Despite its ancient origins, yoga remains a very popular form of exercise for people all over the world. Experts believe yoga originated up to 5,000 years ago in South Asia. Gurus from India introduced yoga to the West in the 20th Century. It’s an excellent way to stay active, which helps to improve strength, balance, muscle tone, and flexibility. However, lots of older people might not feel that yoga is for them. While stepping onto a yoga mat might seem intimidating to an older beginner, there is a solution: chair yoga. This is a seated variety of conventional yoga, perfect for those who aren’t so steady on their feet or who might have limited mobility.
In this article, we’ll be sharing the top 7 chair yoga poses for older people, as well as the benefits of practising chair yoga.
What are the Benefits of Chair Yoga?
The benefits of practising chair yoga are essentially the same as conventional yoga! It can reduce stress and anxiety, improve flexibility and balance, and even fight chronic pain.
A 2005 study suggested that yoga could reduce pain and improve physical function for people who suffered from osetoarthritis of the knees. This is because it’s a very gentle way of increasing strength and flexibility.
Yoga also helps to build muscle strength. As we get older, lots of us tend to lose muscle mass, because we often spend more time sitting down and less time being physically active. Chair yoga can help to prevent (or even reverse) this. In addition, strengthening the body and improving the balance will reduce your risk of falls.
Yoga requires you to pay special attention to your breathing. Many people find this very relaxing and enjoy co-ordinating mind and body together. Most importantly, yoga can be good fun! For those who aren’t huge fans of physical exercise, chair yoga is an excellent way to start off.
No Equipment Needed!
Another great thing about chair yoga is that anyone can do it! All you need is a chair. Any chair you have at home will probably work fine, although you should avoid using a chair with wheels if you can. A wooden chair with no armrests is ideal. Besides this, you’ll only need warm, comfy clothes and some shoes that have good grip. Alternatively, you can do yoga barefoot if you prefer.
7 Chair Yoga Poses for Older People
Without further ado, let’s dive into a few basic yoga poses. Many of these are variations on traditional standing or floor poses, which goes to show how adaptable yoga can be.
1. Mountain Pose
If you go to a yoga class, this will likely be the first pose you do. It’s a good way to centre yourself and become aware of your body and your breathing.
Sit on your chair and place your feet flat on the floor. If you need to, place a block under your feet so that they sit flat. Align your knees directly over your ankles and try to sit tall, straightening your spine as much as you can.
From this position, think about pressing down into the chair with your lower body, especially your tailbone. Meanwhile, lift your chest and head. Don’t look up to the ceiling – fix your gaze straight ahead. Imagine a helium balloon on a string. The string is attached to the crown of your head, right in the centre, lifting you upwards.
Hold this pose. Breathe deeply and try to notice all the different sensations you are feeling, the tiny movements of your body, how it changes between an inhale and an exhale.
Congratulations, you’ve just done your first chair yoga pose!
Sit up tall on your chair and place your hands on your thighs or in your lap. On an exhale, round your shoulders forwards, tighten your stomach muscles inwards, and tuck your chin into your chest. This is the cat pose.
Then, with an inhale, bring your shoulders back, move your chest forwards and arch your back. If you can, look up to the ceiling; otherwise look straight ahead. This is the cow pose.
Carry on alternating from cat to cow, keeping your breath consistent. In other words, always go into the cat pose on an out-breath and use your in-breath to move into cow pose.
3. Forward Fold
Once again, sit up straight on your chair with your hands on your thighs. Take a deep breath in. Then, as you exhale, start to fold forward from the hips. Only go as far as you are comfortable. It might help to open your legs a bit wider.
Let your upper body hang down. Relax your neck and let your head dangle. You can choose to let your arms dangle too, or use each hand to hold the opposite elbow.
On a big inhale, start to roll back up to your original position. Rest your hands on your thighs for support if you need to.
4. Gentle Twist
As always, you should only go as far as is comfortable. Begin by sitting up straight on your chair. Place your hands either side of your head. Gently twist your upper body to one side and hold this position. You should feel a stretch down your side.
Return to the centre. Then twist in the other direction. Hold this pose for a moment or two, then return to centre again.
5. Leg Stretch
For this chair yoga pose, you might need to shuffle forward to the edge of your seat. Make sure you’re still comfortable and aren’t going to slide off!
Make sure your legs are supporting you – align your knees directly over your ankles. Stretch your right leg out in front of you. Keep your heel on the floor and flex your foot so that your toes are pointing upwards. Take a deep breath in and start to lean forward over your right leg. You should feel a good stretch up the back of your leg. It’s important not to push too far or force yourself to go lower than you can. Keep breathing deeply while you hold this position. Return to an upright position on an inhale. Repeat with the other leg, making sure that your right knee is once again aligned with your right ankle before you start stretching out the left leg.
6. Warrior Pose
This chair yoga pose will help you engage your core muscles and build strength. As before, sit up tall on your chair. Make sure your legs are at 90 degree ankles with your knees lined up directly over your ankles. Firstly, tighten your core muscles – it can help to imagine pulling your belly button back towards your spine.
Next, taking a deep breath in, raise your arms out to the sides and over your head. Let your palms touch. Your fingers should be pointing at the ceiling directly above you.
Now, on an exhale, let your shoulders roll down away from your ears, keeping your arms raised. Hold this pose while you take a few deep breaths.
Then, as you exhale, let your hands separate and bring your arms gently back down to your sides.
7. Neck Stretch
It goes without saying that you should never push your body past what is comfortable. However, when it comes to the spine and neck, it’s especially important to be careful. When it’s done right, this chair yoga pose can be a good, simple stretch for the neck. Move slowly and be very gentle.
Firstly, sit up straight on your chair. As above, align your knees directly over your ankles.
Now tilt your head over to the right – think about bringing your right ear towards your right shoulder. Next, raise your right hand and place it gently on the left side of your head.
Do not push down or try to pull your head over to the right. Simply let the weight of your hand deepen the stretch. Then, with an out-breath, lift your hand off of your head and bring it back down to your side. Return to an upright position.
Now repeat on the other side.
There you have it. Our top 7 chair yoga poses for older people. We hope you enjoy giving these poses a try.
For those who want to learn more chair yoga poses, we’d suggest turning to YouTube. Yoga With Adriene is an excellent resource for those who don’t have access to in-person yoga classes. What’s more, she even has her own chair yoga routine.
More Fitness Tips for Older People
If you’re looking for more exercise advice, we have lots of other articles you might like:
- 7 Sport and Fitness Activities for Older People
- Can Sport Prevent Dementia?
- An In-Depth Guide to Healthy Living
- 7 Benefits of Running in the Morning
Staying Safe at Home
Taking care of your health and fitness is one of the best things you can do as an older adult. However, lots of people report feeling worried about falls and accidents. This can put some older people off trying new things and even stop them exercising altogether! Luckily, there is an easy solution.
A Lifeline alarm is a great way to find peace of mind and protection. All of our alarm users can access 24/7 support from our UK-based Emergency Response Team. In an emergency, all you need to do is press your pendant button. A member of our Response Team will answer straight away to see how you are and send assistance if you need it.
For more information, please feel free to give us a call on 0800 999 0400 today. Alternatively, you can send an email to email@example.com or get in touch online. You can also order your life-saving Lifeline alarm online.
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