Yoga is an excellent exercise for people of all ages and fitness. It is so versatile that it can be adapted to suit people with balance issues and low mobility. When that happens, we call it chair yoga. I’ve written an article does chair yoga help with balance?
Chair yoga is every bit the same as regular yoga, except you do it while seated. For people hindered by age, stiffness, or injury, chair yoga for seniors is the perfect way to ease into the practice without pushing your body to do more than it can handle.
Chair yoga comes with the same benefits that yoga has, so it is by no means a watered-down version. Furthermore, older adults stand to benefit the most from activities like yoga, and it’s for a surprising reason.
People may enjoy a higher mind-body connection when practicing yoga.
Besides, chair yoga has a host of benefits, especially for seniors.
Why Chair Yoga?
It Favors People With Balance Issues.
One of the things that start to suffer as we age is our balance. A combination of lean muscle loss and diminishing bone density will do that, especially if you’re not inclined to take corrective measures.
Fortunately, anyone can rectify their balance problems using chair yoga. The practice not only improves fitness and awareness, but it is also one of the top activities for reinstating our body’s inherent stability.
Plus, the fact that it is practiced from a seated position means that anyone can do chair yoga, regardless of how well they can stand or balance on their feet.
Gail Pickens-Barger Yoga Instructor
Chair yoga is great for seniors! They love getting together and talking catching up, sometimes it’s like I don’t even need to be there!
Great for connecting with others in your community.
Seniors love it, in that they don’t have to get down on the floor to do their exercise. We actually do seated Zumba Fitness to get their cardiovascular exercise in too! They can go at their own pace – take breaks when they want to – and again, they love catching up with one another.
We’ve added the guided relaxation and meditation to the practice, aka “Yoga Nidra” and I get comments back from my folks that they have less pain and sleep better on the days that they do yoga.
Discover how chair yoga can: ease back pain, lessen stress, increase flexibility, gain strength, better joint mobility, build bones, have better balance, and sleep better at night with yoga instructor Gail Pickens-Barger. https://chairyogafitness.com or https://yogawithgaileee.com/
You Can Start at a Slower Pace and Intensity
Chair yoga is all about starting slowly and gradually increasing the intensity of your workouts. The reason why “everyone can do it” is because it suits people with different levels of yoga prowess perfectly.
The benefit of yoga is that you can begin at any age or level of fitness. Even if you have had no structured fitness regime previously or are suffering from injuries, it doesn’t matter; chair yoga is adaptable to whatever pace you’re comfortable with. Once you get used to it, it is easy to adjust the exercises to suit your improving fitness.
It Helps you Build Confidence.
Including any physical activity into your routine once you hit 50 can sometimes seem daunting. However, should you feel the urge to get active, chair yoga is an excellent choice for getting that initial boost of confidence.
Not only is it easy to learn, but it is also easy to get used to. With time, you may start to feel like a chair yoga pro, which is the kind of confidence you need to take up other physical activities like walking, swimming, or simple dumbbell exercises for seniors.
You can do it at Home
You don’t need a gym subscription, personal trainer, or any sort of commitment to start chair yoga. You need little more than a chair and perhaps a yoga mat (we’ll get to the reason for this later). Chair yoga is perfect because you can do it anywhere, even from the comfort of your living room.
The best way to adapt an activity to your lifestyle is to have the least amount of intrusion into your daily routine. That’s why chair yoga is so great for seniors—you need little more than a few minutes a day in your living room to complete the activity.
It is Easier on Joints and Limbs
Age comes with a host of issues, and some of the body parts that suffer the most are limbs and joints. That doesn’t mean that all exercises are off-limits. On the contrary, some activities can relieve pain and discomfort from arthritic joints and old injuries.
Chair yoga’s gentle nature is an incredible soothing medicine for chronic pain such as arthritis, lower back pain, and sciatica. Indeed, people with arthritis should not engage in some physical endeavors, but chair yoga is not one of them.
This activity does more good than harm, especially if your knees, ankles, shoulders, lower back, wrists, and elbows experience painful inflammatory reactions.
How Does Chair Yoga Benefits Seniors?
Traditionally, older adults lead a more sedentary life, which can cause not just physical problems but psychological disparities too. Take anxiety, for example. Prolonged periods of inactivity can lead to the buildup of cortisol, a stress hormone that triggers a host of mental issues, including anxiety and depression.
