Northeast Wisconsin
  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • September 2016
Written by 

Gentle chair yoga

Yoga is a wonderful practice of wellness that can take many different forms. This is a blessing and a curse as it offers sufficient options to suit everybody and every need, yet can be confusing to the practitioner in selecting the appropriate class for their lifestyle.

This article is the first of a series that will focus specifically on chair yoga and its benefits. Chair yoga can fulfill needs for yogis ranging from those with severe movement limitations to those very advanced in their yoga practice. This particular piece will limit our focus to gentle chair yoga.

Gentle chair poses are done while seated in a chair or using the chair as support. This allows for greater safety and stability during the yoga practice. The poses are kept to a basic level and are modified to allow ALL participants to experience the benefits of the poses — even those with limited range of motion, health restrictions or those recovering from injuries.

Gentle chair yoga:

  • Improves strength. It’s important for injury prevention and aids in injury recovery, and allows the elderly to enjoy physical activities for more years to come.
  • Increases flexibility. It’s beneficial for those with mobility issues who wish to perform simple tasks with more ease, and is also great for those who are very physically active with tight muscles who need to ease into a stretching routine.
  • Improves emotional health. Gentle chair yoga helps people cope with anxiety, feelings of isolation (sometimes an issue for the elderly), and dealing with disability/illness and provides mental clarity. “Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured.” —B.K.S. Iyengar.
  • Promotes body awareness. It aids in fall prevention and provides body control for those with disabilities.

The following are a few poses that can be done at home or work to feel the benefits for yourself!

Seated Mountain (Tadasana):

Improves posture, releases tension in upper body

  • Plant feet firmly on the floor
  • Sit tall
  • Relax shoulder blades down along the spine
  • Inhale and extend arms overhead, keeping shoulders relaxed
  • Draw in your naval to engage the abdominal muscles
  • Gaze straight ahead or up toward hands
  • Hold for 2 deep breaths and then release arms down

Seated Forward Bend (Paschimott-anasana):

Stretches the spine/hamstrings, improves blood flow and has a calming effect since the head is brought below the heart

  • Roll shoulders back and engage abdominals
  • Spread legs approximately hip-width apart
  • Take a breath in and as you exhale, hinge from the hips folding your upper body over your legs
  • Relax your neck and let your head hang
  • Allow arms to hang at sides
  • Take 4 breaths
  • On an inhale, come back up to a seated position

Seated Chair Twist (Parivrtta Sukhasana):

Relieves lower back pain; improves digestion and circulation.

  • Sit sideways on your chair
  • Press hands into thighs to lengthen the spine
  • Breathe in, then exhale while twisting the upper torso toward the back of the chair
  • Rest hands gently on the sides or top of the chair back and avoid using the chair too much to twist
  • Turn head and look back over the shoulder closest to the chair (only if you do NOT have neck issues!)
  • Hold for 2-4 slow breaths and then return to facing the side
  • Repeat on other side

Eagle Arms (Garudasana):

Releases upper back/shoulders; stabilizes shoulder joints

  • Extend arms out to the sides
  • Cross one arm under the other, bringing elbows as close as possible
  • Bend at the elbows, extending forearms upward
  • Rest back of hands together or interlock hands
  • Relax shoulder blades down along the spine
  • Gently lift arms to bring triceps away from the torso
  • Take 4 deep breaths, then exhale and release
  • Repeat with opposite arm on top

The practice of gentle chair yoga helps all levels — even beginning students and those with health or movement restrictions — to experience the benefits of yoga.

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