BY: TRISHA CURLING
Yoga can appear to be quite intimidating, especially if we think that the only way to practice is if we are already “in shape for it”, already have “the right body for it” or if we are “the proper age for it”. It’s true, some factors may be limiting us from performing yoga and/or certain forms of exercise, but some of the smallest most gentle movements can help us to find our way back to more mobility and possibly less pain. As our society and its’ demands continue to evolve, so can our yoga practice to provide exactly what we need as individuals.
Chair yoga is one of those ways that a yoga practice has evolved. It may not sound very traditional, but if we take a certain perspective about it, we still have the ability to use a prop to guide us safely into some poses that can be done right in the middle of a stressful workday, or at home in a more restorative sense.
If you are sitting and/or are inactive for most of your day due to work responsibilities, it may be difficult to take some time out to get the necessary stretch or even strength move in when you need it, but chair yoga provides you this space to get it done. Frequent sitting and possible stress can be triggers for pain and tension in some parts of our bodies. We can experience these tensions in our neck, shoulders, back and even legs. These things can lead to less or very minimal mobility in these areas in the long run. Doing things like a few stretches or rotations in the neck, coupled with some calm deep breathing can help to increase blood flow and help to maintain or increase mobility in these areas. If you have even just a couple of minutes at your desk, try coming to the edge of your seat in order to bring more postural awareness. Engage the muscles in your core (hug in around your waist as if hugging the organs around your spine to feel engagement in your deeper abdominal muscles, your back, and pelvic floor). Comfortably place both feet on the ground and try turning your head from side to side (like saying no) and forward and back (like saying yes). Draw full circles in both directions. These simple stretches don’t have to take very long, but they might help to break the pattern of poor alignment throughout your day.
Chair yoga is good to practice if you have a “desk job”. Consider practicing this form of yoga if you have an injury that does not allow you to perhaps bend at your knees, or if you simply cannot stand for very long, or not at all. This is the reality for some, but it does not mean that certain movements cannot be performed. I’ve done speaking engagements where this was the reality for many in the audience. Some were elderly and were eager to begin performing some yoga poses, but were fearful of having to go very low to the floor and not be able to get back up without extreme pain. In these scenarios, this is a very real option.
We can very often get caught up in telling ourselves “stories” that we do not have enough time, we are not capable for various reasons. The truth is, here is another accessible way to keep our bodies healthy and functioning in a way that makes us feel good and allows us to check in with ourselves in a pleasing and mindful way.