Yoga is an ancient Asian exercise practice that has been used for centuries to tone the body and provide serenity for the mind and spirit. The benefits of this practice are well known, but many people have been unable to take advantage of these effects because of the strenuous nature of the poses. Chair yoga adapts traditional yoga positions to allow individuals with physical limitations to do yoga, but it can also be used for spur of the moment conditioning when you can't do a full exercise session.
What Is Chair Yoga?
Chair yoga adapts classic yoga poses, known as "asanas," into a more accessible form that retains the basic physical benefits of the pose while using the chair to provide balance and support. This method allows individuals with medical conditions that do not allow full use of the body to benefit from the stretching, muscle strengthening and controlled breathing that yoga practice provides. Busy people who can't take the time for a full yoga session can also enjoy these benefits.
Adapted Poses in Chair Yoga
A few examples can demonstrate the principles behind chair yoga and how it can be used by almost anyone:
· Modified Salutation to the Sun Asana
While sitting in a chair, with knees and hips at the same level, extend your arms upward, holding them straight alongside your ears. Exhale and bend forward with arms extended, until your hands rest on the floor. Hold the position for ten counts. Slowly return to an upright position with arms extended while inhaling. Then, release.
· Modified Warrior Asana
Sit forward on the edge of the chair. Extend the right leg straight out to the side while bending the left leg. Extend arms out to the side. Hold the position for ten counts, and then, return to a normal seated position. Next, extend the left leg straight out to side while bending the right leg. Extend arms outward, and hold for ten counts. Slowly release and return to normal sitting position.
· Modified Cat-Cow Asana
Sit a bit forward on the seat of the chair. Curve the small of your back forward as you sit, pulling your shoulders toward the back of the chair, letting the front of your body push forward. Hold for a count of ten. Then, pull the curve of your back toward the back of the chair, allowing your shoulders to curve forward in a cat-like stretch. Hold for a count of ten, then release.
· Modified Spinal Twist
Sit on the chair, and twist your torso to the side, holding onto the back of the chair. Hold the position for ten counts. Then, switch to the other side of the chair. Twist to at the waist, using the back of the chair for leverage. Hold for 10 counts, then slowly release.
Benefits of Chair Yoga
Like the traditional practice, chair yoga offers a number of physical and psychological benefits for the practitioner:
· Increased muscle strength for standing, walking, reaching and carrying
· Increased flexibility of the legs, upper body and spine
· Improved lung function from breathing exercises
· Improved sense of relaxation and emotional serenity
· Can be easily performed by seniors with limited mobility
Even small exercises done daily can increase your strength and flexibility. Chair yoga can be your go-to exercise regime when you're too busy to do a full session.
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