Editor’s note: This blog was published in February 2021 and updated with additional helpful resources in 2023.
It's well-known that exercise strengthens the body, and physical fitness also carries many positive benefits for the mind, especially as we age. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic and The United States Department of Health and Human Services recommends individuals 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 that has gained popularity due to its unifying ability to meet mental and physical needs while still being accessible, relaxing, and fun is chair yoga.
WHAT IS CHAIR YOGA?
Chair yoga is an adapted form of traditional yoga. Yoga originated in India as early as 3000 BCE. Since then, it has spread across the world, with more than 36 million Americans practicing yoga as of 2022. 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. Just as the name suggests, one of the unique advantages of chair yoga is that every action can be performed while seated in a chair. 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. 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.
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 through your nose, with a light constriction at the back of your throat (as if you are going to fog up a window), then slowly and audibly exhale out of your mouth for another five seconds.
- Repeat for several minutes.
See, now don’t you feel relaxed? There are several other chair yoga exercises that you can do. If you would rather be instructed through your practice, there are lots of online videos to try out, too!
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, find an exercise 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!
CHAIR YOGA IS COMING SOON TO FIT FUNCTIONAL FITNESS®!
The benefits and growing popularity of chair yoga have not gone unnoticed by The Goodman Group’s life enrichment team. The Goodman Group has begun the process of developing a specialized chair yoga curriculum and class offering. 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.