Chair Yoga: A gentle practice to improve wellbeing
January 12, 2023
Chair Yoga is a fantastic way for people that have limited mobility to keep active and to improve their daily wellbeing. It invites you to move gently and softly whilst being supported by the chair.
Maria Jones, owner and founder of Yuva Yoga, a chair yoga specialist talks about the benefits of chair yoga for people with dementia:
“The practice of yoga asana can help improve mobility and general physical wellness. In additions for those living with dementia, exercise and movement can reduce challenging behaviours such as the need to “walk with purpose. Taking part in a group activity such as yoga can be a powerful experience that helps students feel connected, included and can be fun.”
Yoga when delivered in an engaging way can be a great stimulation for the brain, which helps students engage in the practice of yoga as well as helping to improve language & cognition.
Practicing yoga can also be a great way to spend time with a loved one as you both can be in the present moment together and enjoying an activity that will benefit your overall wellbeing.
Here are a few yoga poses that you can try at home:
1. Begin with your breath
Sit upright in your chair that allows your feet to reach the ground so that your knees are level with your hips. Use a block or a book under your feet if they do not reach the ground (ankles should be directly below your knees)
Take deep and even breaths in through the nose and out through the nose. As you inhale, lengthen your spine to the ceiling, like a thread is pulling you taller. As you exhale, keep your tall spine and feel more grounded on the chair and in your feet.
2. Incorporate your arms
Sitting in the chair with a tall spine, release your hands to your sides on an exhale. As you inhale, reach your arms up and overhead, bring the palms to touch above you if you can. Exhale, moving your hands down through the center of your body.
Do this for five to ten full rounds of breathing.
3. Gentle neck rolls
Sit tall in the chair, hands resting in your lap. Lightly engage your belly for support – slightly contract your navel to your spine. Exhale and drop your chin to your chest.
Inhale, rolling your left ear towards your left shoulder. Exhale, roll your chin back to your chest, then inhale your right ear towards your right shoulder. Repeat three to five times to each side.
Next, as you exhale, turn to look to the left (keep your chin level). Inhale back to center, then exhale and look to the right. Repeat three times on each side.
4. Shoulder circles
With your belly engaged and a tall spine, bring your fingertips to your shoulders (left hand to left shoulder, right hand to right shoulder). Elbows should be out to the side and level with your shoulders.
Inhale and begin to circle your arms forward, exhaling as they circle behind you. Complete three circles if you can, then switch directions.
5. Side stretch
Start with feet firmly on the floor and body steady. Place your right hand on the seat of the chair. Inhale and sweep your left arm up and overhead, reaching your left hand to the right. You can turn your head to look up at the sky if that feels okay for your neck.
Take three deep breaths, then inhale to straighten up to center and exhale to release your left arm. Repeat with the right arm.
6. Seated twist
Sit tall in the chair with your feet firmly planted on the floor. Inhale to get even taller, then as you exhale begin to twist your body to the right. Your right hand can come to the chair’s seat back and left hand to your right knee. Try to keep your lower body steady and unmoving as you breathe in to get taller and breathe out to twist for three full breaths.
Inhale to return to the center, then exhale to twist to the other side.
7. Forward bend
If you are slightly nervous of this pose, use props to help you. Place blocks on the highest end to steady yourself as you come up.
Rest your hands on your thighs as you lightly engage your belly and inhale to lift your spine. On the exhale and with a tall spine, begin to hinge at your hips, keeping your back straight as you fold forward. When you begin to feel a stretch, find your blocks for support, or keep your hands resting on your thighs. Pause here, taking five deep breaths.
If you are interested in continuing your practice at home YuvaYoga has pre-recorded and online classes that you can join.
Alternatively if you are interested in becoming a certified chair yoga instructor vist Yuva Yoga and use the discount code for the dementia course: RELISH20 to receive £20 off full price pricing. *(available for UK customers only) *