With growing old, the body tends to lose its agility and crampy muscles make life sedentary or inactive. However, chair yoga for seniors is there to support the fact that yoga is the only form of exercise that is meant for everybody.
Chair yoga has proved beneficial 1 in improving digestion, maintaining blood pressure, relieves fatigue, generates a sense of self-dependence and well-being in elderly people.
Elderly people become more susceptible to various health issues like arthritis, diabetes, menopause, dementia, etc. Yoga serves as a magical remedy for seniors, relieves all these issues as well as promotes holistic health.
It’s evident from scientific studies that yoga can aid elderly people more than people of any other age. This is so because as we age, both the hemispheres of the brain are used in coordination 2 and enhances awareness while practicing. Thus, chair yoga for seniors makes it possible for anyone to step into yoga and get desired results, even to young adults who struggle in finding balance.
Benefits of Chair Yoga for Seniors
Yoga is always known as a practice which offers various modification to meet the needs of each individual. It only leads to the development of chair yoga so that the elderly can also reap the multiple benefits of yoga without compromising their comfort level.
Major health benefits of chair yoga for seniors are given below:
- Enhances flexibility – The first and foremost effect of yoga for seniors is observed in an improved range of mobility and flexibility. In chair yoga poses, muscles undergo gentle twisting, bending, and stretching which relieves muscular tension and stiffness. Hence, it enhances flexibility in older people.
- Strengthens bones and joints – With aging and an inactive lifestyle, bone deterioration starts, as blood flow is reduced to tissues and the body consumes the calcium and phosphate from the bones. However, practicing yoga promotes blood circulation, lubricates the joints, and strengthens bone. Hence, also therapeutic for osteoporosis and arthritis.
- Develops better balance – Improper functioning of the vestibular system 3 among elderly adults leads to deterioration of balance in the body. However, chair yoga comes in handy here as well, because it works on improving focus, strength, alignment, and agility. Thus reduces the risk of fall among oldies as concluded by a research study of 2018 4
- Relieves body pain – Elderly people often complain about muscular or joint pain induced by musculoskeletal disorders such as spinal degeneration or arthritis. When seniors practice chair yoga, it secretes hormones like endorphins which act as natural painkillers.
- Provides sound sleep – Imbalance of melatonin, growth hormones, lack of exercise, stress, or even medication interfere with the sleep patterns. In elder women, menopause could also induce insomnia. Well, yoga poses for sleep is proved to be effective in regulating proper sleeping hours 5 that uplifts the sleeping patterns both qualitatively and quantitatively.
- Uplifts mood – With aging, several factors such as physical pain, weak motor skills, medication, or isolation induces mood swings. Anxiety, depression, and frustration worsen the situation. For this, yoga has got your back as it calms the mind, brings in mindfulness and mental clarity. Thus helps in reducing stress, irritation, and cheers up the mood.
8 Best Chair Yoga Poses for Seniors
Several yoga poses that are accessible with chair and suited for senior individuals are given below.
Include these chair yoga poses into your daily practice at home and make your old age more fun and self-dependent period.
1. Chair Mountain Pose – Tadasana
This is beginner-level chair yoga for seniors practiced seated on a chair with knees bent at 90 degrees above the ankles. In mountain pose, the core is kept engaged and the spine is erect throughout the practice.
This posture is helpful in maintaining spinal alignment, improving balance, and rejuvenate the body from fatigue in the practice.
How to Do
- Sit on the front edge of the chair with your feet on the floor, hip-width apart, and ankles under the knees.
- Keep your spine erect and tall placing the arms by the sides.
- Inhale opening the chest and lengthening your spine, also, draw the navel to the spine.
- Exhale pushing down the sit bone into the chair.
- With each inhalation, the arms are stretched by the sides rotating the hands to the front.
- On every exhalation, roll your shoulders down and relax the arms by the sides.
2. Chair forward bend – Uttanasana
Chair forward bend pose requires you to assume a seat on a chair keeping an erect back with feet flat on the back. From here, lean forward as far as comfortably possible pressing the abdomen against the thighs.
It is a great stretch for the spine, legs, arms, hips, and abdominal muscles. It improves digestion, relieves lower back pain, and eliminates fatigue.
How to Do
- Begin seated in chair mountain pose keeping the hands on the thighs and back straight.
- Inhale, lengthen the spine and exhale to lean forward bring the abdomen pressed against the thighs.
- Also, you can slide the hands below to the floor.
- Hold the stretch for several deep breaths and then inhale to come up.
3. Chair Eagle arms – Garudasana
Eagle pose is assumed by crossing and tangling the arms over each other to join the palms in front of the face.
It stretches and bends the shoulder joints, relaxes the upper back, and improves blood circulation in the arms. Chair eagle pose helps to lengthen the spine and stretches the abdominals which help in the digestion and elimination process in elderly people. Lastly, it works on improving focus and benefitting the nervous system.
How to Do
- Sitting in chair with feet on the floor and arms on the thighs, keep the back straight.
- Inhale to open your arms by the sides at shoulder level.
- Exhale bring them in front and swing your right arm under the left.
- Further wrap your arms around each other bending the elbows until your right fingertips meet the left palm.
