The benefits of chair yoga

by Ruth Griffiths

At the end of one of the yoga classes that I lead, a participant gave me a big hug.  “That’s from my chiropractor,” he said. He had noticed the difference since he started doing chair yoga.

Yoga has become increasingly popular for many reasons, including relaxation, strengthening and stretching. But many people shy away from yoga because they don’t like the idea of being “stretched into a pretzel” and they worry that if they get onto the floor, they’ll never get up again. The solution is chair yoga. The chair frees me of the fear of falling so that I can practice balancing and stretching in a relaxed frame of mind.

Yoga has been shown to improve overall health. One of my new participants says yoga was recommended because the deep breathing will help her lungs. I know from personal experience that yoga has increased my core strength and eliminated lower back pain. A recent study suggested that chair yoga helps control the pain of arthritis.

Here are some other benefits of chair yoga, taken from

1. Improved Strength — As we age, we are better able to continue with hobbies and daily activities if we keep active. A strong body is better able to withstand an injury, if we do fall.

 2. Improved Flexibility — Regular neck stretches allow me to drive more safely because I can move my head enough to lane check. Chair yoga can help those with mobility issues to undertake activities they have perhaps been unable to, such as reaching down to tie shoelaces or pick things up.

3. Improved proprioception — Proprioception is the skill of knowing where your body is in space, and coordinating your movements accurately. This is particularly important for elderly people and can prevent falls. For people with disabilities or conditions such as MS, it may mean having greater control over your body and its movements.

4. Reduced stress and improved mental clarity — Chair yoga can lessen the impact of chronic illnesses and pain. It may also help us cope with feelings of isolation, especially during our cold winters. Being calmer and more relaxed inevitably leads to a greater feeling of happiness and wellbeing.

5. Opportunities to socialize — Attending chair yoga classes is another way to meet people and make friends. Choose a class that is adapted for the older body.

6. Improved stress and pain management — Yoga includes breath work, which can help with stress management but also for coping and managing pain. Through meditation and paying attention to your breath, you can help your body and mind to cope with the pain of an illness or condition.

I lead a drop-in yoga class for adults each Tuesday at 2 p.m. at Calvary United Church, 114 25th St. E. The room is wheelchair accessible but most participants are able to stand. The fee is a donation to the church. I invite you to come out and try a chair-assisted yoga class and realize its benefits for yourself.