Welcome to Elder Strength friend! In this post, you will learn what is chair yoga for seniors and if it’s a good option for you.
Yoga is one of the best forms of exercise for general health for seniors because of the perfect combination of strength training, mobility exercise, balance training, and stress reduction.
Yoga is typically very low impact and can be accommodated for different experiences and fitness levels, so it can be a great option for seniors.
If you’d have to pick one form of exercise to keep you healthy as you age, yoga would be a good bet. With a split first place with walking.
But yoga has one huge downside: It requires quite a bit of strength and flexibility from your legs to do it effectively. Many of the positions require you to hold your body in awkward positions for extended times. So how about if you have lost the ability to use your legs?
This is where chair yoga comes in. Chair yoga is a version of yoga designed specifically for seniors and people with disabilities that prevent them from performing regular yoga.
But is chair yoga effective? Is it really yoga? Is it good for seniors? Read on to find out!
What Is Yoga
Yoga is an ancient Indian practice that is originally more of a spiritual practice than a form of exercise. A key part of yoga has always been a physical exercise in the form of practicing poses, known as asanas.
These days when people in the western world speak about yoga, they are usually speaking of the form of exercise without the spiritual practices.
That said, many schools of yoga still incorporate some of the spiritual practices into the exercise, mainly mindfulness, relaxation, and breathwork but these can be seen as a tool for stress reduction as well.
The main goal of yoga is to perform poses (asanas) in sequences. The poses are varyingly challenging and often require quite a bit of strength and mobility to do perfectly.
Like I mentioned before, controlled breathing, mindfulness of the movement as well as relaxation, and emptying the mind are central practices in yoga.
The mindful movement is great for improving the mind-muscle connection and proprioception which can help improve your balance, strength, and mobility.
What Is Chair Yoga For Seniors
Chair yoga is a form of yoga that is done sitting on a chair, as the name suggests. While sitting on a chair limits the number of poses significantly, it can be performed if you have disabilities or balance issues that prevent you from performing other types of yoga.
Sometimes in chair yoga, the chair is used as balance support to perform standing poses. So it’s also suitable for people with balance issues or reduced leg strength and stability.
Because the poses are performed mainly in the seated position, some regular yoga poses naturally cannot be performed. But chair yoga can be used to train most of the body and it can be a really good form of exercise for people with disabilities.
Is Chair Yoga Actually Yoga
You might be wondering if chair yoga counts as actual yoga. The answer to this is that it’s a matter of definition.
The history of yoga is very long and as I said before, it was originally a spiritual practice with similar goals to meditation. So different people and cultures will have different opinions on what counts as “real” yoga.
As far as we know, originally the purpose of yoga was to learn to observe the body and the mind and thus improve self-awareness, self-control. Allowing the contemplation of the nature of consciousness.
Modern practices noticed the benefits for physical fitness and mental health but especially in western schools, the spiritual side of yoga is really reduced.
In my opinion chair yoga deserves to be called yoga just as much as any other form of yoga. The fact that you use a chair as a support doesn’t make it less yoga in any way.
In the end, you decide for yourself how you want to practice yoga. For the physical health, or if you want to seek a deeper meaning in it. If you want to explore the spiritual side of yoga, it’s wise to seek an experienced teacher.
Benefits Of Chair Yoga For Seniors
The benefits of regular yoga for seniors are generally well accepted but the actual research is still inconclusive to many of its claimed health effects. There is some evidence that yoga can help you improve mobility, strength, and balance while reducing stress. It can even help you reduce blood pressure.
There is also some evidence that yoga can be beneficial for arthritis, mental health, coronary artery disease, and diabetes. Just like most forms of exercise.
Chair yoga offers similar benefits to those seniors that can’t for some reason perform regular forms of yoga. However, chair yoga is meant as a replacement for yoga for people who can’t perform regular yoga.
It’s important to realize that forms of yoga that use the whole body are always more effective as exercise when compared to chair yoga.
Who Should Choose Chair Yoga
So should all seniors do chair yoga instead of other forms of yoga that use the whole body? The answer is no, you should not do only chair yoga if you are physically capable of performing regular yoga or other more demanding exercises.
The reason is very simple. Yoga is great for maintaining muscles strength, mobility, and balance skills. But if you perform it on a chair, it becomes a lot less effective because you are not utilizing your whole body and challenging your balance.
Performing chair yoga is of course more effective than doing nothing, but it is specifically meant for seniors and people with disabilities who have lost the ability to perform other types of yoga effectively.
So it’s not about chair yoga being more effective for seniors than regular yoga but it being suitable for people with disabilities or reduced physical ability.
Maintaining your balance skills and muscle mass is one of the most important things for your health as you age so it’s important to keep doing more demanding forms of exercise like regular yoga and strength training.
With balance and strength, it really is a matter of “use it or lose it” as you age. So if you can use your legs, it’s important to choose forms of exercise that keep them strong. Regular yoga, Tai Chi, walking, and strength training are great options.
How To Get Started With Chair Yoga
While chair yoga DVDs or online courses can seem like an intriguing idea, the truth is that it’s much more effective to learn yoga under the supervision of a teacher.
It’s very hard to know if you are performing the poses correctly as a beginner without feedback. In the worst-case scenario, you can pull a muscle or experience joint discomfort.
That’s why I recommend you to find out if there are local chair yoga classes for seniors in your area. You can usually find them with a simple Google search: “Chair yoga in insert your area“.
If you can’t find any on Google, look for local yoga schools and give them a call to see if they are running any senior chair yoga groups. They don’t always advertise them directly.
This way you will enjoy chair yoga a lot more since you get the instruction and feedback. Yoga classes are also a great way to socialize and meet new people!
You don’t usually need any equipment to get started but it might be a good idea to take a water bottle and a yoga mat of your own with you.
I hope you found this short introduction of chair yoga for seniors useful and it gave you an idea about what chair yoga is and if it’s a good option for you. If you have any questions you can leave them in the comments below.
As a recap, chair yoga is a form of yoga that’s intended for people who have lost the full functioning of their lower body or have other disabilities that prevent them from performing regular yoga.
People who are healthy and capable of performing regular yoga, shouldn’t opt for chair yoga just because of age since it’s important to maintain your leg strength and balance skills by using your whole body as you age.
That said, chair yoga can offer many of the benefits of regular yoga to people who are not able to participate in regular forms of yoga.
Thanks for reading and see you next time!