- Inhale lift your elbows little higher and exhale rolling your shoulders away from the ears.
- Take a few breaths there and then repeat switching the arms.
4. Chair Cat-Cow Stretch
The next pose in the yoga for seniors sequence is the cat-cow stretch which arches and rounds the spine while breathing in and out.
It stretches the spine, abdominals, shoulders, and hips. Hence, the pose is recommended for improving spinal flexibility, digestion, and muscular strength. The deep synchronized breath stimulates the brain functioning along with the spine that aids in relieving stress.
How to Do
- Sit comfortably at the front edge of the chair with a tall spine and engaged core muscles.
- Place your palms on the thighs.
- Exhale, rounding the back and lowering the head along with scooping the belly in. This is cat pose.
- Now inhaling, tip the tailbone to the chair, arch your back, and look up opening the chest. This is known as cow pose.
- Repeat it 3-5 times.
5. Chair Warrior I Pose – Virabhadrasana I
For assuming chair warrior I pose, sit passing one leg across the chair extending back, and bending the other knee over it. The torso is facing the bent leg, from there the arms are raised overhead.
Warrior 1 pose is one of the best stretches for the shoulders, triceps, spine, and abdominal muscles. Practicing warrior pose in chair yoga for seniors improves spinal alignment, corrects posture, and even relieves stress. Seniors must try it for improving stability and balance.
How to Do
- Sit in a chair keeping the back of the chair on your right side.
- Sweep your left leg across the chair extending it backward keeping the toes on the floor.
- The left leg is bent at the knee with foot on the floor.
- Inhale to raise the arms over head opening the chest and lengthening the spine.
- Stay there for a few breaths, then release to repeat it switching the leg position.
- Those who are not flexible enough can practice it assuming seated mountain pose.
6. Chair Pigeon Pose – Eka Pada Rajakapotasana
Pigeon pose in chair yoga is practiced placing one foot on the alternate thigh and holding the bent leg to lean forward lengthening the spine and opening the hip.
Getting into this yoga helps in improving posture, reducing back pain, and promoting hip mobility as well as flexibility. It is one of the yoga poses for elderly that enhances blood flow to the pelvis, thus relieves pain or discomfort associated with menopause or prostate issues.
How to Do
- Begin in seated mountain pose keeping the hands over the thighs.
- Gently lift your left leg and bending the knee sideways, place the left foot on the right thigh with the help of your hands.
- Place your right hand around the left foot and cradle the left knee in the left hand.
- Keep your left foot flexed and inhale to lengthen the spine.
- Exhale and keeping the elbows bent, bend the torso forward until a stretch is felt in left glutes.
- Let your head drop to enhance the stretch.
- Stay there for three to five breaths, exhale to come up, and repeat it on the other leg.
7. Chair spinal twist – Ardha Matsyendrasana
Chair spinal twist is a variation of Half Lord of fishes pose (Ardha matsyendrasana). While seated sideways on a chair the body is twisted to the side holding the back of the chair in chair spinal twist.
This gentle twisting of the body squeezes the internal organs including digestive system, kidney, and liver. It brings enhanced blood flow to these organs and pelvis. It strengthens the muscles, joints, and promotes overall health.
How to Do
- Sit sideways in a chair keeping the back of the chair on the right side.
- Keep your back erect and hold the back of the chair with both hands.
- Inhale and while exhaling gently twist your torso towards the back of the chair.
- Hold it for a few breaths as long as possible and then release the pose.
- Switch sides on the chair to repeat it twisting the torso to the left.
8. Reverse Arm Hold Pose
As the name suggests, this is a gentle stretch among the yoga poses for elderly people where the arms are clasped behind the back and stretched. It
While stretching the arms behind the back the chest expands fully improving breathing and relieving pulmonary disorders. With enhanced breath, the stress is also reduced. Besides this the stiffness between the vertebrae also reduces.
How to Do
- Sit on the chair with an erect back and feet flat on the floor.
- Inhale and open your arms to sides with palms facing down.
- Exhale rolling the shoulders forward so that the palms are facing backward.
- Bend your elbows to draw the hands behind the back clasping either the wrists, fingers, or elbows.
- Keeping the grip firm pull the hands away from each other.
- Keep puling the hands without releasing for five deep breaths.
- Then release and switch the clasp to repeat it for the same amount of time.
As they say, it’s never too late to start learning, the same goes for practicing yoga. Moreover, with this sequence of chair yoga for seniors, you don’t have to have a second thought about your age, flexibility, and agility.
After all, age is just a number and following this practice guide will prove the same for you. Therefore, start practice these chair yoga positions for seniors and bring all your old age complains to a halt.
- Carson, Kimberly, et al. Relax Into Yoga for Seniors: A Six-Week Program for Strength, Balance, Flexibility, and Pain Relief. United Kingdom, New Harbinger Publications, 2016. https://www.google.co.in/books/edition/Relax_into_Yoga_for_Seniors/oBpDDQAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=0
- Hemispheric asymmetry reduction in older adults: The HAROLD model. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2002-02028-007
- Vestibular system https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vestibular_system
- A mixed methods evaluation of yoga as a fall prevention strategy for older people in India https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5928579/
- Yoga for improving sleep quality and quality of life for older adults https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24755569/