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Why should I participate in chair yoga?

By Renee Brown

Ready to welcome back your healthy movement, healing, strength and joint mobility, regardless of your age and fitness level? Aging or injury does not mean you have to physically decline or give up.

Receive all the benefits of yoga with the stability of a chair.

Yoga is a form of exercise that has been documented to improve core strength and balance, increase flexibility, promote mobility, increase positive feelings, improve mental health, increase oxygen intake, promote better breathing techniques, reduce stress and help to control weight. Unlike many other activities chair yoga is easy on your joints, and may serve as a gateway to other forms of exercise. Chair yoga is a beneficial form of yoga for any fitness level, from active seniors to those recovering from an injury.

Yoga is an effective way to train for balance, and those who cannot participate in traditional yoga classes can perform many exercises while using a chair for support. Chair yoga poses integrate the best of flexibility and balance training.Chair yoga is a modified form of yoga which allows seniors or whomever to receive these incredible benefits without getting up and down off the floor. Participants perform all of the required exercises from a seated position. It allows seniors and those living with disabilities to reap the benefits of yoga without risking their safety. Chair yoga also brings the additional benefits of providing movement and stretching to help with chronic pain and symptoms of arthritis, depression, coronary artery disease, diabetes, and a variety of autoimmune conditions. If you have been living a fairly sedentary lifestyle, the first thing you should do is check with your primary care physician. Let them know you would like to begin chair yoga and explain what that will entail, breath work, seated sun salutations lifting your arms and legs, movements to keep your joints lubricated and less painful, perhaps standing behind your chair for a few poses at the end and then relaxation.

Once you gain their approval, check out your local programs. Exhale offers chair yoga with Shani every Monday 11:30-12:30pm, you can also check your silver sneakers program for other locations, find yoga on tv (PBS) or buy a dvd. There are added health benefits to getting out participating in group activities and socializing with others, but begin wherever you feel comfortable. You could also begin with a private chair yoga class if you have anxiety about being with others.

What Do I Need for Chair Yoga? Though chair yoga is a low-risk and low-impact form of exercise, you should make sure you have the right equipment to prevent injuries and to get the most out of your workout. Some essential chair yoga equipment includes an armless, stable chair (no wobbling!), a flat, level surface for your chair with a yoga mat underneath so it doesn’t slip, flexible, comfortable clothing that isn’t too tight or baggy, space to fully extend your limbs, an experienced instructor or friend for safety. It’s also best to not eat a heavy meal 2 hours before yoga.

Once you’re all set up and safe, you can begin by trying this pose.

Overhead Stretch Begin in a seated position with your feet planted on the floor, facing forward with your arms down by your sides. Take a long, deep breath in and slowly stretch your arms upward to the ceiling. Hold this position for a moment, and bring your arms back downward with a long exhale. Throughout this exercise, make sure your core is engaged and your back is as straight as possible. Nice slow deep breath in, slow exhale. Notice how your body feels before and then afterwards.

The most important thing when beginning any exercise program is to listen to your body. You may find a little soreness or discomfort as you first begin, but never move towards pain. Let go of the idea of no pain no gain. You can make big changes listening to your body and finding joy moving your body with your breath. It’s never too late to reap the benefits of taking care of your health and your body. The first step is to begin.

Renee Brown is the owner of Exhale offering chair, low back care, restorative, yin, slow flow, mindful flow, meditation and power yoga classes, Thai-Bodywork, Reiki, and Reflexology. The studio is located at 921 Harmony Road, Eatonton and can be contacted at (706)818-1725.

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