Bending, twisting, standing, sitting, downward-facing dog or tree pose — for some, yoga might seem a bit too challenging.
“In traditional yoga, without modifications, there is lots of movement,” said Devon Schmidt, owner and instructor at Day Yoga Studio.
But for those with physical limitations, whether as a result of injury, a chronic condition, age or weight, there is still a way to get your Zen on — chair yoga. It’s a gentle form of yoga that can be practiced while sitting in a chair or while using the chair for added stability.
“It opens up yoga for those who don’t want to or can’t get down on the floor,” said Cathy Hackett, instructor at Inner Dance Yoga Center. “It’s attracting older people as well as those rehabbing from surgery or injury or who have various health issues.”
Local chair yoga options are plentiful. Inner Dance Yoga Center, in Oakwood, Day Yoga, in Dayton, and the Vandalia Recreation Center are just a few of the local yoga studios or recreation centers that offer a chair yoga class or the option of using a chair in a traditional class. Many Silver Sneakers programs also offer chair yoga classes.
While the movements are modified, the benefits can still be significant.
“It’s just simple movements, but even small things done over time can have a big benefit,” Hackett said. “It’s so wonderful to bring all the good things about yoga — the calm, the peace, the flexibility and balance — to people who otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to it.”
Stretching and strengthening go hand-in-hand in yoga.
“Even just simple arm raises are similar, as far as the benefits, to lifting weights,” Schmidt said.
Improved flexibility, balance and stamina are common benefits of yoga as is reduced pain from chronic conditions like arthritis. But the benefits extend beyond the body.
“It’s great to share the movement but the breath-work is also so important,” Hackett said.
Yoga for all
Chair classes are designed to meet the needs of yoga rookies and veterans alike. It’s about making the practice of yoga accessible.
“We try to make it for everybody,” said Debbie Stirsman, owner of Inner Dance Yoga. “And what’s really great is the confidence people gain.”
While chair yoga is a great way to ease into the practice for first-timers, it can also be a good reintroduction later in life or after injury.
“It gives people a chance to come back to yoga classes even if they have been away from it for years,” Hackett said.
Some yoga studios and recreation centers offer a series of classes while others have a drop-in option.
“Because of things like chair yoga, there really is a style of yoga for everybody,” Schmidt said.
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