What is chair yoga?
Chair yoga has increasingly become popular among people who can’t really practice the complicated body postures of traditional yoga. These people include those with physical disabilities and senior citizens, who have become interested in doing yoga but want it the milder way. Chair yoga is not a formal type of yoga. It is a gentler form of yoga which is done through sitting in a chair or using a chair as support whilst standing. This gives the option of doing a series of less complicated yoga poses.
Senior care centres, disabled rehabilitation centres and some hospitals do chair yoga classes. It is also frequently recommended by some health professionals as a helpful tool for physical therapy. Chair yoga also gives benefits like oxygenating the mind and body for greater productivity, and also tones muscles. However, not just anybody can teach chair yoga. One has to be a certified chair yoga instructor, as it involves the essential know-how of dealing with people who have health conditions. It also entails knowledge of the appropriate chair yoga for them.
One such training for chair yoga certification is offered by Lakshmi Voelker. Voelker specialises in certifying individuals with her chair yoga programs called The Sitting Mountain Series. This chair yoga certification program is of particular interest to some healthcare professionals. Occupational therapists, physical therapists, clinical social workers, and registered nurses, count chair Yoga as important.
Who can benefit?
It is advantageous for people working with children, seniors, the wheelchair bound, or anybody with difficulties that prevents them from getting on the floor. Lakshmi the chair yoga certification program works with senior housing facilities, MS, Departments of Education, as well as other like organisations.
Another centre who offers chair yoga certification is the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. This five day chair yoga certification program is perfect for many people. Yoga practitioners, yoga teachers, healthcare providers, those who work with people with disabilities, and seniors can all benefit. Participants of the program learn to adapt classical yoga poses to the chair and enables would-be certified chair yoga teachers to teach a one-hour chair yoga class with comprehensive information and confidence to their varied audience.
Chair yoga certification is essential for people who want to teach chair yoga. Complete knowledge and awareness provides better and more effective delivery of the benefits of chair yoga to their students. This knowledge also ensures that qualified chair yoga instructors are recognised and respected for of their expertise.
Chair Yoga can easily work in harmony with most physical rehabilitation prescriptions. Many physical therapists have knowledge of Yoga or are teachers of Yoga. Many doctors, physical therapists, and medical professionals recommend Yoga to patients who are making a “come back.”
Yoga gives these patients the strength to move ahead, when many would be discouraged. The comebacks that I have personally witnessed are inspiring to me as a Yoga teacher. Over time, I have seen come backs from strokes, heart attacks, and car accidents.
It touches me that they thanked me for teaching them Yoga or Chair Yoga.
The courage to go on came from within their minds, but Yoga became a significant part of their lives. As a Yoga teacher the inspiration was mutual and made me feel helpful. After all, being of help, and being appreciated, are prime motivations for teachers of any subject.
Muscle tone is a result of stretching and flexing any muscle group. Active muscles display themselves on anybody that chooses to use them. This is also a good way to relieve oneself of anxiety, stress, tension, and prevent depression. Like the other benefits, previously mentioned, this results in whole body health. A healthy body does, indeed, compliment a healthy mind.
For those clients who are confined to a chair, it is wise to include some form of a weight bearing, or weight resistance, exercise program. For those who can stand, Chair Yoga is another weight bearing exercise that will stimulate bone building.
With progressive weight resistance, you use free weights or machines, but with Yoga you bear your own body weight. The end result of these exercise programs would be increased bone density and prevention of Osteoporosis.
Seniors spend more time alone, than any other age group. Sometimes, we all need a little solitude, but too much solitude can lead to depression, in some of us. Living life like a monk is not for everyone.
Chair Yoga classes offer a social activity that helps to stimulate the mind and body in a positive way. This becomes an uplifting activity that participants look forward to. Regular attendance, and socializing in Chair Yoga classes, is a healthy activity that leads to building strong relationships.
It also exposes seniors to the many activities that are going on within the community center. Participants of chair Yoga classes are exposed to whole health and gain a nutritional education as a member of a senior, community, or wellness center.
Lastly, all participants in Chair Yoga classes learn to relax and quiet the mind, through breath awareness, meditation, stage-by-stage relaxation, a combination, or another method. The end result being that these Yoga students can control their minds, focus on the good things in life, and prevent depression.
Flexibility is considered to be a “by product” of Yoga practice, but in the case of Chair Yoga, it is often “down played” or taken for granted. Since most Chair Yoga enthusiasts are seniors, the true value of flexibility is mobility.
When you consider that mobility for seniors can be the difference between dependence and independence, flexibility is now of extreme value.
The following is an observation I have made after working with groups from assisted living complexes, adult day care centres, nursing homes, and seniors centres. The average mobile senior citizen is much more flexible in the hips, spine, wrists, and shoulders, than his or her dependent counterpart.
Just crossing the legs can be difficult for the clients I work with in a nursing home. Students in Chair Yoga classes learn a variety of exercises that will “free up” many of the major joints. Many students also remark how pain, from a variety of ailments, is much more manageable, after practicing Chair Yoga.
