When my teacher first started talking about using a chair in yoga classes I really wasn’t interested. Then he invited me to see classes in progress at the local senior and rehabilitation centers. The students are friendly, dedicated, and really see the benefits of steadily practicing yoga. To see therapeutic vinyasa flows in a chair wasn’t what I expected – at all. In fact, I had a preconceived notion that they would practice a few asanas, relaxation, pranayama and some relaxation. Instead, it was a full-blown class with an opening, centering, and some challenges. They laugh when doing Lion Face! I was hooked and took a chair yoga teacher training course.
Jogging, running or power walking usually come to mind when people think of exercising for heart health, but such pulse-pounding exercises are not always appropriate for those who need it the most. Yoga in chairs provides seniors of all health and fitness levels with an opportunity to give their heart the exercise it needs to be in good, strong shape. The heart still needs exercise, regardless of the health of the individual.
Stress vs. Relaxation
One of the most common contributing factors for heart disease is a high level of stress. Few people can make their way through life without encountering stress in one form or another, but individual responses to stress are diverse and varied. It’s never too late to learn a better and more appropriate way to handle negative emotions, and chair yoga is a gentle way for seniors to become more present, grounded and relaxed. This positive attitude promotes a lower blood pressure level, which is extremely beneficial for those with heart disease.
In addition, participating in a chair yoga class gives seniors a sense of control over the health and wellness of their heart. This easily leads to making better choices outside of the classroom, such as eating more fresh veggies and lowering intake of harmful fats and sugars. These seemingly simple lifestyle choices add up over time, leading to a higher quality of life overall.
How it Works
Yoga in a chair also increases the circulation in the arms, legs and feet, and this is excellent for the well being of the heart. The heart of a sedentary individual is typically overworked by trying to pump blood to these harder to reach extremities, and seniors typically fit into the sedentary category more than any other age group.
Practicing yoga in a chair is incredibly gentle, but the practice still yields all the positive benefits of a traditional hatha practice, including increased flexibility. Studies have shown that greater levels of muscular flexibility have been linked to higher levels of arterial health. When the muscles are elastic and stretchable, the major arteries tend to be the same way. This goes a long way toward keeping the heart in top shape.
Chair yoga is a healthy addition to a senior lifestyle, and definitely provides ample benefits for heart health. If you want to become a yoga instructor or are seeking continuing education, it worth considering the benefits you can bring to dedicated students.