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The Benefits Of Chair Yoga For Seniors And Wheelchair Users (+ 9 Exercises)

Oct 3, 2023

woman seated in a chair holding a yoga mat

While yoga is mostly associated with able-bodied youngsters, chair yoga has found a home with senior citizens and wheelchair users as an effective form of physical and mental exercise.

Let’s take a look at what chair yoga is and the benefits that you can enjoy from incorporating chair yoga practice into your daily routine. We’ll also provide step-by-step instructions for chair yoga poses you can try at home.

What Is Chair Yoga?

Yoga has been around for 5,000 years and is characterized by stretching and breathing exercises. Yoga is a highly adaptable and inclusive practice that can be modified to suit a wide range of physical abilities and limitations.

Adaptive yoga, or chair yoga, is a form of yoga that is specifically tailored to individuals with mobility challenges, including those who use wheelchairs. In chair yoga, many traditional yoga poses are adapted to be performed while seated in a chair or using a chair for support. These adaptations allow individuals with disabilities to experience the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of yoga, including improved flexibility, strength, balance, relaxation, and stress reduction.

Individuals with disabilities should consult with a qualified yoga instructor or physical therapist who has experience working with people in wheelchairs to ensure that their yoga practice is tailored to their specific needs and abilities.

The Benefits Of Chair Yoga

Like other fun activities for seniors, chair yoga exercises offer many impressive physical, mental, and emotional health benefits:

Physical Benefits

  • Improves Flexibility, Strength, And Posture: Chair yoga uses the same practices as traditional yoga. These practices have proven to be effective at improving flexibility, increasing strength, and bettering posture. All of these are linked to better bone density and quality of life.
  • Reduces Joint Pain: Increased flexibility lubricates and loosens the joints for easier movement – a common problem for people with mobility issues.
  • Enhances Circulation: Good circulation is linked to better overall health. Most notably, enhanced circulation is necessary for faster wound healing as well as heart and brain health.

Mental And Emotional Benefits

  • Reduce Stress And Anxiety: Yoga incorporates breathing and stretching techniques that slow the heart rate and release tension. This reduces stress and anxiety – two very dangerous precursors to depression and other mental health conditions.
  • Improves Sleep: Less stress, mental and physical tension, and pain are all going to make falling asleep much easier and improve sleep quality.
  • Better Mood And Mental Well-Being: Exercise releases endorphins, which are feel-good hormones. While it provides a quick exercise “high”, consistent exercise will also lead to long-lasting mental well-being and improved mood.

elderly woman doing chair yoga with trainer

9 Chair Yoga Poses And Exercises

If you don’t want to commit to chair yoga classes, here are some simple yet effective chair yoga poses you can try from the comfort of your home.

With each exercise, focus on slow and controlled breathing and keeping your core engaged. Posture is important, but don’t straighten your back to the point of pain. Rather take your time, do what you can, and build up your strength and flexibility until you can move on to more difficult positions.

1. Seated Arms Overhead Pose

Start with a simple warm-up pose.

Sit in an upright position with your feet flat on the floor. Keep your back straight and use the back of the chair for support if you need it.

Inhale and raise your hands straight up toward the ceiling. Keep your arms straight and your body steady. Bring your hands back down and repeat the pose with slow and controlled movements.

2. Seated Cat-Cow Stretch

Put your feet hip-width apart and anchor your sit bones on the chair seat. Put your hands on your knees.

Inhale deeply and arch the upper back into the cat pose. Keep the shoulders relaxed. Exhale slowly and bow the upper back, tucking your chin into your chest to form the bowed cow pose.

Alternate between the arched cat pose and the bowed cow pose for five rotations.

3. Seated Side Bend

Sit with your feet placed hip-width apart. Inhale and reach your left arm over to the right side. Hold the position and breath here for three to five breaths.

Slowly come back down and switch. Bring your right arm up and over to the left side, and repeat the breathing exercise.

If you need help stabilizing your body, use your free hand to hold onto the chair seat or your right or left thigh (depending on which side you’re leaning towards).

4. Seated Forward Fold

Sit straight up in your chair with your feet planted hip-width apart. Take a deep breath and gently fold forward. Let your arms dangle or reach toward your feet. Do this until your chest is resting on your thighs (or as far as you can go).

This move will gently pull in the shoulder blades and back. Stay for a few breaths, slowly roll up, and repeat several times.

5. Seated Shoulder Stretch

Sitting with your feet flat on the floor, extend your right arm straight out in front of you at shoulder height.

Use your left hand to gently press your right hand backward. Switch sides.

6. Seated Spinal Twist

Sit upright with your feet on the floor, inhale and lengthen your spine. Exhale, twist your upper body to the right, holding the back of the chair for support. Inhale to center, then exhale and twist to the left.

7. Chair-Assisted Eagle Arm Twist

Use the back of the chair to support your posture before crossing your right thigh over the left knee. If you can, fold the right foot so that it hugs the left calf. If you can’t manage this section, don’t worry and leave it out.

From there, entwine the left arm with the right arm. Keep the elbows at a 90-degree angle in front of the chest and keep the shoulders relaxed.

Take five deep breaths. Untangle your arms and legs and repeat the same position but swap your arms and legs.

8. Chair-Assisted Downward Facing Dog

Stand up and face your chair with your feet hip-width apart. Keep your back and legs straight and bend forward, using the back or the seat of the chair as your resting platform.

Hold this pose for five to ten breaths before slowly standing up.

9. Chair Savasana

Sitting on your chair with your back against the backrest, let your arms hang at your side or let your hands rest on your thighs.

Relax your body and release any tension. Focus on your breath and let go of stress and distractions. Do this as long as you’d like to cool down and meditate.

woman using chair for stretching exercise

Conclusion

Remember that these chair yoga poses can be modified further to suit your comfort level and mobility. The key is to move gently, with awareness, and to breathe deeply throughout your practice.

Chair yoga is easier to do and more accessible, but maintains the mental and physical benefits of traditional yoga. It’s a great option for senior citizens or wheelchair users who want to improve their quality of life.

To improve your quality of life even more, get in touch with 365 Health Services today. We provide dedicated in-home care that can help you live happily and independently.

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