Pull Up a Chair and Get Some Zen
You may be thinking, how am I going to benefit from chair yoga when I do Cross Fit five days a week? Well, guess what gym rats, you, of all people can likely gain a lot from what chair yoga has to offer. From the physical to the mental, this practice offers great benefits to people of all levels of physical strength and limitations. Plus, it’s a great class to take with a partner, which means it can help with all kinds of relationships.
I sat down with my friend and Yoga Expert/Mindfulness Instructor Elizabeth Crenshaw of Yaktown Yoga to learn more about what Chair Yoga can provide to all who take the class.
What are the key benefits of chair yoga?
Chair yoga creates a greater sense of well-being, strengthens the immune system, reduces join strain, improves mental focus, balance, strength, flexibility, circulation, and digestion all while decreasing stress. The practice of chair yoga is based on Hatha yoga incorporating a synergistic mix of 5 traditional elements
- Meditation/Centering – Draws the awareness inward to notice and recognize the subtle forms of communication within us and around us. Clearing the mind to focus.
- Pranayama (Breath Work) – Breathing exercises and yogic full breath which includes abdominal, thoracic, and clavicular breathing.
- Asanas or postures – Physical exercises or seated or standing movements with the assistance of chairs and props. Stretches, strengthens, and cleanses the body.
- Savasna/ Relaxation – Final resting pose to help students achieve balance and release tension through the body. Allows a deeper relaxation.
- Inspiration – Positive, uplifting affirmations and stories.
Who would you recommend participating in a chair yoga class?
Chair yoga is for EVERYONE. Anyone can participate in chair yoga and again a wide range of benefits. The word yoga is derived from a Sanskrit root which means to “union” or “to join.” With mind, body, and spirit in alignment, it is possible to have peace and clarity to guide our thoughts, actions, and emotions. We become more aware of ourselves and each other. To be a student of yoga, you must do yoga, it is really that simple. Once you begin, the process is self-directing and liberating.
Why do you feel any yoga practice brings value to the lives of those who attend?
When the body is unbalanced, the tendons, ligaments, and muscles are under constant strain and stress. Weak muscles added to misalignment causes pain. Optimal functioning happens with good alignment, which helps relieve pain and can be obtained through yoga.
Key benefits include:
- Improves flexibility
- Builds muscle strength and bone density
- Better posture
- Protects your spine
- Prevents joint and cartilage breakdown
- Increases your blood flow
- Boosts immunity
- Increases your heart rate
- Regulates your adrenal glands
- Lowers blood pressure and blood sugar
- Helps you focus
- Improves your balance
- Maintains your nervous system
- Better sleep
- Improves lung function
- Peace of mind
- Boosts self-esteem
- Eases your pain
- Connects you with guidance
- Helps your relationships
Are there modifications in chair yoga, similar to other yoga practices, to make it more or less challenging?
Chair yoga is simple, fun, and challenging. This class is not as easy as it looks. Many standing, warrior, and balancing series are examples of postures that demand focus, strength, and breath. You will feel as if you worked out. You will reap many benefits.
With chair yoga classes, you can do a class with a single chair that also includes a wheelchair, double chair classes, partner chair yoga classes or even weighted chair yoga classes.
Even though it may seem too “easy” is it beneficial?
Yes – even though it may seem too easy, there is always a way to increase the postures to make it more challenging. You will become stronger, improve your flexibility, proprioception, reduce stress and improve your mental clarity, have an opportunity to socialize and meet people, improve stress and pain management
Who is chair yoga right for?
- Office workers
- Wheelchair Bound
- Those less active
- Chronically Ill
Chair yoga has known benefits for specific conditions including:
- Weight Control
- Growing Elderly Population
- Weight Control
- Osteoporosis & Osteopenia
- Chronic Pain
- Heart Disease
- Mental Health
- Multiple Sclerosis
Do you see value in someone participating in any sort of wellness/ and or fitness practice with a loved one who may have physical limitations?
Absolutely. Human touch is an essential ingredient in awakening the whole person through a yoga practice. Through practicing with a partner or loved one, our relationships with loved ones will stay vibrant and grow. We can all benefit – improving communication, the spirit of mutual health and rejuvenation, and bring us back to our roots to experience life to the fullest- true love and happiness.
Working in partnership with another person, you will share one posture while assisting each other building strength, balance, and concentration that is shared, enhanced, and enjoyed together.
Through breathing, touch, and awareness, you co-create a bond that is supportive to not only the physical body but the emotional body and the soul. Working together with someone consistently will not only help in creating a more balanced body, but will transform both participants physically, mentally, and emotionally so that no aspect of life remains untouched.