Chair yoga: what is it and who is it for?

Like many women who comment on our Facebook Group, Getting Fit over Fifty, Janis is remarkable!  Not one but two career changes have taken Janis from hairdressing to a law degree and then onto becoming a yoga teacher. 

As we all know by the time we reach 50, life doesn’t always go to plan and although Janis loved teaching yoga her own Osteoarthritis and subsequent knee replacement, meant she could no longer continue running her classes.

Where has chair yoga come from?

Not to be deterred, Janis then read about and began training to teach chair yoga.  Props have been used in yoga practice for many years.  Iyengar yoga (named after B K S Iyengar its founder) recognised that yoga would be accessible to many more people with helpful props like a chair. 

A whole programme of yoga poses can be adapted with the use of a chair.

Who is chair yoga for? 

You may assume chair yoga is for people who either cannot or do not want to perform yoga on a traditional mat.  But almost everyone could benefit from chair yoga as it provides support and aids posture.  For those who are able to stand, the chair is not just used to sit on it is also used to help the body remain in poses that would be difficult for beginners to perform.

Chair yoga is also of great benefit for people who find getting down to the floor and up again difficult, whether through age, weight or disability and many people in wheelchairs benefit a great deal from chair yoga. 

Gaining confidence

Women over 50 are increasingly aware of their own health and often have a desire to get fitter.  However, for some, going into an exercise class can feel daunting.  Traditional yoga can have an image of very (thin) flexible people, holding difficult positions that most people couldn’t even get into.  That may be unfounded and there are some great beginners classes, but for some chair yoga might be a way into this mind and body exercise.

Flexibility, posture and managing pain and anxiety

Just like traditional yoga, chair yoga promotes flexibility in muscles and joints and improves balance and flexibility as well as building strength.  These are all vitally important for people with ongoing long-term conditions such as arthritis, heart conditions, high blood pressure and fibromyalgia.

Janis herself has found that Yoga really helps her manage her Osteoarthritis.  If she misses a few days of yoga practice her joints know it!  In Janis’s class some people find the exercises really help them manage acute anxiety.  Developing new breathing patterns can aid energy levels.  A typical class with Janis begins with 10 minutes of relaxation followed by 30 minutes of movement and finishes with a guided meditation.

Never one to think “right that’s me done”,  Janis is now considering becoming a teacher of other teachers.  That’s important as I am sure demand for this accessible form of yoga will grow and grow.

To find a local chair yoga class try searching “chair yoga near me”.