We’ve all heard about the myriad benefits associated with mind and body practices such as yoga. Stress relief, strength, flexibility, and a calmer outlook on life are just some of the biggies. But what if you can’t get down on the mat due to aging or injury? Or what if you simply don’t have the strength to try your local wellness center yoga classes yet? Then chair yoga is for you (and everyone else, too).
What is yoga?
Distilled down to basics, yoga is the union of body and mind through breathwork, meditation, movement, and other principles integrated into this holistic practice. Here in the West, we have understood this practice to be mostly movements and postures. At its roots in Eastern tradition, however, yoga is centered on meditation and reaching the union of body and spirit.
For us, seeing yoga from the point of view of a meditation is a great asset, especially when it comes to modifying the practice for accessibility. If we think the only way to gain the benefits of yoga is to fold ourselves into a pretzel, then we are missing the best part. With our goal as a healthy body and mind connection, we can bend and shape yoga to fit what each practitioner needs, even when getting down on a mat feels inaccessible.
Pull up a chair
If you find yourself wanting to experience the beauty of yoga, but are having difficulty practicing due to injury, illness, pregnancy, or another reason, chair yoga might be your new best friend! Chair yoga is just like regular yoga, except poses are done while supported by a chair. It uses props to create a safe and stable environment for the practitioner, and no mat is required.
For those who are suffering from an illness or are aging and want to stay healthy, the advantages of chair yoga can mean a huge change in physical well-being.
Increased flexibility – As with any yoga class, stretching makes up a huge portion of the movement. Stretching enables the practitioner to gain flexibility and, in yogic terms, clear up any blocked energy flowing through the body. The flexibility you gain by twisting, bending, and stretching during a session of chair yoga will mean more freedom of movement in your everyday life.
Strength training – Using your muscles to hold yourself up while performing yoga poses builds strength. Even though you’re using a chair to help you, you will still be training your body to hold a strong posture and build important muscle mass.
Coordination – Balance and coordination are incredibly important as you age. Chair yoga can provide the benefit of increased body awareness, meaning you are less prone to falls.
Mindfulness – This is one of the biggest benefits of yoga. Whether you are on a mat or in a chair, using your breath to come into an intimate relationship with your body creates profound relaxation and present moment awareness. As you move through postures, you are doing a moving meditation of sorts, which builds your mental ability to stay calm during moments of stress. Chair yoga can even help to relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression.
It doesn’t stop there
If you continue to attend yoga regularly, you may even see benefits such as increased pain management and better sleep. To start your journey with yoga, check out the many videos available on YouTube and other online sources, or contact your local Hancock Wellness Center to ask about their offerings.
Chair yoga makes it possible for people of all abilities to take part in a valuable and helpful practice that can lead to a richer quality of life.