The Gem that is Chair Yoga

“If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves” -Thomas  Edison

I have been incorporating Chair Yoga in some of my Zoom classes and workshops lately and have had really positive feedback. So I thought I would share a little about why I love using a chair to support my yoga practice and how I think the use of one can make yoga accessible to anyone.

When I hear about Doctors referring inactive patients to a yoga practice, it is always my hope that they first  find a Chair Yoga class to assess their abilities. All too often people join the wrong type of yoga for their situation and get scared off for life, never to try again.

 

Benefits and Testimonials

I have been teaching Chair yoga since 2010, and over the years it has become increasingly popular. I now offer three weekly classes that sell out on the day of registration, a Zoom class and a Chair Yoga online class membership. The regular feedback I get makes it fairly obvious why it’s so popular…

My Student Mavis shared with me that she was able to keep her driving license because she regained neck mobility for shoulder checking. 

My Student Diane had immediate relief for sciatic nerve pain from gardening with a few hip and hamstring releases.

My 92 year old student Derrick tells me every class that Chair Yoga keeps him  young.

 Many of my students find the practice in forward folding and balance assists them in being physically able to care for their grandchildren, while also providing them the freedom to mentally enjoy the experience. 

I love when my students excitedly share with me how during a class they’ll check their blood pressure, practice three part breathing, and when they check again notice it lowered completely.

 

Unforeseen Benefits

One of my mottos is, “If you don’t use it, you lose it”. 

However Yoga is so much more than a physical exercise. 

This practice is effective for improving mood, focus, concentration, pain tolerance, motor skills, injury prevention, injury healing, courage, and confidence.

We have the opportunity to leave our comfort zone and exceed our expectations.

There is something that happens when you experience a limitation or challenge and then you commit yourself to overcoming it.

I call it fulfillment:)

A sense of community is another  joy inducing benefit to Chair Yoga classes!

 Seeing friends support each other. 

 The sweet jokes made, and stories shared.

 In the winter we like to show our most outrageous socks off!

 

The Anatomy of my Chair Yoga Classes

“If you do your practice, all will come” -Patthabi Jois

When I teach Chair Yoga I do my best to fit in something for every part of the body in the sixty minutes I’m given.

The typical class can include but is not limited to:

*Finger, hand and wrist work

*Core strengthening 

*Breath work

*Guided relaxation/meditation

*Neck releases

*Spine articulation, twists, forward bends, extension, and side stretches

*Shoulder mobility

*Toe isolation, foot and ankle work

*Knee mobility and strength

*Hip stretches and strength

*Balance work

*Standing stretches using the chair for support

Another  consistent point of emphasis during classes is  reminding my students to breathe.

( A reminder that many of us need because we all tend to hold our breath more often than we realize.)

I often have senior citizens students in class, (some mobility impaired),  and I am so grateful  that Chair Yoga offers a resource to help them improve and maintain all facets of their well being as they age. 

 

Chair Yoga vs. Floor Yoga

I know that there are a lot of people in the yoga world that are adverse to using a chair because they believe that it is only a tool for the elderly or disabled.

However in my 10+ years of teaching I have discovered that oftentimes a chair class can offer more benefits to individuals than a floor class. 

For example, in order for a spinal twist to benefit sciatic nerve pain the spine must be straight up and down so that there is no compression or overstretching in the lower back region. 

If you have sciatic nerve issues it’s likely that you can’t sit up straight on the floor.

Using a chair, you can find a straight spine, and get the full relief a spinal twist can provide. 

Another example is the fact that the beautiful upper back benefits of Child’s pose and Downward dog often aren’t available to someone with knee pain or limited shoulder range   

It potentially would be if they were to use the back of a chair to create an overhead arm experience  to build on.

Or Side angle pose,(many ailments would keep this pose out of reach), the seated version is a must try! 

Stay safe from the  possibility of falling  so you can create length in that line from foot to hand, and release all the tension in between.

 I recently taught a workshop with a wide legged seated forward fold to a group of floor yoga students.

One of them remarked afterwards that she experienced the best tailbone stretch of her life!! 

 

Conclusion

I’ve recently had the privilege of beginning to study Iyengar Yoga where the chair is used many times throughout ninety minute class. In the classes  I continue to bear witness to the freedom this prop brings to the body and breath.  

I hope that my words have helped to present  the chair not as a limitation but instead as an opportunity to get the most out of your body and practice.

Namaste.