Chair yoga: Great exercise for the less-abled
'It's amazing how good of a workout you can get even in a chair.'
So says "chair yoga" instructor Pam MacFarlane, who at age 60 teaches a dozen classes per week for men and women who range from their 50s to age 86.
If your image of yoga invokes youthful bodies stretched across the floor, think again. Unlike many other fitness regimens, yoga doesn’t singularly focus on weight loss or building muscle, although those are benefits many “yogis” experience.
Yoga is about feeling good and being in touch with your body. And with numerous styles and modifications, it’s a far more accessible way to be kind to yourself than typical gym activities, whether you’re 22 or 82 years old.
According to MacFarlane, even those with compromised mobility may benefit from:
- Neurological health: "The spine is like the Internet of your body. With careful stretching, yoga can help facilitate messages from brain to rest of body."
- Esteem boosts: "Many older clients prefer chair yoga because they’re afraid they won't be able to get off the floor. It’s important to focus on people's abilities."
- Improved digestion: "Practicing yoga with a qualified instructor can massage digestive tracts."
- Balance: "Chair yoga allows you to safely test your balance. Yoga practitioners can see how they’ve improved with various levels of challenge, such as relying on the chair less."
Tips for finding a yoga class or yoga instructor
Contact any one of the following facilities and ask whether chair yoga or gentle yoga is offered:
- Fitness clubs and gyms
- Senior centers and community centers
- Yoga studios
Often, yoga instructors will teach group or private classes in a private location such as your home. Be sure to ask for recommendations, certification, and whether the instructor has worked with others who may have situations similar to yours.
Yoga, according to MacFarlane, "Gives you more confidence in your balance, allows you to take the time to notice strengths and weaknesses—notice what’s going on—while not being critical of yourself."