Is Chair Yoga Right for You?

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Exercise And Chair Yoga For Seniors: Getting Started

Does it seem overwhelming to begin an exercise program, not to mention to stick with it? We may have been encouraged to exercise by your doctor, a family member, or a friend. Getting started can be daunting and overwhelming. Having a real concrete reason for starting an exercise program may help to give us some motivation to try an exercise program. Keep reading for some resources for getting started with chair yoga for seniors.

You can probably already think of several benefits to exercise:

  • increased strength
  • increased flexibility
  • improved range of motion
  • increased tolerance to activity
  • improved mood

So what can all that do for me?

Well, physical activity can help us to live independently longer. Gains in our strength and range of motion can help make doing our daily activities less taxing. Improved strength can decrease our fall risk. In addition, it can make it easier to get up from our chairs and in and out of bed. It can enable us to require less assistance transferring in and out of a car. Moreover, getting stronger and moving better can make it easier to get out into the community. This can have great effects on improving our quality of life.

Above all, increased activity tolerance and increased strength means you can do more of the things that you enjoy doing. Whatever that may be. If you or someone you care for has not been active in a while and are interested in starting an exercise routine, chair yoga can be a wonderful place to start.

Before we dive into some information on chair yoga for seniors, you may be interested in some information about exercise and physical activity in general. You may be interested in these pages from the CDC website:

Adults with Chronic Health Conditions and Disabilities | Physical Activity | CDC

Making Physical Activity a Part of an Older Adult’s Life

Chair Yoga For Seniors: Yoga Doesn’t Have to be Complicated

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So, you know exercise and physical activity help a great deal with a multitude of issues related to both our physical and emotional needs. Yoga is a form of exercise that can help improve our strength, flexibility, range of motion, and activity tolerance (plus lots more good stuff). The good news is that yoga is a relatively easy way to incorporate activity into your daily life. Therefore, it is much easier than you think to get started. Keep in mind that yoga is individual. Each pose and transition between poses will be unique to your body.

Yoga has a long history. There is no shortage of information on the history of yoga and then some. Yoga gives us many gifts. These include asanas (these are the poses and what we think of when we imagine yoga), meditation, breath practice (or pranayama), and philosophy. It may sound complicated (and you can make it as complicated or as simple as you want), but we can easily practice one or all of these tools just about anytime and anywhere.

Think You Can’t Do Yoga? Think Again.

  • Take a moment to check in with how you are sitting right now. Don’t change anything, just notice how you feel.
  • Do you feel the ground under your feet?
  • Are your hips shifted more to one side than the other?
  • Are your ears creeping up towards your shoulders?
  • Is your upper back rounding?
  • Lastly, do you feel tired? Energized? Calm? Anxious?
  • How is your breathing? Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Do you notice a difference in the sensation in your hands as you inhale and exhale?

Now I Invite You To Try This:

  • First, notice the ground (or whatever your feet may be resting on) beneath your feet. Stretch your toes out and feel the sensation in your arches. Now, place your feet back down and notice if you can feel all four corners of your feet evenly on the floor.
  • Shift your hips to try to feel both thighs evenly on the seat (it doesn’t have to be perfect).
  • Release your shoulders down and away from the ears.
  • Gently press your shoulders back- to find more space in the chest.
  • Finally, place your hand on your belly. Inhale and feel your belly and hand rise. Exhale and feel it fall.

Now relax, you just did yoga!

So, the great news is that if you can breath, you can do yoga! Doing yoga does not require you to bend yourself into a pretzel, nor does it require you to wear fancy yoga outfits. Chair yoga is a fantastic way to get all the benefits mentioned above in a safe and accessible way.

An older man performing a yoga pose using a yoga strap with both knees extended and the strap around his feet.

For anyone that spends a lot of time sitting or are is unable to stand and walk safely without assistance for any number of reasons, chair yoga can be a great option. It can help improve your sitting posture, decrease aches and pains associated with prolonged sitting, improve your circulation, and increase your functional strength. Most importantly, it can boost your mood. All this can be achieved from the safety of your chair! In conclusion, you have nothing to lose and so much to gain.

