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Chair yoga is a gentle form of exercise that can be done sitting in a chair or standing with a chair for support. The poses or asanas are usually modified so that they are accessible to those who cannot stand, are not mobile enough to easily move from standing to sitting to the supine position, or want a short break from office work.
The practice of chair yoga is very adaptable to people with different needs. Whether you are immobile or have a physical injury or a mental illness like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, this form of yoga is suitable for everyone.
Classes typically last around 45 minutes and can start with a grounding exercise such as breathing to help keep students centered. I like to use belly breathing, where students put their hands on their navel and feel the belly move up and down with each inhale and exhale. This helps bring the yogi’s consciousness into the body and out of the mind.
After finding our breath, we gently move and stretch to warm up our muscles and joints for sun salutations. We warm up the eyes with eye exercises and engage the mind through coordination. Then walk on shoulders, head and neck, arms and legs.
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Sun salutations warm the entire body by creating heat in the system. It’s a series of lunges, planks, and downward facing dogs. They are modified by using the chair as a support to stand behind and bring our body into the posture. After warming up, we move into warrior poses performed in a traditional vinyasa sequence. Finally, cool off where the students stretch their hamstrings and legs as they perform a series of twists that reconnect with their breath. We end the class with Savasana, or the final relaxation pose, where soft music can be played and students sit back in their chairs and reconnect with the feeling of being in their body and being physically grounded.
Chair yoga is very useful as it can help students maintain their current state of health and in some cases counteract some of the negative effects of aging. With increasing age, the mobility of the spine decreases, the respiratory muscles become weaker, visual disturbances and possible cognitive abilities, a reduced sense of balance, stiff joints and bone loss can occur. This practice helps slow the process of many of these effects by engaging the mind, body, and spirit. When we breathe better, we move better. This is the essence of yoga, inhale and exhale. Regulating the breath benefits everyone.
Nandini, a native of New York, attended the Fashion Institute of Technology, where she graduated with a degree in marketing. After working in healthcare PR for several years, she ventured into starting her own yoga business. She now teaches yoga classes for adults, children, seniors, and autistic individuals on Long Island.