By Geeta Maraj
Yoga has become the universal word known as a pathway to good health and longevity. There are over 250 varieties of yoga, and as a result, there is accommodation to every health issue or limitation.
Chair yoga, came into existence as there are practitioners who are unable to sit on the floor or lie on the ground for medical reasons. Equally, chair yoga becomes beneficial to those who want to practice their stretches during their regular routine of the day, especially for those who have sedentary occupations.
Along with the importance of breathing correctly, yoga focuses on the health of the spine to keep the body relaxed and coordination balanced. One of the main exercises while sitting in a chair is to ensure that the spine is stretched and flexible. A healthy spine decreases tension and stress of the body. Chair yoga, therefore, becomes an easy way to accomplish a healthier body even when faced with limitations.
The way to stretch the spine is to first of all sit in a chair which is very upright. Ensure that the knees are bent at a 90° angle and that the feet are firmly on the ground. Stretching the spine to the right – you place your right arm behind chair in alignment with the spine and use your left hand to grab a hold of the right side of the chair, turning your body as far right as possible. Turn your head as far right to look over your right shoulder. Hold this position and breathe deep, even breaths. This is best achieved by counting how long it takes you to inhale and exhale to the same count.
To come out this position, you simply release the hold of the right arm from behind the chair and return to the front facing position. Then you repeat the same stretch on to the left side by placing the left arm behind the chair, hold the left side of the chair with the right hand, and turn your head to look over your left shoulder. Keep your breath balanced and even while holding this position for a few seconds. This left and right twisting of the spine can be repeated several times as is comfortable and necessary.
If the chair you sit in however is not upright, you can achieve the same benefit and stretch by simply sitting upright in the chair, ensuring the spine is very straight. In this case when twisting the spine the arm no longer reaches behind chair but the space between the body and chair, keeping the hand as close to the spine as possible.
Apart from twisting the spine to the right and left, it is important to balance the twist with a forward and backward bend of the spine. This is achieved by sitting upright in your chair ensuring your feet are firmly on the ground and your knees are bent at a 90° angle. Place both hands on your knees and tuck your chin in to your chest as you roll your spine in a forward curve – hold the forward bend and breathe deep even breaths. In order to come out of this position, simply uncurl the spine and return to the upright position.
Backward bend of the spine is achieved by holding onto your knee with your hands from the same seated position, then push your chest forward while spreading your shoulders backward, as you look up to the ceiling. This ensures a backward curve of the spine. Again, hold the position while breathing deep even breaths. To come out of this position, simply relax the chest to the upright position. This forward and backward bending of the spine caters to flexibility of the spine and equally triggers the release of endorphins into the bloodstream, making the body feel happy and more relaxed. For this reason, this exact stretching of the spine is also beneficial to those suffering from depression and anxiety.
Shoulder drops are also another exercise that can be practiced while sitting in a chair to reduce stress from the body. To do this exercise simply sit upright in your chair and breathe in through your nostrils while pulling the shoulders up towards the ears – squeezing them as tightly as possible onto the sides of the neck. Hold your breath while squeezing your shoulders to your neck. Then to release, exhale through your mouth with an outburst of your breath, while at the same time, dropping your shoulders with a force back to the regular position.
By simply paying attention to the breath and keeping the spine flexible and healthy, this enhances many benefits to the body and mind. Flexibility of the spine, in conjunction with the breath, equally allows for a balanced gait. By having a balanced body, one is less inclined to stumble or become off balanced easily when walking or climbing stairs. This in itself can be extremely beneficial toward preventing breakages from falls, especially for seniors.