Sunday, February 22, 2015

Improving Yoga Student Safety: Chair Yoga

student safety
By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed

As the popularity and availability of Yoga classes continues to expand throughout the world, many teachers are finding that they are teaching a specific group of students who need the support of a chair to practice Yoga safely and effectively. This is particularly true if you are teaching a group of elderly students or students who are disabled from head injuries or chronic disease. By offering these students fun and engaging Chair Yoga classes, you will enable them to participate in a comprehensive practice, while improving their safety with the support of a chair. 

By learning how to modify Yoga postures, so that the postures can be practiced with the support of a chair, you will also be expanding your teaching skills, so that you will be able to offer Yoga classes in non-traditional venues, such as senior centers and nursing homes. A regular practice of asanas has also been shown to be effective for relieving some of the pain and stiffness of arthritis, which is so common in later years. In addition, by offering specialized Chair Yoga classes to older students, you will give them the opportunity to remain socially engaged and active in their communities, which is an important aspect of warding off isolation and depression in their sunset years. 

Offering Chair Yoga classes to students of all ages, who are struggling with chronic pain, disability or a long term illness, will improve student safety. In this context, teaching Chair Yoga classes will make the practice of Yoga possible for many students who would otherwise be unable to benefit from this practice. For instance, students with MS who practice Yoga regularly report that they feel more energetic and that their sense of balance and coordination is improved. Additionally, a regular exercise routine, including Yoga, has been shown to ward off depression and dementia as the functioning of the frontal lobes and the hippocampus is improved. 

This is an important benefit of Chair Yoga, because many students who are living with chronic pain or a disability are at high risk for depression. Alleviating that depression is critical to maintaining a positive outlook on life and boosting the immune system. There are many different postures and pranayama exercises that can be practiced with the support of a chair. One such posture is Seated Spinal Twist. Seated Spinal Twist relieves muscular tension throughout the upper back, neck, shoulders, and side waist. This posture also aids in digestion and gently massages the abdominal organs. 

* Seated Spinal Twist in a Chair

Seated Spinal Twist is usually practiced towards the second half of a Yoga class, after the body is fully warmed up. If you have a neck or back injury, consult with a certifiedYoga teacher or your doctor before practicing Seated Spinal Twist. To practice this posture in a chair, sit comfortably on a straight back chair with your feet flat on the floor. If you have access to a folding chair that has no arms and an open back section, this is optimal so that you can turn your body sideways, if that is a more comfortable position for you to practice Seated Spinal Twist. 

Take a few deep breath before you begin, and then place the back of your left hand on the outside of your right knee. Place your right hand on the right arm of the chair, the back of the chair or flat on the seat of the chair directly behind you with your fingers pointing towards the back of the room. Where you place your right hand will depend on your level of flexibility and the style of chair you are using. Remember to keep your feet flat on the floor and pointing straight ahead. 

With each inhale, release the twist a little bit and with each exhale, move more deeply into the twist. As you inhale and exhale, continue to undulate your body in a gentle twisting motion. Hold this chair version of Seated Spinal Twist for three to five breaths, and then release the posture and come back to a neutral position for a breath or two. Repeat Seated Spinal Twist on the left hand side when your are ready. 

Virginia Iversen, M.Ed, has been practicing and studying the art of Yoga for over twenty years. She lives in Woodstock, New York, where she works as a writer and an academic support specialist. She is currently accepting Yoga and health-related writing orders and may be contacted at:


parvezbdjsr said...

Offering Chair Yoga classes to students who are struggling with chronic pain and any disability will improve student safety. Nice sharing!

Mary Wilson said...

Seated Spinal Twist posture that can be practiced with the support of a chair and It relieves muscular tension throughout the upper back, neck, shoulders, and side waist. Thanks for posting this valuable article.

Rajesh said...

it was great post. I shall follow your instructions and try it. Thanks.

peter f said...

Chair Yoga is a type of yoga that has been modified to allow participants to perform all of the required exercises from a seated position. It allows seniors and those living with disabilities to reap the benefits of yoga without risking their safety.