Blog Mental Health Yoga Chair Yoga Chair Yoga Stretches for Seniors: A Beginner’s Guide 

Chair Yoga Stretches for Seniors: A Beginner’s Guide 

As we age, it becomes imperative to maintain flexibility and mobility in our bodies. After all, no one likes to live a life of dependency!

If you aim to be active and independent in your elderly years, adding chair yoga to your fitness routine is an excellent option. It is a safe and effective way to enjoy the perks of yoga while significantly limiting the risk of injuries and falls. According to research, 35% of adults above age 70 experience mobility issues that makes doing traditional yoga difficult (8). It is true that some days, we feel lethargic and don’t want to leave our beds. And although it is quite okay to rest, regular physical activity should be incorporated into your daily routine to maximize your mobility and health. Chair yoga is one of the best ways for many seniors to stimulate their body while keeping it comfortable.

This article will explore some simple yet powerful chair yoga stretches for seniors that can improve your range of motion and enhance your overall physical and mental health. Whether you are a seasoned yogi or fairly new to the practice, these gentle stretches can swiftly become a part of your routine and help you lead an active lifestyle.

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Does Chair Yoga Really Work for Seniors?

Yes, ample research highlights the benefits of chair yoga for improving the mobility of seniors. It is a safe and accessible version of traditional yoga that involves low-impact movements. We will discuss just a few of the many perks of chair yoga for seniors:

Improved Strength

Chair yoga can be an effective method for improving strength in seniors.. A 2016 study suggests that traditional yoga may be as effective at improving strength as a targeted strength training program for sedentary older adults (11). In addition, there was a study performed on 35 older women in community care that suggested that a 12 week chair yoga program can result in significant improvements in strength (5).

See also
Armchair Yoga: A Safe and Effective Way to Stay Active

Better Balance

Balance deficits are common among older adults. According to the CDC, about 3 million older adults visit emergency rooms each year because of falls (7). Chair yoga provides a safe form of exercise that helps older adults improve their balance while significantly reducing their risk of falls compared to traditional yoga.

In a study from 2010, older adults did yoga two times a week for 12 weeks, usually sitting in a chair or using it for balance (3). After the study, they were more flexible, had better balance, were less afraid of falling, and felt more confident in what they could do physically.

Reduced Stress

Whether you opt for basic yoga poses or a tailored chair yoga sequence, you can anticipate a notable decrease in stress levels. Engaging in these practices may contribute to enhanced well-being and relaxation(4). These movements require you to be mindful of your breathing and pacing. This shifts your focus from stressful thoughts to things you can control in the present moment. A 2019 systematic review with meta analysis found that yoga can help older adults get significantly stronger and more flexible, improving their mental health (10). The meditative effects of yoga can also improve sleep, which is crucial to maintaining a positive mood (6).

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Better Pain Management Skills

Working out compels the body to release natural painkillers known as endorphins. Research suggests that yoga may provide a cost-effective and side-effect-free therapy for reducing stress and managing chronic pain, in part due to its ability to downregulate the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and stimulate the vagal nerve. Both of these structures are involved in the body’s stress response and pain perception(9). One study even showed that chair yoga can help older people reduce pain and fatigue in older adults with osteoarthritis (1). The practice encourages a person to focus on their breathing and manage their pain in a healthy way.

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28-Day Chair Yoga For Seniors: Regain Flexibility And Build Strength With Guided

The listed benefits substantiate that chair yoga, when practiced regularly and with proper technique, can be genuinely effective. For those who may find certain exercises and poses challenging initially, incremental improvements in strength, balance, and function can serve as motivation to continue.

It is advisable to start with a gentle chair yoga program tailored for seniors and, upon ensuring comfort, gradually transition to more complex sequences.

chair yoga stretches for seniors  

How Many Days a Week Should You Do Chair Yoga?

Beginners should be more concerned about building their habits than anything else. This means taking baby steps and doing chair yoga 3 – 4 times a week. And when the movements start feeling easy, you can add a day or two.

The American College of Sports Medicine suggests doing flexibility exercises two to three days a week (2). Regular chair yoga can also meet the CDC’s suggestion for older adults to do balanced activities three or more days a week. Eventually, if your schedule allows, you can perform a chair yoga routine 4 – 5 times per week.

Below, we have listed some of the best chair yoga exercises for seniors that can be added to your practice. You can pick and combine these exercises to ensure you are creating a wholesome fitness plan:

Seated Mountain

  1. Sit up tall in your chair and take a deep breath.
  2. Breathe out and sit firmly on the bottom of your tailbone (the sitting bones), with your knees bent at a right angle and directly over your ankles. Keep your knees about a fist’s distance apart.
  3. Breathe in again, and as you breathe out, relax your shoulders down toward your back, gently pull your belly button in towards your spine, and rest your arms by your sides. Adjust armrests if needed.
  4. Finally, press your toes down and push your feet firmly into the floor.
See also
28-Day Chair Yoga Challenge: Exercise List, Benefits, and Tips

Chair Cat-Cow

  1. Sit up straight in your chair with your knees bent and hands on your knees.
  2. Breathe in and lift your chest, moving your shoulders back and curving your back like a cat.
  3. Breathe out and tuck your chin to your chest, rounding your back and shoulders.
  4. Repeat these movements 10 times, going from the curved back to the arched back.

Chair Pigeon

  1. Sit up straight with both feet flat on the floor. Place your right foot on your left thigh, just above the knee. Point your toes up and let your right knee relax out to the side.
  2. Put your hands on your right shin. To stretch more, gently lean forward from your hips.
  3. Take a few deep breaths as you hold this pose. Then, slowly put your right foot back on the floor.
  4. Repeat the steps, this time placing your left foot on your right thigh.

