Get Limber in Your Living Room: Chair Yoga for Seniors

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There are many wonderful things about getting older, but going through the aging process also means you might start experiencing bodily fatigue, achy muscles and joint pain more often than you used to. Because of this, you might have difficulty moving and exercising. But you don’t have to let that slow you down. It’s vital for older adults to get regular physical activity — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity — but what if you want to gently ease into more movement without exacerbating aches and pains?

One way to get started is to practice chair yoga. Chair yoga exercises are a perfect way for you to stretch and get moving, all while you’re safely seated in a chair — no need to get down onto the floor. This type of yoga can help loosen your muscles, improve circulation, build strength and even relieve stress. Even better? You can do it any time from the comfort of your own home.

What Is Chair Yoga for Seniors?

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Chair yoga, or sitting yoga, for seniors is a modified version of traditional hatha yoga to help relieve body aches and stay healthy in a safe and accessible way. Hatha yoga is a form of this type of exercise that’s more gentle and more slowly paced with a focus on stretching and breathing. It’s ideal for anyone who lives with pain that could make more complex yoga poses difficult, such as chronic pain, osteoporosis and multiple sclerosis. Additionally, chair yoga can also be ideal for people who spend long hours sitting in a chair.

Many seniors find their lives become sedentary with each passing year because movement may become more tiring, uncomfortable or painful. Practicing chair yoga regularly can provide a way to prevent or relieve those issues. It’s a low-impact way to get the blood in your body flowing and stretch your muscles.

In terms of equipment, all you need for chair yoga is a stable, armless chair. Make sure the chair is resting on a flat, stable surface and that you’re wearing comfortable clothes that allow for a generous range of motion. Chair yoga can also be ideal if you’re a wheelchair user.

Benefits of Chair Yoga for Seniors

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Getting regular exercise can add years to your life and slow the aging process. However, many types of exercise can become more difficult to perform with age. High-impact exercises like weightlifting, running and other types of intense cardio can be particularly hard on your joints and muscles. Chair yoga provides a way to get your body moving without stressing your joints with hard impacts like running does. Practicing chair yoga for 20-30 minutes per session several times a week can provide significant health benefits.

First of all, it can help manage and reduce pain. One recent study from the Journal of American Geriatrics Society found that chair yoga effectively helped relieve pain associated with osteoarthritis. Furthermore, chair yoga involves stretching the neck, upper back, lower back, shoulders, arms, legs, knees and ankles without much impact on the joints. This not only reduces stiffness, tension and pain, but it can also help to improve mobility in the long run.

Another potential benefit is improved flexibility, which can make it easier to perform regular movements as you go about your everyday routine. Being flexible also can improve muscle coordination and posture and lower the risk of future muscle soreness and injuries. Chair yoga helps improve your strength and balance as well, meaning falls become a lot less likely. Having a strong body also increases your ability to withstand injury.

Chair yoga even has benefits for your mental wellbeing. As with traditional yoga, chair yoga involves a lot of deep breathing, which can help clear your mind similarly to meditation. This often results in reduced stress, a better mood, less anxiety and a calmer state of mind.

Try These Great Chair Yoga Routines

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There’s no need to leave your home, join a gym or go to chair yoga classes at a fitness studio — plenty of outstanding chair yoga routines are available online. Some are written out with pictures, while others are instructional video workouts you can follow along with.

If you’re unsure about the idea of following along with a chair yoga video, you can simply make your own routine consisting of exercises sitting in a chair. Here are some great options for all skill levels:

The Forward Bend Pose involves bending over so your chest is resting on your thighs and your hands are reaching towards the floor. If you can, place your palms fully on the floor. To get the most out of this stretch, hold for 30 seconds or more, taking slow, long, deep breaths.

The Chair Pigeon Pose is another great chair yoga stretch. Sitting up straight with your knees aligned above your ankles, bring your left ankle to your right thigh. If you can, try bending forward as low as possible to make the stretch more intense. Hold here for several deep breaths before doing the same pose with the opposite leg.

For the Chair Spinal Twist, begin by sitting sideways on your chair facing right. Twist your torso to the right while grabbing the back of the chair with both hands to anchor yourself in that position. Stay here for several deep breaths. Then, switch to the left side.

The simple Overhead Stretch starts with you sitting up straight in your chair, facing forward with your arms relaxed and hanging by your sides. As you take a deep breath in, slowly begin to raise your arms up towards the ceiling. Once they’re fully extended upward, take a moment to engage your core and ensure your back is straight. Hold this position for a few seconds. Let out a long exhale while slowly lowering your arms back down. Repeat this a few more times.

You might find it easier and more convenient to follow an exercise video routine that provides instructions and demonstrates the different positions for you. There are plenty of free chair yoga classes and routines for seniors to choose from. Here are some that come highly recommended:

  • Chair Yoga for Seniors With Adriene: Adriene is a master of making yoga fun and easy for everyone. In this 17-minute chair yoga video, she guides you through the moves slowly and clearly so that it’s easy to follow along and enjoy learning the basics.  
  • Gentle Chair Yoga With Mary Beth Kealy: This gentle, stimulating 41-minute chair yoga practice is great if you want to spend a little bit of extra time stretching. The background of the video incorporates soothing, meditative music to make the experience especially relaxing.
  • Chair Yoga for Lower Back Pain With Cindy: Cindy walks you through 18 minutes of sitting yoga for seniors. The stretches are specifically designed to ease lower back pain while helping you build strength at the same time.

Resource Links:

https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/older_adults/index.htm

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3410195/

https://www.allinahealth.org/healthysetgo/move/exercise-is-key-to-living-longer

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28008603/