By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed
We often hear: Chair Yoga promotes student safety. For many Yoga students who need modifications and supportive props, in order to safely practice a full series of postures and breathing exercises, Chair Yoga classes can be enormously helpful. Practicing asanas with the support of a chair allows students who are contending with a wide variety of health issues to engage in a comprehensive Yoga practice, without undue anxiety or risking their current level of health. There are a number of specialized groups of students who benefit substantially from a fully supported practice.
Some of these groups include Yoga students who are recovering from surgery, older students, students living with chronic diseases, and students who are recovering from head traumas. Any one of these special consideration groups of students will be much more able to fully engage in a Chair Yoga class without feeling anxious that they will fall and injure themselves, or that the practice itself will be too hard for them. As a certified Yoga instructor, if you are able to offer your students a modified sequence of postures that utilizes the support of a chair, your dexterity and marketability as a Yoga teacher will increase exponentially.
In other words, you will have the flexibility to teach Yoga classes to a much more diverse population of students. By increasing your teaching skills to encompass instructing Chair Yoga classes, you will be able to lead classes in hospital settings, retirement communities and holistic health facilities of all kinds. In addition, you will be helping to spread the experience of the multiple benefits of Yoga to groups of students who may not otherwise feel comfortable signing up for a Yoga class.
* Modified Standing Forward Fold
There are many different Yoga postures that can be practiced in the context of a Chair Yoga class. For instance, many of the standing postures can be easily modified to practice with the support of a chair for balance and coordination. Some of the most easily modifiable standing postures include Eagle Pose, Tree Pose and Standing Forward Fold. Standing Forward Fold is a quintessential standing posture that is practiced in almost every Yoga class.
The benefits of Uttanasana, or Standing Forward Fold, include stretching out the calves, hamstrings and the back of the knees. Standing Forward Fold also relieves depression, anxiety and fatigue, as fresh blood and oxygen is circulated through the brain. In addition, if this posture is practiced with the support of a chair, tension is released throughout the front of the torso, shoulder and neck muscles, in a similar fashion to practicing the advanced version of this asana with the forearms clasped behind the calves.
To guide your students through the modified Chair Yoga version of Standing Forward Fold, have them stand approximately three feet behind their chairs with their legs hips’ distance apart. With an inhale, instruct your students to raise their arms overhead and place their hands in Prayer Position. With their next exhale, have your students bring their arms down and place their hands on the back of the chair in a straight line with their shoulders and neck. If any your students are uncomfortable raising their arms over their head, simply guide them into the posture without the initial arm movements.
For those Yoga students, Chair Yoga promotes student safety. At the same time, they need a little more of a stretch, so you can ask them to move their feet away from the back of the chair, until their arms are more fully extended. Encourage your students to hold Modified Standing Forward Fold for three to five complete breaths, if they are comfortable in the posture. When they have completed their practice of Modified Forward Fold, with an inhale, instruct your students to bring their arms back over their head into Prayer Position, and then back down to their sides with their next exhale.
Virginia Iversen, M.Ed, has been practicing and studying the art of Yoga for over twenty years. She lives in Woodstock, New York, where she works as a writer and an academic support specialist. She is currently accepting Yoga and health-related writing orders and may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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