Stretch into a new you with an an­cient prac­tice

Chair yoga en­ables those with mo­bil­ity is­sues to take part in the dis­ci­pline and is de­liv­er­ing im­por­tant phys­i­cal and men­tal ben­e­fits, says Mar­garet Jen­nings

Irish Examiner - Feelgood - - Ageing With Attitude -

IF you have dif­fi­culty with mo­bil­ity — or you just haven’t ex­er­cised much — then try­ing out yoga as a new year res­o­lu­tion might seem like a bit of a stretch, es­pe­cially as we as­so­ciate it with twist­ing and turn­ing in a va­ri­ety of poses.

But chair yoga is chang­ing all that — al­low­ing peo­ple with move­ment dif­fi­cul­ties, or those who don’t have the con­fi­dence to stretch on their own, to get in on the ac­tion, so to speak.

Sis­ters Jo-Ann and Jane Nolan who run a com­mu­nity-based stu­dio called Hot Yoga Dublin on the Malahide Road in Dublin, have been of­fer­ing chair yoga classes for the past two years.

“Our chair yoga classes pro­mote full-body strength­en­ing us­ing a chair as a prop to help open your hips and shoul­ders, ar­tic­u­late your spine, and give you tools for reliev­ing stress,” Jane tells Feel­good. “In­creased flex­i­bil­ity is so im­por­tant as we age and a key func­tion of move­ments if we want to keep ag­ile, in­clude twist­ing, bend­ing and turn­ing. A gen­tle form of ex­er­cise is all you need to keep in mo­tion and chair yoga is per­fect for this.

“So we started a chair yoga class with this in mind — to at­tract the older age group to come and re­gain their con­fi­dence. Chair yoga gives them the op­tion to test the wa­ters. Some stay with it and oth­ers ac­tu­ally move from the chair to their mats and into other stu­dio classes, which is amaz­ing to see.”

The class is great for se­nior yo­gis, peo­ple re­cov­er­ing from surgery, those with phys­i­cal lim­i­ta­tions, and any­one who wants to ease into yoga with a gen­tle prac­tice. And no­body needs to be ex­cluded from yoga, em­pha­sises Jane: “One of the most fre­quent things I hear from “older” stu­dents who come to the stu­dio is — and I’m not kid­ding you — ‘I am re­ally old, do you think I will be able’ or ‘I don’t think that is for me’.”

Mean­while, west Cork-based yoga teacher Claire Os­borne who has de­signed and de­liv­ered her own chair yoga pro­grammes around Cork county as well as abroad, says: “I love shar­ing yoga in ways that make it ac­ces­si­ble to any­one who might be able to ben­e­fit. The work I do with chair yoga was in­spired by teach­ing ac­tive re­tire­ment groups for some years, as well as a weekly class I give in Sk­ib­bereen, and with refugees in Jor­dan.

“In fact, I de­signed and de­liv­ered my first chair yoga train­ing in Am­man in spring last year so that lo­cal yoga teach­ers, who wanted to take over from me, could teach it in the refugee com­mu­nity once I came home again.”

Claire also does train­ing for health­care pro­fes­sion­als and yoga teach­ers, which pre­pares them to bring chair yoga into their com­mu­nity.

“What I find though, from my work with ac­tive re­tire­ment groups, is that the ap­peal of chair yoga is its ac­ces­si­bil­ity. Dig­nity can be im­por­tant for peo­ple, so if they are saved the un­gainly ex­pe­ri­ence of get­ting up and down from the floor, some would pre­fer that. Although in some classes, or one-to-one work, I do work to­wards peo­ple be­ing able to get up and down from the ground to im­prove their strength and mo­bil­ity as an im­por­tant part of their daily life.”

Jane says that they also vol­un­teer their ser­vices in nurs­ing homes, with weekly chair yoga. “One of our classes runs at Care­choice nurs­ing home be­side our stu­dio and the age group here is usu­ally a lot older — run­ning into their 80s and it’s in­cred­i­ble the im­pact th­ese ses­sions have had from the feed­back we have re­ceived, in­clud­ing peo­ple with de­men­tia re­port­ing feel­ing good af­ter the class.”

With stay­ing so­cially con­nected also be­ing a highly recog­nised as­pect of age­ing well, as we all live longer, classes such as this can pro­vide some link with oth­ers, says Jane. “There can be a de­gree of iso­la­tion in mod­ern so­ci­ety as peo­ple may not be liv­ing in close prox­im­ity to fam­ily. We can find that neigh­bours might not even know each other and lives can be lived a lot more be­hind closed doors, but a sense of com­mu­nity can be cre­ated by go­ing to move­ment ses­sions like chair yoga.”

Some of the other ben­e­fits of chair yoga, she says, in­clude an in­creased con­fi­dence in do­ing your ev­ery­day tasks due to im­proved flex­i­bil­ity; bet­ter fo­cus — as you can tune into your breath and re­lax; in­creased strength and bal­ance — so that you can lower the risk of falls and in­jury, and adapt­abil­ity — as you can use a chair any­where you go.

“Be­ing able to pro­vide some­thing ac­ces­si­ble that ben­e­fits the body and mind can have a pro­foundly pos­i­tive ef­fect on our stu­dents,” she says.

“In par­tic­u­lar the chair yo­gis will tell you how they won’t miss their weekly class as they are feel­ing the pos­i­tive ef­fect on their sleep and their stress lev­els, they are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing fewer aches and a gen­eral well­be­ing over­all in their life.”

Check our Claire Os­borne at www.yo­gaand­move­ and Jane and Jo-Ann Nolan at www.ho­tyo­


is bet­ter to fail in orig­i­nal­ity than suc­ceed in im­i­ta­tion

Pic­ture: Moya Nolan

REACH FOR FLEX­I­BIL­ITY: Stu­dents tak­ing part in a chair yoga class at Hot Yoga Dublin.

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