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Benefits of Chair Yoga for seniors - Reduce Pain and Improve Health

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While staying active in your senior years can be advantageous in impeding age-related challenges, the risk of injury, joint pain, or strains is higher among the elderly. Here is where yoga steps in. Yoga exercises enable seniors to stay active and improve muscle strength and flexibility without risking muscle strain. Several studies reveal that the benefits of yoga among the elderly are numerous. Statistics show that 14 million people doing yoga in the US are above the age of 50, while 87% of elderly yogis say that yoga helps alleviate back pain.

Benefits of chair yoga for seniors

While the ancient practice of yoga has different levels of difficulty and an intricate repertoire, it can get daunting for someone new to the idea. This is especially true of seniors and those struggling with mobility issues. The good news is that yoga has exercises for every skill group, and chair yoga is one. Seniors can easily avail themselves of the benefits of chair yoga without having to worry about their abilities.

Table Of Content

What is chair yoga?

As the name suggests, you can practice chair yoga while sitting in a chair or using a chair for support. It offers routines at different levels of difficulty but is among the more gentle yoga poses for seniors. The flexible, easy, and gradual flow makes it a particularly good alternative in the following cases;

  • People with mobility issues, who find it difficult to get on the floor or sit up.
  • Seniors who have arthritis and experience joint pain.
  • Those who are at risk of falling due to vision impairment or any mobility issue.
  • Those who can't stand or hold a position for long periods.
  • Those with balance issues, vertigo, or who have had a stroke.

Benefits of chair yoga for seniors

With its safe and gentle strategy, chair yoga offers multiple variations that are perfect even for those with limited mobility. Yoga for older men allows them to experience many benefits of an active lifestyle without risks. These include;

  • Increased flexibility: Flexibility is essential in performing most of the daily tasks. Therefore, it’s important to stretch, bend and twist every day. Those who practice chair yoga push their bodies to maintain and increase flexibility and thereby improve overall mobility.
  • Muscle strength: Although gradual, chair yoga can help build muscle strength with each pose. This, in turn, improves mobility and balance and buffers your body against injury.
  • Better balance, coordination, and proprioception: Proprioception is the awareness of your body’s movements in space. In a chair yoga sequence, you’re required to transition from one pose to another, and this improves proprioception, which in turn enhances overall balance and coordination.
  • Reduced stress: Yoga inherently requires you to be mindful of your breathing and movement, shifting your focus off stressful thoughts. The movements are almost meditative and promote relaxation.
Chair Yoga Exercises for Seniors
  • Reduced pain and better pain management skills: Any form of exercise helps release endorphins—our body’s natural pain killers. Research has repeatedly shown how exercise, including yoga, has significantly reduced the consumption of pain medication that people with chronic back pain take. In addition to this, the practice equips you to focus on breathing and helps you cope with pain.
  • Better sleep: Having a regular exercise regimen, including yoga chair positions, helps regulate your body’s circadian rhythm and improves sleep quality. Around 55% of yoga practitioners report improved sleep where the focus was on the quality of sleep rather than quantity. Chair yoga provides just the right amount of exertion without pushing to the point of exhaustion or discomfort. This sets one up for a good night’s sleep at the end of the day.
  • Helps boost confidence and reduces depression and anxiety: A comprehensive body of research supports that yoga can reduce the symptoms of depression among people of all age groups, including those above 65 years old.

How does chair yoga safely improve seniors’ health?

Chair yoga is ideal for seniors since it caters to those with mobility issues. It is one of the beneficial activities for bedridden adults, as you can tailor the sequences according to the individual’s ability level, with a slow and strain-free progression that adds to a senior’s confidence over time.

Most seniors are apprehensive about starting an exercise program because several factors can make movement challenging for them, including mobility issues and chronic diseases.

Exercises like chair yoga allow seniors to stay active and improve flexibility and strength without engaging in strenuous or full-range movements.

What do I need for chair yoga?

Chair yoga is a convenient, cost-effective form of exercise that doesn’t require much equipment or training. All you need is a chair and a simple guidebook or YouTube video tutorial to help you practice. Since the exercises are simple, you probably won't need an instructor and can do it from the comfort of your own home. A caregiver or family member can assist if needed.

