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.
YouTube Tutorial Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6BjfH94J1A
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.
YouTube Tutorial Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HL6opSvtXRc
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.
YouTube Tutorial Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a42Ecw-iyrU
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.
YouTube Tutorial Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXtSxJlshSQ
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.
YouTube Tutorial Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEylCZuK55c
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.
Tutorial Link: https://gfycat.com/idolizedhomelycollie
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.
YouTube Tutorial Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EnWXe_V8K34
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.
At Emoha, you can access a wide range of eldercare services that help you lead a hassle-free life. Whether it is about assisting the elderly and senior citizens in emergencies, lively activities, or running errands, at Emoha, it is always #EldersFirst!