The Many Benefits of Chair Yoga

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The Many Benefits of Chair Yoga

Yoga consists of movement, meditation, and breathing exercises that stretch & strengthen bodies, focus minds, reduce stress, and improve overall health & well-being. It’s thus no wonder that, according to Google (and the International Yoga Foundation), about 300 million people practice it globally–about 36 million in the U.S.

Yet, traditional yoga can be daunting to anyone dealing with decreased mobility or conditions that restrict movement and stamina. 

If you’ve been thinking yoga isn’t for you because of decreased mobility issues, consider that adding a chair to a yoga practice makes it possible to experience the benefits of yoga while still being kind and gentle to your body. So, what exactly are the benefits of chair yoga?

Chair yoga IS yoga

Chair yoga is not a lesser form of yoga; in fact, it is a wonderfully effective and inclusive practice that offers numerous benefits. While traditional yoga poses require getting down on the floor and may be challenging for some, chair yoga provides a safe and accessible alternative. It allows individuals with mobility issues or physical limitations to fully participate in the practice, promoting flexibility, strength, and balance without putting undue or unsafe strain on their bodies. Emphasizing the breath and mindful movement, chair yoga cultivates a sense of peace and well-being, making it an ideal option for those who might not have considered yoga as a viable exercise before.

Chair yoga accessibility

Traditional yoga, practiced on a mat, can be inaccessible to people who shouldn’t (or aren’t able to) get up from and down to the floor unassisted. Chair yoga’s accessibility extends beyond physical limitations to cater to a diverse range of needs, including those of sedentary beginners of any age,  individuals with joint replacements, chronic pain (from injury, aging, emotional grief), & health conditions causing muscle weakness, vision problems, fatigue or balance issues. By incorporating modifications and variations, chair yoga ensures that every participant can experience the profound benefits of yoga, fostering a sense of empowerment and inclusivity within the practice.

Improved flexibility, balance, & stability with chair yoga

A 2021 study found that yoga practice improves muscle strength, balance, and flexibility.1

And chair yoga can build that strength and flexibility without putting too much stress on joints. This is because the chair provides support, allowing you to stretch and move your body without bearing your body weight.

Slow mindful movements that stretch muscles & joints lead to greater range of motion, improved balance, and increased flexibility. This can be especially beneficial for people who spend a lot of time sitting or have a sedentary lifestyle. This allows wider freedom of movement and improved posture while also reducing the risk of injury and making daily activities easier to perform. Maintaining stability also leads to a greater ability to push yourself further during exercise, which in turn increases your overall fitness level.

Chair yoga reduces stress & anxiety

Stress and anxiety are common problems that many people face in their daily lives. The good news is that chair yoga can help by building inner calm. It allows people a safe place in which they can give themselves permission to just be and breathe. This releases tension and relaxes  muscles, which reduces stress and relieves symptoms of anxiety & depression. It also enhances mental clarity & confidence. And, thus can improve social engagement, lessening the feelings of isolation that can often accompany the limited mobility or fatigue that make chair yoga appropriate and accessible. 

Reduced joint pain & stiffness with chair yoga

Chair yoga builds strength. Multiple studies show that mild to moderate exercise is beneficial for people with arthritis. Motion is lotion, and the slow mindful movements of yoga lubricate the muscles around the joints, helping to alleviate pain & stiffness. Often people stop moving because it feels uncomfortable, but movement begins to feel uncomfortable because people stop moving. Chair yoga makes movement more accessible and thus can help people continue to move in spite of conditions that have led to limited ability. Additionally, the support provided by the chair can help to reduce the pressure on your joints, making it easier and more comfortable to move.

“When your joints are in pain from OA [osteoarthritis], exercise may be the last thing you want to do but it’s important to try. If you keep at it, little by little you’ll progress in your ability and start enjoying the exercises more. Regular exercise—like Chair Yoga—may help relieve OA pain and improve daily living.” 2

Chair yoga can improve breathing

Breathing is an integral part of any yoga practice. Chair yoga can be a great way to improve your breathing, as it involves deep breathing techniques that can help increase the oxygen traveling to your tissues and organs. By practicing chair yoga regularly, you can improve your breathing and increase your lung capacity, which can be beneficial for mental and physical health.

Why I started teaching chair yoga

I became one of those 36 million US Americans who practice yoga about a decade ago, when I embraced how it helped me build strength, flexibility, and inner calm. Today, as I approach 60, I love it even more because of how it helps relieve the pain of osteoarthritis and because of how it has helped me learn to honor my body as it changes overtime.

I became a certified yoga teacher (200 RYT) who offers private, small group, and large group chair yoga sessions in Birmingham, Alabama to help others improve their physical and mental health while building strength, flexibility, and inner calm. Slow, mindful chair yoga can help you improve overall health & well-being–to live with GREATER EASE and less DIS-EASE.

Let’s practice chair yoga together 

Chair yoga is a great way for individuals of all ages and abilities to experience the benefits of yoga. If you are new to yoga or have physical limitations that make traditional yoga challenging, chair yoga is an excellent place to start. Adding a chair to a yoga practice provides a new level of ease, comfort, mobility and stability that isn’t available on a mat.

So, book a class, grab a chair and give chair yoga a try–I hope you (or your loved one) will allow me to help you develop a consistent chair yoga practice so that you can enjoy the benefits of yoga from the safety of a chair. 

And, please email me if you have any questions!

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  1. Shin S. (2021). Meta-analysis of the effect of yoga practice on physical fitness in the elderly. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Meta-analysis of the Effect of Yoga Practice on Physical Fitness in the Elderly
  2. Lutz J. (2018). Chair Yoga: Gentle, Effective Exercise of Osteoarthritis Pain. Health Central. Chair Yoga: Gentle, Effective Exercise for Osteoarthritis Pain

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