All About the Upper Body

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All About The Upper Body: Chair Yoga

Upper body seated exercises are a great way to easily add in some exercise to our day- and it does not have to be complicated. We can get upper body exercise and so much more with Chair Yoga. One of the great things about chair yoga is that it is so very versatile. The chair is always there for you when you need it and the possibilities for exercises and movement are endless. Keep reading for some tips, or you can go right to the Resources Page for printable chair yoga exercises, including for the upper body.

Maybe you are recovering from an illness or a prolonged hospitalization that you were not expecting- chair yoga can be a gentle way to reintroduce movement and regain your strength and cardiorespiratory endurance as you gradually return to your prior level of activity. Maybe you have sustained a lower body injury and are unable to stand- seated chair yoga can be a great addition to your routine to help keep you active while you recover.

Maybe standing independently is not an option for you-for whatever reason. Chair yoga can be a great tool to allow you to move your body and get that necessary exercise and activity in your day. Experiencing pain in the lower body from arthritis or an injury may lead you to search out upper body only exercises for a brief period of time. There can certainly be many reasons why we may need to give our lower body a break.

Seated chair yoga is always availableIf you are looking for an upper body chair yoga sequence and more resources for seated upper body exercises, scroll to the bottom for lots of useful links. Or, if you are interested in learning some more about the importance of maintaining proper upper body mobility and strength, keep reading.

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Importance Of Upper Body Strength

We obviously use our upper body for a multitude of functional tasks and daily living activities. While lower body strength is associated with fall risk- Effects of Lower Limb Strength on Falls and Balance of the Elderly,  functional upper body range of motion and strength is required for dressing, bathing, eating, cooking- and the list goes on and on. You may be interested to know that grip strength is associated with all-cause and disease specific-mortality, take a look at this research if you are interested:

Hand grip strength and early mortality after hip fracture

Grip strength and all cause mortality

While the actual relationship may not be clear, we can surmise that it has to do with the ability to perform functional tasks throughout the day. If we have adequate grip strength, then we will be more likely to perform our activities of self care, home management, shopping, cooking, etc.  If we don’t, we will most likely either not be doing that task or someone is doing them for us.

Maintaining our independence with tasks is crucial for maintaining our strength and endurance (and vice versa!). As we age, we may be less likely to participate in exercise. Our functional mobility tasks that we need to do- like getting in and out of bed, standing up and sitting down, walking from room to room, and getting dressed may be what makes up our exercise for the day.

This can start a trend of the less we move, the harder it is to move, the more help we need, the less we do or are able to do- and so on.  Sometimes there are circumstances that are just beyond our control, but sometimes we can make some small shifts in our day to help combat some of that inactivity.

What Can We Do About It? 

If you are a caregiver, one of the best things you can do is to take a moment and have the person you are caring for try to do the task. It may take longer and it may go against what you think it means to be providing care- but you are doing something very valuable for them. Can they do part of a task? Can you do it together? Can they help prepare something to complete the task?

It can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. For example – maybe they require your help to put a shirt on, but can they help by taking it off the hanger or out of the drawer. Maybe there are some small ways that you can find in the day to help those you care for get some increased activity.

Maybe you are someone that recognizes that you could increase the exercise and activity in your day.  There is no problem with starting small and working up. Maybe you have stopped doing tasks or exercise because arthritis, or another issue, has made it too difficult or painful to perform. Don’t delay seeking medical care from your healthcare provider because you don’t think that it is a big enough deal.

Addressing issues early on- before they start to accumulate- will get you back to your normal routine much quicker. You can strengthen your grip and improve your finger strength and fine motor control with some common household objects right at home:

  • Squeeze a tennis ball, sponge, or stress ball.
  • Take a piece of paper and, using one hand, try to scrunch it up into a ball. Then, using one hand, smooth it back out.
  • Pick up and sort coins or buttons.
  • Stack or arrange dominoes.
  • Shuffle and deal cards
  • Put together a puzzle

If you are interested in a product made for hand strengthening, you may be interested in these exercise eggs from the  Friendly Swede   I like these because they come in 3 different sizes based on the size of your hand or how you want to use them. You get three eggs with varying resistance- soft, medium, and firm. There is a very light stickiness to the feel, but they are easy to grip and can be cleaned with soap and water. There is a short video on You Tube that gives you a quick overview of some exercises. I have the large size and this is how it fits in my hand:

A hand holding an egg shaped hand exercise ball

If you are interested in more hand exercise options, I found this great video for hand and finger exercises from Virtual Hand Care on You Tube. She uses these Yoga Tune Up Balls. They are very versatile and can be used for massage and trigger points. You can use one or two of them in the bag in the peanut shape. Here is another  version. You can always place two of them inside a sock if you are using them for trigger point work and want to use both at the same time.

Two yoga tune up balls used for trigger point and massage.

Upper Body Seated Exercises With Chair Yoga

Like I previously mentioned, chair yoga is versatile and we can perform seated yoga sequences with just the upper body. Whenever you find yourself becoming stressed or anxious about pain or anxiety related to something out of your control- take 3 deep breaths to help your nervous system regulate.  When our sympathetic nervous system is dominant, it is very hard to think clearly. Adding in some simple deep breaths throughout the day can be a great place to start. Take a look at these resources to see if anything resonates with you:

Give this 15 minute seated chair yoga sequence for upper body a try: Upper Body Seated Exercises

Or this upper body yoga break: Chair Yoga Exercises: Upper Body

Check out the Resources page to take a look at 5 Upper Body Yoga Poses that you can do at home.

You may be interested in trying Cactus Arms Pose.

You may also enjoy these fun chair exercises- there are some lower body moves here as well:

Yoga Block Exercises

Seated Exercises With A Ball

Seated Exercises With A Towel

5 Seated Exercises Just For Fun

Or, you may like to take a look at Chair Yoga And The Core

If you are looking for ways chair yoga can help with stress management, I invite you to check out Tips for Healing with Chair Yoga.

Finally, I invite you to sign up for the Monthly Email Newsletter to stay up to date on the latest blog posts!


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.