As a form of exercise, chair yoga is a great way to alleviate anxiety and keep your brain chemistry balanced. Physical activities promote the release of endorphins, feel-good brain chemicals that improve your mental state and keep you feeling jovial.
2. Weight Management
Chair yoga is a mild form of exercise, but an effective one nonetheless. Most American adults are overweight, a problem that dramatically worsens with age. Jumping right into an exercise regimen at an advanced age is asking for trouble, primarily if you haven’t engaged in physical training for years. So, how does chair yoga help?
Think of it as a transitional activity, one that kicks off your weight loss journey. Chair yoga increases your body’s metabolism, which, in turn, changes how quickly your body burns fat. It also helps you build the lean muscle strength you need to engage in more physical exercises like resistance training.
What’s more, yoga is the ultimate stress reliever (whether you do it standing or seated), so it can cut down impulsive eating habits such as comfort eating.
3. Heart Disease
Here’s an alarming statistic: roughly half of all American adults have one or more of these heart disease risk factors: smoking, high blood pressure, and high levels of LDL cholesterol. It is, therefore, unsurprising that stroke and heart disease are two leading causes of senior fatalities.
How much chair yoga do you need to manage heart disease? Believe it or not, as little as an hour of chair yoga for just three months is enough to dramatically bring down your blood pressure, cholesterol, sugar, and triglyceride levels.
4. Chronic Pain
Chronic back pain is a debilitating form of pain that affects many older adults, impinging their ability to move normally, and subjecting them to life-popping painkillers just to feel normal.
Regular yoga is out of the question for anyone with chronic pain, but chair yoga isn’t.
Floor-to-standing movements are impossible feats for adults with advanced pain issues, so chair yoga is a fantastic alternative for seniors that need a homeopathic (non-medicinal) way to get relief from unrelenting body pains.
5. Multiple Sclerosis
Yoga comes highly recommended for people with multiple sclerosis (MS). According to a study conducted at Rutgers University, yoga can be used to enhance coordination, balance, walking ability, and the quality of life in people with MS.
Chair yoga, as a traditional exercise, improves cognitive functioning and mood while reducing fatigue. Everyone can reap its benefits, but seniors with mental issues like depression stand to benefit the most from the exercise, which teaches them how to achieve inner stability through relaxation, breathing, and meditation techniques.
Seniors with breathing problems should especially consider chair yoga. There is a yoga pose known as pranayama, which is a breathing technique designed to increase lung capacity, relax the neck muscles, and improve body posture.
This technique is beneficial for improving breathing ability. As little as 30 minutes of chair yoga a day is enough to address moderate breathing problems in older adults, which is one of the key reasons why people with breathing difficulties should consider chair yoga.
Chair yoga mitigates high blood sugar levels, which makes it a formidable weapon for seniors against diabetes. In a study, diabetic seniors were put through 40 minutes of chair yoga daily to see the effect it had on their blood sugar levels. Ten percent of the study group ended up with better lung capacity, while those among them with type 2 diabetes exhibited improved blood sugar control. Chair yoga raises the body’s metabolism, which can improve blood sugar levels.
One of the effects a raised metabolism has is improved blood flow to all parts of the body. You may have circulation problems if you experience numbness and tingling sensations in your extremities. When your heart rate rises, so do the rate of blood circulation.
Engaging in regular physical activity like chair yoga can drastically improve your cardiovascular health as well as your body’s ability to circulate blood (and oxygen) to all essential parts, including the brain. Better circulation means more natural movement, less pain and discomfort, and a healthier, happier body.
Arthritis is painful for many seniors, and, unfortunately, so many of them do not realize the benefits of staying fit until it is too late. Pain, stiffness, and joint swelling that impede movement are only three notable characteristics of arthritis, but they are enough to bring misery to older adults.
The good news is, a weekly chair yoga session for seniors goes a long way to combat the painful symptoms of arthritis. Not only does it offer a temporary but powerful fix to pain and swelling, it also strengthens the bones and muscles surrounding joints, giving them better support.
Furthermore, chair yoga will help you build up some much-needed confidence if you’ve been inactive for too long. It is a gateway exercise, so to speak, for those who have arthritis to other strength-building and pain-relieving exercises.
Humanity’s most significant problem comes from within. Stress is behind numerous chronic conditions, mental disorders, and psychological breakdowns. It is incredible how a single hormone called cortisol is the cause of so much misery.
Cortisol levels ebb and flow like ocean tides, but only if we actively encourage our bodies to relieve daily stress. Physical activities are, by far, the most effective when it comes to replacing the stress hormone with happier hormones like endorphins.