Increased range of motion makes a difference, when reaching for anything. It also helps to prevent injuries that can occur from strain or a possible fall. If a senior falls, there is certainly the potential that the results could be life threatening.
Chair Yoga offers a significant number of balancing exercises. Although balance can be affected by medication, inner ear problems, and more, many seniors show much improvement in balancing their bodies within weeks of their first Chair Yoga class. Therefore, flexibility and balance are a significant part of an injury prevention package that can improve, or enhance, the quality of life for seniors. This fact has been realised by seniors who flock to Chair Yoga classes on a daily, or weekly, basis.
Most of us realise that physical conditioning is not the only factor involved in dependence. There are a number of disabling diseases that can affect any one of us and have nothing to do with lack of flexibility. Lack of flexibility is not the single overriding factor involved in independence for seniors.
However, it is a fact that less mobile, and frail, seniors will become confined.
Hence, most seniors should make an effort to stay flexible, for what is ultimately their own dignity at stake. You could look at your physical condition as an insurance policy for independent living. After all, who really wants to impose on their children or relatives for the sake of existence?
We have all heard the saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Those words are extremely profound, when thinking about correcting poor posture and alignment. It takes years to create poor alignment.
Therefore, poor posture cannot be corrected in a single day. A more appropriate saying, when thinking about posture and alignment might be, “The leaning tower of Pisa cannot become straight in a week.”
However, improvements to posture can be made through Chair Yoga exercises and through daily “posture awareness.” In my classes, I refer to posture awareness as “homework.” It usually draws a chuckle from students, but they also know that class time is the time to learn and practice Chair Yoga together.
Time away from the Yoga class is when you put the principles you have learned, in motion, and adapt them into your lifestyle. I cannot promise Chair
Yoga is a “cure all,” but you will see improvements in every aspect of your life. However, practicing your homework separates the fantastic success stories from those who see some modest improvement.
So, what is posture awareness? This is taking the time to be aware of your posture, on a daily basis. The first thing you want to do in order to open your awareness is look at your side profile in a mirror and any photographs of yourself. At this point, look at your spine from top to bottom.
Do you see slumping, forward tilting of the neck, or extra large curves? Your spine should be aligned so that it is fairly straight at all times. During a number of daily activities such as: Standing, walking, reading, eating, sitting, lying, typing, and more, you should make a conscious effort, to keep your head and back straight.
Now, we can all remember a schoolteacher who preached, “Keep your back straight,” but now we know that he or she was absolutely correct. Take the time to adjust your spinal alignment, from this moment on, and every time you can remember to do so.
If possible, you should also attend any workshops about Chiropractic and
Orthopedic medicine. Educate yourself about your body, your spine, and your choices. You can usually find these workshops and many more valuable meetings at your local senior centre. These workshops are usually free, you are under no obligation, and it makes for a good “Fact finding mission.”
The alignment and posture principles, you learn in a Chair Yoga class, can be as simple as, “Pain or no pain.”
In comparison to many forms of exercise, the benefits of Chair Yoga far outweigh the risks. The therapeutic exercises work the body, from head to toes, to the best of any client’s ability.
Therefore, the method used, addresses the whole body in a single routine.
This is an amazing feat, for a low-impact exercise program, where the average session lasts 45 to 60 minutes. The following information will highlight some of the many benefits of regular participation in a Chair Yoga
Increased circulation is a result of movement and every body part that can move is used in a typical Chair Yoga class. For many of us, we think of cardiovascular heath first, and this is right fully so, but Chair Yoga helps many other forms of circulation, within the body, as well.
To sit still for days on end, we invite diseases of many kinds. Diabetics need movement to keep sugar levels in “tolerance zones.” Chair Yoga also has 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 attending Chair Yoga classes.
The many movements, bending, and twisting, in a regular Chair Yoga session, stimulate the elimination of toxins, within the body. Every time you bend the waist in one direction or another, the stomach aids in digestion and the lower back is gently stimulated.
Now, back to cardiovascular benefits – There seems to be a lot of confusion about what is classified as aerobic exercise. One of the definitions for aerobic exercise is: Any exercise that would increase circulatory and respiratory ability. When the heart and lungs have to work harder to keep up with the body’s need for oxygen that is aerobic.
In fact, gardening and housework are also aerobic exercise that most seniors routinely do. This is not to say that gardening and housework are complete health maintenance systems, but they do burn over 200 calories per hour, for the average person, and meet the aerobic definition.
Much of this mentality stems from the “No pain – No gain” era. Most of the original advocates of this theory are now “nursing their own wounds” and practicing gentler forms of exercise. After all, none of us are immortal, and the body can only take so much abuse over time.
May I remind anyone, who is left standing, from the No pain – No gain era, that walking is also classified as aerobic exercise. So, whether you walk or run a mile, aerobic benefits are gained and significant calories are burned.