By Faye Martins
For those with knee or hip problems, or decreased mobility, Chair Yoga can be a great modification, allowing practice to continue. Chair Yoga consists of poses and breathing exercises performed in a seated position or with the use of a chair, allowing it to be performed even in hospitals or nursing homes. Through Chair Yoga, the physical and spiritual benefits of a healthy practice are available to everyone.
Although the practice is very accessible, basic precautions must be taken in Chair Yoga, as in every practice. Falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths in older people and practitioners should be urged to feel rooted in their chair, as they would on a mat.
Before beginning to teach or practice Chair Yoga, participants should evaluate their health. Some health issues, which may affect participation, include knee replacement surgery, osteoporosis, degenerative disk disease or other spinal conditions, hip replacements, heart attacks or rotator cuff injuries. Inner-ear problems or vertigo may also prevent practitioners from enjoying traditional Yoga and the seated variety can be accessible to them. Chairs should be placed on a non-slip surface, such as a Yoga mat, and wheelchairs should be locked into position before beginning.
While traditional Yoga props, like blocks, are not generally used, straps may be utilized in some poses. A full warm-up is especially important, as practitioners may be using muscles that are not regularly exercised. Be prepared for multiple challenges in some cases, like a hearing or sight impairment in addition to mobility; the area nearest the Chair Yoga instructor should be reserved for those with such difficulties. Pay particular attention to Yogic breathing; those with mobility issues may not be accustomed to taking full, deep breaths and the increase in oxygen will be very beneficial. Breath retention is not recommended for cancer patients, as they need the maximum amount of oxygen.
Some participants in Chair Yoga prefer to wear regular street clothes, which is fine as long as they are not constricting. Shoes should be removed to allow the feet to flex if possible.
A California State University study found an increase in bone density to be a benefit of Chair Yoga, and the stress relief and increased flexibility enjoyed by standard Yoga practitioners are also experienced in Chair Yoga. Diabetics may have increased blood flow to extremities, and blood vessels in all participants will be strengthened with the aerobic exercise.
Chair Yoga can be a very positive addition to any Yogi’s repertoire, and the emphasis on ability, rather than disability, is a message to be taken to heart.
© Copyright 2012 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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