Chair yoga gives you an outlet for your stress. It may feel tough on your body, but your mind relishes the rewarding flow of endorphins that follows a physical activity, which motivates you to keep doing that activity. Chair yoga’s physical benefits may be obvious, but its mental health benefits are, without a doubt, more powerful.
11. Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is synonymous with inactivity, so the more you don’t exercise, the more dangerously it rises. High blood pressure can lead to cardiac issues like strokes, and far worse problems like aneurysms, which are fatal.
Half an hour of chair yoga daily is enough to reign in your blood pressure and make your body impervious to a host of HBP-related issues. All it takes is a little physical training to improve your metabolism and keep your blood pressure at healthy levels.
12. Strength & Balance
As we grow older, exercise becomes more vital than ever. Older adults who don’t participate in any exercise stand a higher chance of developing osteopenia (reduced bone mass), a precursor to the much more dangerous osteoporosis. Worryingly, one in eight men and one out of two women experience osteoporosis in their lifetime.
Osteoporosis causes fragile bones, making seniors more susceptible to fractures, fatal falls, and mobility issues. Interestingly, studies show that chair yoga can slow down and even reverse the effects of osteoporosis in seniors.
The condition, which is both treatable and preventable, can improve with activities like yoga, which improves balance, reduces stiffness, and, more importantly, builds bone strength.
Seniors who participate in chair yoga also exhibit lower levels of fatigue. The activity is hugely beneficial for older adults with mental illnesses such as depression (thanks to endorphins) and has a significant impact on mood, cognitive function, and metabolism.
Finally, chair yoga is a gentle yet effective way to meditate and acquire inner peace through breathing and relaxation poses.
Before you Start
1. The Chair
You do not need a special chair for this. Any chair that you feel comfortable in will do. Chairs with wheels are less stable, so stick to classic four-legged furniture. You want a sturdy chair that can support your weight comfortably.
2. Your Starting Position
All your positions should start with your butt firmly in the chair and your feet on the floor. If you can’t reach the floor, it’s okay to use yoga blocks or a folded yoga mat to attain stability. You must remain stable throughout your exercise.
3. The Duration of your Sessions
Don’t be too eager to clock hour-long chair yoga sessions right off the bat. Instead, start slowly. A 30-minute daily session is enough to get you started. You can gradually increase this duration as you get more comfortable, but don’t push yourself too hard in the beginning.
Which Chair Yoga Poses are Food for Seniors?
Most chair yoga poses are suitable for older adults. However, any pose that requires you to bend your trunk forward should not be a part of your daily routine. It can cause lower back problems.
Some chair yoga exercises you can try include:
Tadasana (Seated Mountain)
Sit up straight, and take a deep breath. Inhale as if you’re breathing into your spine. During your exhale, plant your sit bones (tail bone) firmly into the chair. The sit bones are simply the two points that carry your weight when you sit.
Keep your legs at 90-degree angles with your knees over your ankles. Spread your knees just enough to fit a fist between them.
Breathe in deeply once more, and this time as you exhale, pull your shoulders gently down your back and your navel towards your spine. Keep your arms relaxed by your sides. Finally, lift your toes and press firmly into your feet to engage your lower limbs.
Virabhadrasana I (Chair Warrior I)
Start in the same position as above, but as you inhale, slowly lift your arms out by your sides until your hands clasp above your head.
Lace all your fingers except for your pointing fingers and thumbs. Point directly over your head.
During the exhale, allow your shoulders to fall away from your ears and down your back to engage your shoulder capsules (muscles surrounding shoulder joints).
Settle in this position and take some more deep breaths (at least five), then slowly release your clasped arms and return to the starting position.
There are plenty more exercises you can engage in, including the Eagle (Garudasana), the Reverse Arm Hold, and the Chair Pigeon (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana).
A lack of mobility and balance is not enough to stop anyone from reaping the numerous physical and mental benefits of yoga. Chair yoga may have come along recently (invented in 1982 by Lakshmi Voelker-Binder), but it is designed specifically for people who have trouble standing or balancing on their own.
It should come as no surprise that it is one of the most powerful ways for seniors to stay in shape despite conditions like arthritis, chronic pain, sciatica, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other restrictive medical conditions.
Consider chair yoga if:
- You have trouble standing without support.
- You need to ease into physical activity to prevent injury or pain.
- You want an easy yet effective form of exercise to help you stay in shape.