Yoga is an age old Indian discipline which is not only used to reduce stress and gain mental peace but also to get fit. It helps improve blood circulation, reduces blood pressure and lowers bad cholesterol. But not everyone may be able to perform the asanas or bodily postures. People with disabilities or the elderly may find it hard to perform these actions, and such people can probably try ‘chair yoga’. This form of yoga was introduced by Erika Hammerstorm in the 1980s. People with weight issues, disabilities or those who just cannot get on the floor may be able to benefit from chair yoga that can be easily performed at home or even at your office as a quick workout session.
Chair yoga is an ideal form of exercise for those suffering from arthritis, vertigo, depression, anxiety or chronic pain. It helps heal all these problems and doesn’t require much effort. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t flexible, practicing chair yoga daily will help change that and gradually increase your flexibility. For a study, 131 elderly citizens with osteoarthritis were asked to attend the “Sit N Fit Chair Yoga” program developed by Kristine Lee. The volunteers had to attend a 45-minute session, twice a week for 8 weeks. The researchers measured the way it effected each individual in terms of pain, fatigue, gait speed – before, during and after the sessions. The results of the study showed that the volunteers of the Chair Yoga group experienced reduction in pain and pain interference during their sessions and that it lasted for about three months after the 8-week Chair Yoga program was completed.
Please note that chair yoga is just a spin off of the original yoga practice where you use a chair to perform the postures. The original yoga postures are practiced on a yoga mat and on the floor with your feet or hands making a direct connection with Mother Earth. Therefore, many traditional yoga experts may not really agree with it. According to Mr. Ajit Tapaswi, a yoga instructor at Yogisthan in Bangalore, “Chair yoga isn’t as beneficial as the real practice because the main aspect of yoga is to let go of all worldly attachments and this isn’t followed in chair yoga. People are dependent on a chair to perform the asanas and the essence of yoga is to be free and independent and just use your body. It is only recommended for the elderly. Youngsters shouldn’t participate in it if they are healthy to perform the original yoga practices”
In the book, “Chair Yoga: Seated Exercises for Health and Wellbeing”, the author, Edeltraud Rohnfeld, mentions how this form of yoga can be done in any situation no matter what the surroundings are, “You can be flexible with this kind of yoga. Certain exercises can be done sitting on a train or aeroplane, or during a break in a car journey. Likewise, you can make tiresome waiting time at the doctor’s or the bus stop more pleasant by doing a few exercises. On a seat in the park or your own garden you can make good use of the exercises, and time after work can be made more enjoyable by means of the relaxation that they bring,” he writes. If you want to experiment with this form of yoga, here are few asanas that you can try.
1. Chair Cat-Cow Stretch
Sit on a chair with your spine long and both feet on the floor. Place your hands on your knees or the top of your thighs. When you inhale, arch your spine and roll your shoulders down and back, bringing your shoulder blades onto your back. This is the cow position. When you exhale, round your spine and drop your chin to your chest, letting the shoulder and head come forward. This is the cat position. Continue moving between the cow position on inhaling and the cat position on the exhaling for five breaths.
2. Chair Raised Hands Pose – Urdhva Hastasana
When you inhale, raise your arms toward the ceiling. Allow your shoulder blades to slide down your back as you reach upwards with your fingertips. Anchor your sit bones in your chair seat and reach up from there.
3. Chair Warrior I – Virabhadrasana I
Keep the right leg in position over the side of the chair while you swing the left leg behind you. Put the sole of the left foot on the floor, roughly parallel to the seat of the chair and straighten the left leg. Keep your torso facing over the right leg as you raise your arms up to the ceiling when you inhale coming to warrior I. Hold it for three breaths.
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4. Chair Warrior II – Virabhadrasana II
When you exhale, open up your arms with the right arm coming forward and the left arm going back. Pull the left hip back and turn the torso to the left, so that it is aligned with the front of the chair. Gaze out over the right fingertips and hold the pose for three breaths.
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5. Reverse Warrior Yoga Pose
Let the left arm come down the left leg and lift the right arm up to the ceiling when you inhale for reverse warrior. Hold for three breaths. Bring both legs to the front of the chair before coming to sit sideways on the chair facing left and going through the series of three warrior poses on the left side.
One must always be careful while performing poses like the reverse warrior or the chair eagle, as these poses tend to be a little more complicated than the others.