By Sangeetha Saran
Yoga is a practice that yields great benefit, no matter your age. Thanks to the rising popularity of chair yoga, even seniors with limited mobility can experience the conditioning and strengthening effects of this ancient practice. With modification comes new considerations, and there are some special precautions yoga instructors should keep in mind when teaching this style of yoga.
Chair yoga is still yoga, and many of the same contraindications may apply. The yoga instructor must be notified of health issues such as high blood pressure, heart disease, arthritis or joint problems in order to keep their students safe. Hip replacements are especially important for yoga instructors to be aware of prior to starting the modified practice. A senior may not give their artificial hip a second thought, but it will have an impact on their yoga practice.
There are a variety of different chairs out there that may be used for chair yoga, and this is part of the exercise’s appeal. However, there are certain qualities that make some chairs better props than others. In addition to being perfectly stable, the ideal chair will have just the right amount of padding in order to make sitting for a prolonged period of time comfortable. Chair placement is as important as the choice of chair itself. A flat, level, nonskid surface is ideal for chair yoga.
When seniors are performing chair yoga, teachers need to put extra emphasis on body awareness and grounding. We might not consciously realize it, but the possibility of losing our balance and falling over goes a long way to keep us aware of how our bodies are responding to an activity. When this threat is removed, it is easier to ignore the subtle signals the body gives.
Also, although I have never seen this happen, it’s completely possible to fall out of the chair itself. To prevent this, teachers should constantly remind their students to ground themselves in the chair. This will keep their weight balanced and increase stability.
The inherent support of the chair during chair yoga may tempt students to push further and move faster than they should. The muscles must be properly warmed and stretched, even when doing yoga in a sitting position. Putting special focus on the benefits of stretching is a good idea, especially with beginning students.
Another area for instructors to be aware of is the fact that breathing exercises may be pushed too far when students know they can lean back on the chair for support. Body signals such as dizziness, vertigo and faintness should not be ignored, even if there is no danger of a fall. Keeping a watchful eye on students during the breathing exercises is a good idea.
By taking the necessary precautions with chair yoga, yoga instructors can provide their services to a whole new segment of the population. Chair yoga is the safest way for seniors to get in on the restorative benefits of yoga practice.
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