For thousands of years, yoga has been revered as a complete mind, body, spirit system of holistic health. Today, its asanas are being appreciated and performed all over the world as the most beneficial form of exercise for mankind. Regular practise of Yoga can prevent and even cure many diseases, apart from keeping the body supple and detoxed. Plus, of course, the ability to soothe your mind from all the unwanted chaos of life. There are a lot of different types of yoga techniques that people can practice. Now, we generally come to associate yoga with flexibility but is it practical for older people? Well, it has been made to be so!
Today, keeping in mind elderly people and senior citizens who have difficulty sitting on the floor, or other mobility issues, a new form of yoga has been introduced known as ‘Chair Yoga’. This form of yoga helps boost flexibility and mobility, and enhances overall well-being. This type of yoga comes with a lot of health benefits to make life easier for the elderly. Health issues like chronic pain, arthritis, blood-pressure, fatigue, anxiety, menopause and so on, can be dealt with easily by practising this form of yoga regularly. Chair yoga poses have low impact on joints and are techniques that not only strengthen the muscles but also, as with all forms of yoga, help improve the mood of elderly people, combatting depression and anxiety.
Other than this, benefits of chair yoga also include lower stress levels, reduced inflammation, decreased bouts of body pain, and so on. According to a study that was published in the International Journal of Yoga, it has been shown that practising chair yoga regularly can help seniors significantly.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Starting Chair Yoga for Senior Citizens
One of the benefits of Chair Yoga is that it is relatively easy for the elderly to grasp as a concept as the intensity levels are lower as compared to other forms of yoga. Here are some aspects that you need to keep in mind before practising chair yoga poses: –
1. Before you start, please ensure that you discuss your plan of practising yoga with your doctor as well as a Yoga expert. They can help in determining whether you need to avoid any particular type of asana or modify the movements to address any joint problems, and so on.
2. You need to decide whether you want to practice chair yoga at home or want to go for classes. For elderly people and senior citizens who require assistance, a lot of home care services are available in India. They organise activities for elders and help take care of their needs.
3. Practising yoga on a chair is convenient and stress-free for elders. With that said, senior citizens need to be extremely cautious about the pace at which they practise their yoga poses. If you feel that your joints or any parts of your body are paining during a particular pose, then slowly back out of it until the pain reduces. Always do it at your own pace.
4. Although balance is not a big factor here, always be careful. Make sure that the chair you are using is sturdy and can handle the weight of the yoga poses. The chair should be placed on a flat, level and stable surface- no slippery tiles! In addition to this, also make sure that the seat for the yoga poses is comfortable so you don’t feel any discomfort while practising yoga. It is advisable to use a chair that doesn’t have arms as you can practise the poses in a much more convenient manner. Wear comfortable clothing. Elderly people often require support while standing up and sitting down, it is recommended that you have someone to assist you, or be near you.
Chair Yoga for Seniors: 7 Effective Asanas
1. The Seated Mountain Asana
This pose is called the ‘Tadasana’ and helps in engaging the core while keeping a check on your body posture and breathing. This seated yoga asana for seniors is the basic pose that you have to start and end with, even while doing other asanas. For the seated mountain pose, you have to take a deep breath and sit straight and extend your spine. Keep your legs at 90° while keeping your feet planted on the ground. Ensure that the yoga seat is comfortable enough for you so you can practice this pose conveniently. When you inhale and extend your spine, make sure that you stretch your feet on the floor in a way similar to how roots of trees expand. As you exhale, draw your belly button inwards and roll your shoulders back and downwards.
2. Warrior I Asana
Also known as Virabhadrasana, this chair yoga position helps in better blood flow in the body. All you have to do is take the seated mountain position and take a deep breath. As you inhale, lift the arms to the sides and raise your hands so that they meet above your head. After this, lace your fingers together in a way that your pointer fingers and thumbs are facing outwards towards the ceiling and above your head. As you exhale, roll the shoulders away from the ears and allow the shoulder blades to slide down.
This chair yoga pose for the elderly helps engage the muscle that holds the shoulder joints i.e. the shoulder capsule. Keep taking deep and even breaths as you settle; ensure that you take at least 5 deep breaths before releasing your clasped hands and exhaling, and let your arms float back to your sides gently.
3. The Seated Eagle Arms Asana
Referred to as the ‘Garudasana Arms’, this chair yoga pose helps in stabilising and flexing the shoulder joints and relaxes the upper back. Start again by sitting in the seated mountain pose and take a deep breath. As you inhale, stretch your arms to your sides and as you exhale, bring them in front of you. Swing the right arm under the left arm and grab your shoulder with the opposite hand in a way that you seem to hug yourself. Hold the pose while you inhale and exhale deeply. Untangle your arms and gently place them on your thighs to rest.
4. The Seated Forward Bend Position Asana
One of the chair yoga exercises that can increase flexibility is the seated forward bend position. Also known as ‘Paschimottanasana’. Inhale, extend your spine and fold your legs while being seated in the tadasana pose. As you exhale, slowly bend forward over your thighs while keeping your hands on your lap for support. As you settle in the pose, try to keep your arms on your sides as it will help in engaging your core muscles. Hold the seated forward bent position for a while (3-5 breaths) and then slowly return to the seated mountain position.
