If you think you have to be as flexible as a noodle to practice yoga, think again. Yoga is a possibility for anyone – and it’s been shown to improve overall health when practiced regularly. For seniors, stretching and yoga can help minimize blood pressure, strengthen bones, improve balance, and reduce stress. Plus, it’s easily modified for different levels of ability. One example is chair yoga, a more moderate form of yoga you can practice just about anywhere – as long as you have a chair handy! Read on to learn about four different chair yoga poses that anyone can try, anytime.
It seems rather simple, but first, focus on your breathing. One of the most important parts of practicing yoga is coherent breathing. Coherent breathing helps us get in tune with how our breathing methods affect our mood and heart rate. Start the exercise by counting to two as you inhale through your nose. Now pause, and then exhale from your mouth to the count of two. With more practice, you can work up to longer breaths. Just make sure you’re inhaling and exhaling for the same amount of time. As you’re breathing, gradually straighten your spine and place your hands on your stomach. After five minutes, open your eyes, take your hands off your stomach, and rest in your chair.
Start by doing this for five minutes a day, and work your way up! You’ll be surprised at how this simple breathing exercise can start your yoga journey off on the right foot.
Seated Mountain Pose
Once we’ve got the whole breathing thing down, we can move on to the Seated Mountain Pose. Mountain pose is sometimes called "samasthiti," otherwise known as equal standing. Most of the time, this pose is practiced at the beginning of a class or between poses as a way to reset and balance the body. Start by slowly scooting to the front of the chair while keeping your spine straight and feet on the floor. Keep your ankles directly under your knees, and let your hands rest on your knees. Once you’re in the proper position, lift your chest and try to push your lower body into the chair. Keep your chin up and focus on something across the room. Hold this pose for a minute or two, and continue to focus on your breathing.
As we get older, we tend to hunch when we sit for long periods of time. An overhead stretch can help elongate the spine and combat bad posture. While staying seated, move to the middle of the chair. Take a deep breath through your nose and raise both arms above your head. As you exhale, lower both arms together in front of you, keeping your palms facing up. Repeat this process a few times, centering your mind on raising and lowering your arms with your breathing. Reach a bit higher each time you lift your arms above your head. Extend out through your fingertips and focus on elongating your muscles.
When we get stressed, we often feel it in our upper back and neck. You can combat neck tension with a simple neck stretch. Slide to the front half of your chair and make sure your feet are flat on the floor. Take your right hand and reach over your head while breathing in. Grab the left side of your head and gently pull your head to the side, toward your right shoulder, while exhaling. If you feel any pain, do not continue this stretch. Try to keep your spine as straight as you can. Hold this position for a few seconds while focusing on your breathing. Repeat on the other side, raising your left hand, grabbing the right side of your head, and stretching your neck to the left side.
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