Chair Yoga for Seniors: What Is It and How to Get Started

Chair Yoga for Seniors: What Is It and How to Get Started

Happy International Yoga Day! Yoga is a fantastic way to enhance physical health and overall wellness for older adults, and chair yoga is a great variation to make it a little easier to get into.

Regardless of all the positives yoga offers, rolling out a mat and twisting your body into all types of contortion poses may not exactly appeal to everyone. The fear of having to get up off the ground is real, is it not?! Luckily, there is a gentle type of yoga called chair yoga.

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What is Chair Yoga?

Chair yoga is a form of exercise that can help seniors physically and mentally. It also makes yoga more accessible to adults who have mobility limitations. Not everyone is comfortable or able to do all the up-and-down movements that are involved in regular yoga practice. So, chair yoga helps to eliminate that restraint by having you sit in a chair instead of on a yoga mat.

Benefits of Yoga

A 2023 study published in the National Library of Medicine found that “participants had a significantly higher level of functional fitness and daily life activity scores” after starting a chair yoga program. Here are some of the benefits you could see.

Enhanced Balance And Stability

Yoga can help build strength in core muscles with its slow, measured movements. This, in turn, helps to improve balance and stability. Falls are the leading cause of injury in adults, so by improving your balance and muscle strength, you may be preventing a future fall.

Improved Respiration

As we get older, breathing can become labored because our respiratory systems slowing down. This can cause all types of negative effects within our bodies.

The art of yoga focuses on deep breathing techniques to improve oxygen flow. It also encourages us to be more mindful of our breathing. In one study, older women who took a 12‑week yoga program showed improvement in respiratory function.

Chronic Pain Relief

It is no secret that with age comes aches and pains, with much of it leading to chronic pain. Many stretches and poses used in yoga can help to alleviate this pain.

The movements are gentle on muscles and joints, so it doesn’t inflict extra stress on the body. And because yoga helps to teach you how to breathe and relax, this element may help to manage chronic pain better.

Several studies have found that yoga reduced pain severity in participants suffering from chronic pain associated with osteoarthritis.

Improved Sleep

Insomnia is a common issue amongst older adults. Yoga has been shown to be more effective than herbal sleep remedies. The exercises and stretches used in yoga help to relax the body and relieve stress. This includes decreasing blood pressure and putting the body at peace. Seniors who do yoga tend to fall asleep quicker and stay asleep longer.

How to Get Started

You can find a lot of chair yoga routines online. Some wellness centers and gyms even offer online classes that you can watch and participate in right in the comfort of your home.

SilverSneakers, a fitness program available at no additional cost to many seniors enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, offers several virtual and on-demand yoga and yoga chair classes for adults.

Here is a short 30-minute chair yoga course that will move your body through a series of yoga poses, movements for core strength, and balance exercises:

Chair Yoga Poses

The poses below are all found in the video, so refer to that video if you need further guidance.

Note: When doing chair yoga, be sure you use a sturdy chair that allows your feet to touch the ground. You don’t want a chair that will slide around or tip over easily when moving.

Shoulder Rolls

Sit up tall with your back against the backrest of the chair. Deeply inhale as you slowly roll your shoulders up towards your ears and then exhale as you finish rolling them back down towards your seat. Continue these steps as you methodically control your breathing.

Raise your arms as you inhale to start the shoulder roll for additional stretching and range of motion. Bring those outstretched arms back down as you exhale, and repeat.

Mountain Pose Release

To get into mountain pose, stand up next to your chair with your arms at your sides. Now, make sure you are standing nice and tall with perfect posture, and release by turning your palms so they face forward.

Continue you your methodical, deep breaths, and alternate putting some weight on your left foot before shifting your weight back center and then eventually to the right foot.

Modified Forward Fold

For a forward fold, you will stand up next to your chair, place your hands on your hips, and slowly bend forward at the waist. If you need some support, try standing behind your chair with your arms outstretched and hands on the back of the chair for balance.

Airplane Pose

To turn your modified forward fold into an airplane pose, once you are bent forward, extend your arms behind you with your palms facing down. You will fell an extra stretch with your arms out as opposed to on your hips.

Ankle Cross

While sitting back in your chair, simply cross one foot over the other. If you have a greater range of motion, you could even bring that foot up onto your knee. This is all about getting a little more stretch in those legs (and don’t forget to keep doing that deep breathing).

Cat Cow Stretch

Sit slightly forward in the chair so your back does not touch the backrest. Keep your hands resting on your thighs. Inhale while sitting up nice and tall and pulling your shoulders back. Now, slowly exhale and round your upper back and shoulders forward and down so you can feel those upper back muscles lengthening out.

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