Read more: 21 Day Chair Yoga: Reasons To Add This Challenge To Your Routine

Reverse Arm Hold

  1. Breathe in and stretch your arms out to the sides with your palms facing down.
  2. Breathe out and roll your shoulders forward, turning your palms to face behind you. Bend your elbows and let your hands dangle behind your back.
  3. Clasp your hands together in any way that feels comfortable (fingers, hands, wrists, or elbows) and gently pull them apart from each other without letting go. Remember which hand or wrist you’re holding if you’re not clasping your fingers.
  4. Take 5 slow, deep breaths while holding this pose.
  5. Switch the clasp to the other hand or wrist (if you weren’t clasping fingers) and hold for another 5 breaths.
See also
Chair Pilates For Seniors With Chronic Pain: Gentle Exercises To Reduce Discomfort

Chair Horse Pose

  1. Sit in your chair and open your legs wide, keeping your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Lean forward a little and put your hands on your thighs, just above your knees. Push your knees apart with your hands until you feel a stretch in your inner thighs.
  3. As you breathe out, push your hands into your thighs and twist your body to the right. Let your left shoulder drop for a deeper stretch.
  4. Breathe in and return to the center.
  5. Breathe out as you twist to the left side.
  6. Continue twisting from side to side, matching your movements with your breath, for a few rounds.

Downward Facing Dog on a Chair

  1. Stand in front of a chair with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Bend forward from your hips, placing your hands on the seat of the chair or holding the sides. Keep your back straight.
  3. Step your feet back until your arms are straight out in front of you. Try to keep your heels on the floor, but if you can’t, use a wedge or rolled towel under your heels or bend your knees.
  4. Hold this position for as long as it feels good.
  5. To end the pose, step your feet back towards the chair and slowly stand up.

Besides these, there are many other chair yoga exercises that you can find online. Just make sure that the chair you select is sturdy and without wheels. The chair should be at a height that when you sit on it, your feet can rest flat on the floor with your knees and hips at about a 90 degree angle. If you have a yoga mat, you can place it below the chair for added grip and stability.

See also
Can You Use Chair Yoga For Weight Loss?

chair yoga stretches for seniors  

Is 70 Too Old to Start Yoga?

Let’s get it straight – you are never too old to begin yoga. You can do yoga at any age. It is just a matter of choosing the right poses and maintaining the correct form.

One of the most important things is to understand what your body needs. If you have limited mobility or other health problems, you may opt for modified versions of the exercises. Chair yoga can be quite effective for older adults. You can also add Pilates to the mix to keep it interesting and diverse.

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FAQs

  • Can you lose belly fat with chair yoga?

Chair yoga itself may not lead to significant belly fat loss, but it can be a good part of a weight loss journey. Combining chair yoga with a healthy diet and other exercise routines can be effective for losing belly fat.

  • What happens if I do 20 minutes of yoga every day?

You can expect to see improvements in your strength, flexibility, and balance. It can also reduce stress, improve sleep quality, and boost your mood. The rewards you experience depend on your goals and the yoga program you perform.

  • Which is better for seniors, Pilates or yoga?

Yoga focuses more on flexibility and mind-body connections. Meanwhile, Pilates works more on core strength and overall body awareness. The best choice depends on your personal preference and physical fitness level.

  • Does chair yoga count as exercise?

Yes, chair yoga is a form of exercise. It is a good option for people who have mobility issues or difficulty standing for long periods of time.

The Bottom Line

Chair yoga is accessible to people of any age, requiring only basic equipment and minimal setup. It offers the convenience of being practiced in the comfort of your own home or even at your workplace. Utilizing a chair for support, one can explore a multitude of poses, starting with simpler ones and progressing to more challenging variations as strength and flexibility improve.

It’s important to recognize that chair yoga targets many body regions and muscle groups. Practitioners should be mindful to avoid overstressing their bodies and taking adequate rest when needed. Additionally, it’s crucial to incorporate warm-up and cool-down routines before and after your yoga sessions (if they are not already built into the sessions) to ensure safety and maximize benefits.

DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES:

  1. A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial of the Effects of Chair Yoga on Pain and Physical Function Among Community-Dwelling Older Adults With Lower Extremity Osteoarthritis (2016, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  2. CURRENT CONCEPTS IN MUSCLE STRETCHING FOR EXERCISE AND REHABILITATION (2012, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  3. Effect of a 12-Week Yoga Intervention on Fear of Falling and Balance in Older Adults: A Pilot Study (2009, archives-pmr.org)
  4. Effect of Chair Yoga Therapy on Functional Fitness and Daily Life Activities among Older Female Adults with Knee Osteoarthritis in Taiwan: A Quasi-Experimental Study (2023, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  5. Effectiveness of Chair Yoga for Improving the Functional Fitness and Well-being of Female Community-Dwelling Older Adults With Low Physical Activities (2019, journals.lww.com)
  6. Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life (2011, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  7. Facts About Falls (n.d., cdc.gov)
  8. Mobility in Older Community-Dwelling Persons: A Narrative Review (2020, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  9. Potential Role of Yoga Intervention in the Management of Chronic Non-malignant Pain (2022, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  10. The effects of yoga compared to active and inactive controls on physical function and health related quality of life in older adults- systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials (2019, ijbnpa.biomedcentral.com)
  11. Yoga Is as Good as Stretching–Strengthening Exercises in Improving Functional Fitness Outcomes: Results From a Randomized Controlled Trial (2016, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)