It's well-known that exercise strengthens the body, but physical fitness also carries many positive benefits for the mind, especially as we age. In 2018, researchers at Mayo Clinic and the Department of Health and Human Services issued recommendations that people should aim to do at least 150 minutes of “moderate aerobic activity” per week (that's about thirty minutes a day, five days a week).
Maintaining this activity level is essential for seniors wanting to achieve optimal health and wellness. However, finding forms of exercise that feel right can be a challenge for aging adults, especially after medical procedures or adapting to living with long-term mobility limitations.
Fortunately, fitness doesn’t need to be strenuous – and with the plethora of activities available, options exist for every body. One form of exercise gaining popularity is chair yoga, a form of chair exercise fitness, which unites mental and physical wellness in a relaxing, accessible, and fun way.
WHAT IS CHAIR YOGA FOR SENIORS?
Chair yoga is simply an adapted form of traditional yoga. Yoga originated in India as early as 3000 BCE. Since then, it has spread across the world, with as many as 21 million Americans practicing yoga as of 2017, according to survey data from the National Institutes of Health. Dozens of schools of yoga exist today, with the most popular being Hatha and Bikram yoga. Yoga practitioners cite physical strength-building, balance, flexibility, and even reduced stress and improved pain management as a few benefits of the practice.
Chair yoga expands the benefits of yoga to an even wider audience – from office and home office workers sitting in front of a computer all day to travelers, seniors, individuals with arthritis, and people living with or recovering from medical conditions that limit mobility. In short, chair yoga is an ideal option for anyone who feels more comfortable working out while seated.
If getting up and down off the ground feels uncomfortable for you, you may have written off other forms of yoga. (We’ve all seen those intimidating “pretzel pose” images.) Just as the name suggests, one of the unique advantages of chair yoga is that you do it seated in a chair. There’s almost always a chair nearby, and you may move as fast or as slow as you want. In fact, it’s possible to do a full chair yoga workout without needing to put on special clothes, break a sweat, or take a shower afterward, making it easy to integrate into your daily routine.
The focus is around feeling connected to your body, stretching your neck, arms, legs, and other extremities – whatever feels right. This form of exercise won’t leave you exhausted. Instead, chair yoga should leave you with a sense of strength, openness, and the satisfaction that you did something wonderful for your body today.
Why not try it? Relax into this chair yoga breathing exercise
- Find a chair. Yes, the one you’re currently sitting on will do nicely! The goal of this exercise is to match the length of your inhale with the length of exhale.
- Sit tall at the edge of your chair, and place your feet flat on the ground. You can relax your arms at your sides, or you can place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly to feel your breath.
- Slowly inhale for five full seconds, just until you feel a little constriction at the back of your throat, then slowly exhale for another five seconds.
- Repeat for several minutes.
See, now don’t you feel relaxed?
The best form of exercise is the one that you enjoy and actually make time to do, whether that’s walking, tai chi, or gentle stretching. Even gardening and basic housework count as exercise – anything that gets you moving your body on a regular basis. Every person is different, and to keep feeling your best, you should find an exercise activity that feels right for you. If you are a senior looking for a simple way to stay strong, flexible, and connected to your body, chair yoga might just be the exercise you’ve been waiting for.
Special announcement: Chair yoga IS Coming soon to FIT Functional FitnesS®!
The benefits and growing popularity of chair yoga have not gone unnoticed by members of The Goodman Group’s managed communities. That’s why team members like Katie W., national director of life enrichment for The Goodman Group, have begun the process of developing a specialized chair yoga curriculum and class offering. “We want people to be able to continue to do what feels good for their bodies,” explains Katie. The curriculum will expand the FIT Functional Fitness® program to offer dozens of chair yoga poses designed with residents in mind, with photographs and descriptions of the poses to do safely in groups or individually. Stay tuned.