5. Simple Seated Twist Asana
The simple seated twist or the Parivrtta Sukhasana is a gentle chair yoga asana for seniors that helps in reducing lower back pain and improving digestion and blood circulation. This yoga pose is also known as the detox pose. Gently extend your spine and stretch your arms to the sides and raise up as you inhale. When you exhale, slowly twist the upper body towards the right with the support of your lower arms. Keep the right hand on the top of the chair and the left hand on the side. After around 3-5 breaths, release and slowly return to the front. Repeat the same for the left side.
6. The Single-Leg Stretch Asana
Yet another effective chair yoga asana for senior citizens, Janu Sirasana. For this yoga pose, you need to move a little forward to the edge of the yoga seat and stretch your right leg out while resting the heel on the floor and pointing your toes upwards. Rest both your hands on the stretched leg and inhale. While inhaling, raise your spine and as you exhale, slowly bend over towards your right leg while sliding your hands down the leg as you bend. Stretch as much as you can but do not overdo it. Repeat the same for your left side.
7. The Seated Pigeon Chair Yoga Asana
Last but not the least, the seated pigeon pose helps in improving the posture of your body as well as in reducing pains associated with sitting for long periods in the same position. This is an easy chair yoga asana for seniors that can also help release tension in the lower back and hips. For this pose, you have to take the right ankle and place it on top of the left knee. Ensure you keep the right foot flexed to support the right knee. Take a deep breath and sit straight. As you exhale, slowly bend your upper body over your legs. Hold the position for 3-5 breaths and then, gradually release and come back to the upright position and place your feet on the floor. Repeat the same with the left foot as well.
Other than this, Pranayama, specifically Anulom-Vilom, Reverse Arm Hold, seated Cat-Cow, and seated Side Angle, are some of the other chair yoga asanas for seniors that you can try. Overall, yoga is a very beneficial form of exercise that calms your mind and makes you happier. For elderly people, it is important that they lead a happy and healthy lifestyle that keeps them motivated and positive in their golden years. With these chair yoga exercises for seniors, you can reduce the number of issues that you are facing.
Virtual Chair Yoga
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, most forms of exercise are now also available to participants virtually, including Chair Yoga. As our seniors are more susceptible to viral infections like COVID, their movement has been severely affected, leading to many being home-bound for months at a stretch. Conversely, the need to keep oneself active and healthy has never been higher as exercise is known to strengthen one’s immunity to such fatal diseases. With this said, seniors can now access Virtual Chair Yoga, provided by practitioners online, all from the comfort and safety of their homes. They get the benefits of strong bone and joint health, the guidance of a practising expert, and a much-needed break from daily mundaneness.
Many Virtual Chair Yoga classes are waiting just a google search away. In case that seems cumbersome, download the Emoha App here, and get access to hundreds of live health and lifestyle sessions by experts. They range from exercises and yoga to cooking and reading.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Yes. Chair Yoga is very beneficial for seniors. It helps improve joint health, flexibility, blood circulation and balance while lowering stress and anxiety.
Yes. Chair Yoga is a great workout. It specifically aids in toning muscles and improving breathing. It has all the benefits of regular yoga, but with fewer risk of injuries for seniors.
There is no ‘set in stone’ frequency of practising chair yoga, as it is very dependent on one’s physical bandwidth, pre-existing ailments, or schedule. It is considered healthy to do chair yoga 3- 5 times a week, with adequate rest between each day. Remember rest is just as important as the activity. Pushing yourself too hard may result in injuries, so be cautious when deciding how much to work out.
If the senior has relatively decent health and mobility, they can practice almost any form of yoga. Most seniors prefer to go for hatha yoga, chair yoga, vini yoga or kripalu yoga. It is very crucial to remember that the following types of yoga should definitely be reviewed cautiously before practice, as they require high levels of flexibility and exert pressure on the joints: hot yoga, ashtanga yoga and Bikram yoga.
Chair Yoga is one of the safest forms of yoga for seniors. As it is practised while one is seated, seniors with injuries, back/leg ailments, weakness etc. can also partake in it. Due to its low impact on joints and bones, seniors find it easier to maintain a routine of chair yoga. They get no risk, but all the benefits of regular yoga.
Yes, yoga is good for women above the age of 70. It improves bone and joint health, blood circulation, digestion, and mobility and reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases, stress and anxiety.
Chair yoga has all the benefits of regular yoga, the only difference being the rate at which said benefits reveal. For eg, chair yoga and regular yoga both aid weight loss, however, regular yoga may be a little faster than chair yoga.
No age is too old for yoga. Due to the availability of a variety of yoga forms, people of all ages can practice yoga, within the bounds of their physical limitations and comfort. Old age may ensure you need supervision or a slower pace, but otherwise, yoga can be performed at 70 or beyond.