for loosing and stretching them, as well as your joints for keeping them mobile with such a low impact exercise program. Over time, despite being seated, you can build strength and balance.
Stress, Insomnia, Anxiety and Depression Relief
Participants in Chair Yoga classes have the opportunity to learn how to relax and quiet the mind, through breath awareness, meditation, stage-by-stage relaxation, a combination, or another method. Whichever method used, the result is that they can control their minds, focus on the good things in life, and prevent depression. It also reduces stress(yes, it is very much present in elderly, as well), helps with anxiety and is also a great way to combat insomnia, not only in the elderly.
As the focusing on the body sensations is promoted, also a higher clarity of mind is achieved through these exercises.
Improved Pain Management
Being physically active at an older age helps relieve arthritis pain and inflammation in general.
Each and every part of the body that can be moved is usually used in a typical Chair Yoga class, which results in an increased circulation, which in turn helps to get nutrients to organs and improve the overall function of the body and mind, as well.
There are routines for the feet, toes, hands, and fingers, so there is no part of the body left out. Due to this whole body approach, the immune system is also stimulated by regularly practicing Chair Yoga, as well as in other types of yoga. The physical activity may lower blood pressure.
The many physical movements, bending, twisting, in a regular Chair Yoga session, besides regulating (lowering) blood pressure, are capable of stimulating your stomach for a better digestion and the elimination of toxins from the body.
The gentle stimulation of the lower back can also help relieve the pain, that we mostly make stronger by only sitting all day.
An incorrect posture is also very common nowadays, at all ages, but even more so as we get older. We don’t get a poor posture overnight, but through a long time. It takes years to create poor alignment. So, it is not possible to correct it to perfection overnight, either.
However, improvements to posture can be made through Chair Yoga exercises and through awareness of the poor posture. You can learn alignment and posture principles through classes, and then implement it on your own.
If you want to see for yourself how good or rather bad your posture is, stand in front of a mirror and look at your side profile, especially checking your spine from top to bottom. You might be surprised.
Do you see slumping, forward tilting of the neck, or large curves? Your spine should be aligned so that it is fairly straight at all times. You should make a conscious effort, to keep your head and back straight while standing, walking, reading, eating, sitting, lying, typing…every time you can remember to do so.
Flexibility considered to be a by-product of Yoga practice, but in the case of Chair Yoga, it is often downplayed. Since most Chair Yoga enthusiasts are seniors, the true value of flexibility is the prolonged mobility.
Increased range of motion is also valuable, when reaching up or down for anything to pick it up, which can often be difficult for the elderly. It also helps to prevent injuries that can occur from strain or a possible fall, which rarely comes without more serious consequences at an older age.
When you consider that mobility for seniors can make all the difference between living a dependent and independent life at an older age, this flexibility is of extreme value. It will help to better cope with activities of daily living (ADL) and perhaps with hobbies, as well.
Balance is very often one of the biggest problems that cause less mobility in the elderly. Although balance can be affected by medication, inner ear problems, and more, apparently many seniors show much improvement in balancing their bodies within weeks, as Chair Yoga offers a significant number of balancing exercises. Restoring a good balance can significantly enhance the quality of life for seniors.
Increases Energy Levels, Helps Post-Operative and Post-Illness Conditions
Chair Yoga can also easily work in harmony with most physical rehabilitation prescriptions. Many physical therapists have knowledge of Yoga or are teachers themselves. Sometimes doctors, physical therapists, and medical professionals recommend Yoga to patients to improve their come back from accidents, strokes, heart attacks.
Yoga gives these patients the strength, energy and confidence to move ahead, when many would be discouraged.
All of these benefits increase the energy, bring the sense of happiness, enhance focus and provide more harmony in your life. Chair Yoga is a very good example of a simple, relaxing way for your body and mind to feel better.
At “normal” times, attending yoga classes is also an excellent way to avoid loneliness, to make new friends, build relationships, have a sense of wellbeing and feel well socially engaged. Now, with all the restrictions over the pandemic, the event is not that social, but you can easily find a class that can be virtually attended with others, over “Zoom” or other similar application.
If you prefer to try it following a YouTube video first, you’ll have no problems to find a lot of those online. The lady I mentioned at the beginning apparently holds, beside a dancing chair yoga class also regular chair yoga classes, as well.
I was pleasantly surprised by how easily this type of yoga can be incorporated in seniors’ everyday life, providing almost the same benefits, if not more, as any other physical activity and I’m certainly going to recommend it to many elderly and their families I work with. What do you think about it? Do you happen to have some experience with Chair Yoga already? If not, would you try it? I’d very much like to read your thoughts on this topic in the comments.
And, as always, feel free to reach out should you have a question and I’ll be happy to give you an answer to the best of my knowledge.
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