A closer look at some basic chair yoga exercises

Here are some basic exercises, including warm-ups that promote flexibility and strength:

  1. Warm-Up: Candle Pose: Begin by being seated straight in your chair and facing forwards. Lift your arms above your head with elbows slightly bent and join your palms together in a ‘namaste’ position. Hold this position for 30 seconds or for as long as you are comfortable. You can repeat this exercise a few times.
  2. Raised hand pose: Seat yourself straight in a chair, facing forwards. Slowly lift both your arms straight above your head while simultaneously lifting your legs parallel to the floor. Hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat three times.
  3. Star Pose: Begin in a seated position and slowly lift your arms straight above your head but stretched beyond your shoulders. Stretch both your legs outward until you assume a seated star-jump position. Hold this for 30 seconds and repeat a few more times.
  4. Spinal twist: Begin this pose by being seated and facing forwards. Slowly begin to twist your torso to one side and aim to align your shoulders with the arms of your chair while facing behind you. Hold this twist for 30 seconds before slowly facing forwards again. Repeat this process on the other side. You can repeat this a few times as per your comfort level.
Benefits of chair yoga for seniors

Chair yoga for seniors: A 30-minute routine:

A caregiver or family can help their loved ones do a 30-minute routine that features gentle chair yoga poses and balance for seniors.

The only equipment needed is a chair and a resistance band or hand towel to assist in stretching, but this is optional. You can also use a tall grab bar for extra support.

Keep in mind that this routine is flexible, and you can tailor it according to your loved one’s specific needs. Here is a brief overview of the routine.

Warm-up poses: This section lasts 10 minutes and features warm-up exercises, including twists, stretches, focused breathing and reaching that improve mobility and flexibility. (Begins 30 seconds into the video)

Standing poses: This section lasts about 5 minutes and includes standing poses that involve holding the back of the chair for support. These poses are great for improving balance and strength. (Begins 9 minutes and 30 seconds into the video)

Lower body poses: Here, the focus is on improving flexibility with lower body stretches using a belt strap or towel. However, the exercises are equally beneficial without the use of a strap. (Begins 14 minutes and 45 seconds into the video)

Shavasana or cool down: This is a restful pose to cool the body down where the participant relaxes and focuses on breathing deeply. (Begins 29 minutes and 25 seconds into the video)

Safety and comfort are of utmost priority

Even though Chair Yoga starts with a gentle progression, a senior's safety and comfort are important, and one should monitor it at all times. Here are some useful tips to ensure this:

  • Begin with warm-up chair yoga poses and slowly progress to more complicated ones.
  • Do not exercise if you’re feeling unwell, dizzy, or nauseous.
  • It's important to stop an exercise if it causes any pain or discomfort that's unusual.

Final thoughts

People of all age groups and ability levels can practice chair yoga. What’s great is that it requires minimal tools and preparation, and you can do this at home. However, joining a chair yoga class can make the workout livelier and more social while providing the opportunity to make friends.

Once you’ve tasted the benefits of chair yoga, here’s the next step for you— 25 fun balance exercises for the elderly.

FAQs -

What is chair yoga good for?

Chair yoga allows seniors and those with mobility issues or disabilities to stay active and improve their muscle strength and flexibility without the risk of strain or injury. The gentle slow progression of chair yoga sequences is ideal for those with a limited range of motion. Participants can experience a range of other benefits, including reduced stress, improved sleep, better balance, coordination, reduced anxiety, and symptoms of depression.

Does chair yoga work?

Chair yoga is an effective form of yoga that allows those with mobility issues or a limited range of motion to experience the many benefits of yoga without the risk of injury or strain. Research has shown various benefits of practicing chair yoga. The exercises are simple and can vary according to anyone’s ability level.

Can you lose belly fat doing yoga?

Yoga helps improve muscle tone and mass, which in turn improves metabolism. Some studies show that yoga helps reduce abdominal fat and positively affects a person’s lifestyle. With healthy lifestyle changes, including regular exercise and a better diet, yoga practitioners can lose belly fat.

Does chair yoga burn calories?

Although a low-impact exercise, chair yoga helps keep a person active, thereby burning calories. A person can decrease the number of calories by practicing chair yoga more frequently and incorporating resistance bands and weights into their routine.

Does chair yoga help with balance?

Like any form of yoga, chair yoga improves muscle mass and strength, improving a person’s balance. Furthermore, the transition from one pose into another improves body coordination and balance.

Vince Baiera

Vince Baiera is the founder of step2health, a mobility aids and wellness company for older adults. He is a former ICU Nurse of the Cleveland Clinic and Duke University Hospital in the Cardiac ICU. With years of working on the frontlines, Vince noticed the struggles of older adults and people with mobility issues that became an impediment for both patients and their caretakers. He then designed and created the patented product, Step2Bed (and its variants) that helps seniors and those with mobility issues safely get in and out of bed. His philosophy concerning aging is to plan ahead and start with simple home and life modifications to avoid being overwhelmed at retirement.

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