yoga teacher trainingBy Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500 

For all the benefits it offers, Yoga practitioners are unsurprised at how quickly the practice of Yoga has spread in the last two decades, particularly among aging populations. In a time when people are living longer and healthier lives, many practitioners and instructors see Yoga as an excellent resource for pain management and healthy maintenance or remediation of muscles and joints.

Since Yoga is so highly adaptable – a style known as, Chair Yoga, has also become more popular among its practitioners. Yoga in a chair is an adaptation of more traditional schools of Yoga, such as Hatha,  because it offers more support and requires less flexibility, strength, and mobility from its practitioners. Yet, since it is still a series of Yoga techniques and poses, it also offers practitioners the opportunity to increase range of motion, gain balance, and improve muscle health.

As we age, those of us who are less physically active, may notice that our muscles become tighter and less flexible, which results in decreased mobility, aches, muscle tears, strains, and joint trouble. Seniors, who are not physically active, are more prone to injuries, falls, and pain, which makes moving difficult. This is one more reason why Chair Yoga is a perfect form of exercise. Not only does Yoga increase blood flow to the muscles and extremities to improve circulation, but it also lengthens and strengthens muscles to relieve pressure on painful joints.

Many seniors believe they are unable to practice Yoga because their physical limitations might prevent them from performing certain poses, particularly balance or floor poses.  With that said, Chair Yoga offers a proven method to stay safe from injuries, while still improving mobility and strength.

A senior, who is unable to sit on the ground, for example, can adapt a simple pranayama technique to Yoga in a chair, improving lung capacity and relieving stress. Another senior, with osteoporosis, might adapt a balancing pose, by using the chair for support; over time, he or she will gain balance, strength, and coordination.

Another benefit, which Chair Yoga offers, includes therapeutic techniques to improve pain management or to strengthen areas of previous injury or aggravation. Especially as it relates to seniors, looking to improve mobility, Chair Yoga is a form of pain management, which is a well-known advantage of practicing Yoga. Seniors, with back or neck pain, can stretch their spines and the lower back muscles, through chair adaptations of forward bends or the Sun Salutation series. Of course, potential students who have mobility issues should seek out a competent chair Yoga teacher.  Once the the basics are learned, and mobility is enhanced, one should always be careful to warm up  thoroughly before practicing  independently.

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