If you are hesitant to try yoga because you think that it may be too hard to follow, too strenuous, too easy, too slow, or too fast, you should know that there are many different styles of yoga. Chair yoga may just be a great place for you to get started. The old saying of “no pain, no gain” has no place here. One of the best benefits of doing chair yoga, in my opinion, is the benefit of mindfulness and awareness of the body as it moves through space. Moving in a more mindful way can help prevent falls and increase our awareness of our bodies strengths, as well as the limitations.

Have you ever reached for something in your kitchen cabinet and been greeted with a sharp stabbing pain in your shoulder? Chair yoga can help us increase stability through the core and more efficiently and mindfully move our limbs.

Want some more information? Check out this quick article on some yoga basics and research:

Yoga: What You Need To Know | NCCIH

Getting Started with Chair Yoga For Seniors ( or anyone really!)

Okay, so you might be thinking about giving it a try or sharing this with a family member and aren’t sure where to start. Most chair yoga sequences will begin with  Mountain Pose to help prepare the body for movement. Take a look at the description below. Then, try the gentle full body chair session suitable for most health conditions.

Be sure to check with your doctor to be sure this is right for you and always consult with your healthcare provider before starting any exercise program. I take into consideration the most common medical conditions, precautions, and contraindications. However, you may have individual movement or range of motion restrictions.

Always listen to your body and stop if you feel pain, have shortness of breath, or dizziness. Take the modifications as needed and always pace yourself. Never force or strain. Above all, just have some fun. We feel different every day for many reasons and it is important that we meet ourselves where we are at the given moment.

What do I need?

  • A chair with a straight back, with or without arms.
  • Comfortable clothes that do not restrict movement.
  • If you are comfortable barefoot, that’s great. If not, your regular shoes are fine.
  • A thick book, towel, or blanket to place under your feet if they do not reach the floor.
  • Water
  • That’s it!

Mountain Pose:

  • Sit up nice and tall in the chair, feet flat on the floor. You may sit forward a few inches in the chair or sit back and have the support of the chair.
  • Knees are bent to 90 degrees with the ankles in line with the knees.
  • Thighs are hip distance apart and toes are pointing forward.
  • Ground down through all 4 corners of your feet.
  • Shoulders are down and away from the ears, chest is broad, and hands are resting on your thighs or by your sides.
  • Bring awareness to the core- Feel the sensation in your lower abdominal muscles as if you were to do a quiet cough.
  • Take a few deep breaths (and remember it does not have to be perfect)

Remember, even just a few minutes of exercise performed throughout the day is beneficial. Give it a try!

Yoga blocks can be a great prop to place under the feet if they do not touch the ground. They are readily available and there are many options. Here are two relatively  inexpensive options: Yoga block or Set of 2 Yoga Blocks.

Keep reading for some options to help you get started with chair yoga for seniors including some beginner poses, videos, and printable resources.

Or, take a look at this story that reminds us, among other things, that it is okay to adapt and modify to make things work for us:

The Duck Story

Looking For Resources To Get Started?

I invite you to try this Chair Yoga Stretch For Beginners or this  Gentle Seated Yoga Sequence

Check out The Beginner’s Guide to Seated Chair Yoga on the Resources page.

You may be interested in The 7 Day Chair Yoga Challenge to gently introduce chair yoga to your day.

Take a look at these Chair Yoga Poses For Beginners:

High To Low Lunge

Chair Pose

Cactus Arms

You may be interested in Chair Yoga For The Feet

Or for a bit of variety, you may enjoy these chair exercises using a yoga block: 6 Exercises With A Yoga Block

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Visit The Peaceful Chair Etsy Shop for health and wellness related printables

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Disclaimer: The Peaceful Chair and strongly recommends that you consult with your physician before starting this or any exercise program.The information provided on this website is for informational purposes only and is not to be used in place of medical advice or information from your healthcare provider. Neither The Peaceful Chair, the, nor any of its contributors shall be held liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information described and/or contained herein and assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information contained in any links, videos, or any content on this website.