When I began teaching chair yoga for seniors, I didn’t anticipate the depth of movement, clarity, and body awareness it would relay to my own practice.
Yoga unfolded in a fresh way beyond the sticky mat. Detailed joint movement, new muscle access, and a stronger connection to my breath were just a few highlights.
Chair yoga modifies asanas at your seat and can deliver the poses to a wider audience. It can be practiced in the office when you need a mid-day boost, help seniors stay mobile and social, offer alternatives for injuries, and introduce yoga to the disabled.
The Benefits of Chair Yoga
- Strengthens the spine
- Opens the hips and shoulders
- Strengthens the arms, legs, and ankles
- Helps alleviate pain, including arthritic
- Tones the core
- Improves coordination and balance
- Reduces stress and anxiety
Below are five chair yoga poses I encourage you to explore. However, please note: always begin with both feet flat on the floor unless an injury or disability prevents it.
1. Fist, Spread, Arms Overhead
Reach your arms out at your sides and make fists. Inhale, and begin to lift your arms up slowly as you spread your fingers wide. Keep moving the arms up. Make a fist and then spread your fingers, keeping the open and close motion with your hands. Once both arms reach the top, pause. Then make a fist, and spread the fingers as you lower both arms while exhaling. Take 3 rounds of this.
Benefits: This movement strengthens your wrists, palms, and fingers. It also opens your chest and lengthens your arm muscles.
2. Hug and Twist
Cross your right arm over your left as though you were giving yourself a big hug. Slowly turn your navel from left to right for five breaths. Pause. Release both arms out to the sides as you inhale. Exhale and hug yourself with the opposite arm on top. Repeat the same movement.
Benefits: This movement stretches your back, tones your core, and keeps your spine supple.
3. Opposite Leg and Arm Lift
Inhale to bend and lift your right knee, keeping your right foot flexed. At the same time, reach your left arm in front, palm facing up. Exhale and lower your right leg and left arm. Inhale as you bend and lift your left leg, left foot flexed. Reach your right arm in front and exhale as you lower it. Keep moving for 10 to 20 reps.
Benefits: This pose improves coordination and balance while strengthening your quadriceps. It also activates your hips and stretches your arms. Flexing the foot stretches the soles of the feet while strengthening your ankles.
4. Fold and Twist
Hinge from your hips to fold forward while exhaling. Bring your left hand on the ground or rest it on your shin or foot as you inhale the right arm up. Draw your heart toward your fingertips. Exhale and lower your right arm. Then, inhale the left arm up. Hold each side for 3 breaths.
Benefits: This pose lengthens your lower back, strengthens your spine, and opens your chest.
5. Seated Pigeon Twist
Inhale and draw your right leg up, resting your ankle on the left thigh and keeping the right foot flexed. Bring the right knee up a bit as you twist from the navel towards the right. Hold for 3 breaths. Do the same for the left side.
Benefits: This pigeon opens your hips and lengthens your spine.
Chair yoga can be a gentle introduction to asana, a wonderful addition to senior activity, or a new perspective for your own practice. This yoga hybrid can bring about new body mindfulness for both beginners and advanced yogis alike.
Image Credit: Christie Pitko