There are many chair yoga poses people with limited mobility can do. Age doesn’t have to be the only factor either, a lot of people find chair yoga very useful for recovery and increasing range of motion.
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Chair yoga exercises offer health and social benefits for older adults
Dee Hocking of Sun Prairie has battled cancer three times. She also suffered a stroke that left her right side paralyzed.
But you’d never know by watching her move and stretch her way through 45 minutes of activity on a recent Tuesday morning at the St. Patrick Catholic Church parish center in Cottage Grove.
Hocking, 71 in March, is part of a group of older adults who meet regularly at the church for chair yoga, offered by the Parish Nurse program of St. Mary’s Hospital.
“I had a bad limp and my right arm was limited,” said Hocking, a retired production supervisor for Oscar Mayer. The weekly class, she said, helped her regain the ability to lift her arm to shoulder height and higher.
“I started chair yoga and my right arm came back,” she said. “It was shaking, but I got it up there.”
Continued exercises in the chair yoga group have meant even more improvement. “It was pure murder to raise (my right arm) high. Now I easily lift it above my head,” she said. “I noticed I could walk without a limp.”
Hocking’s story is one of many shared by participants in the program led by Meg Miller, a yoga teacher certified through Feel Your Best Yoga in Grafton.
“More than any other population, they really do experience the benefits so much,” Miller said.
The Tuesday morning clientele at St. Patrick Church is mostly people in their 70s. There also are 80-year-olds and even two or three regulars in their 90s, including Norma Sainsbury, 90, and Ann DiPiazza, 93.
“The exercise is good for us,” Sainsbury said. “It loosens up the muscles.”
DiPiazza noted the program can have other health benefits, too. “I had my blood pressure tested before and again after — and it was much lower,” she said happily.
On hand to perform blood-pressure tests and otherwise monitor participants’ health is Peggy Weber, the parish nurse at St. Patrick. Weber was responsible for setting up the chair yoga program after talking to Miller, 39, who led an exercise class Weber attended. Miller offers on-site yoga with a charitable spin (benefiting local food pantries, for example) through her business, Yoga for Good.
Chair yoga at St. Patrick Church is one of several Madison-area offerings provided through St. Mary’s Parish Nurse program. The class, free for participants, is part of a broader “Stepping On” program at St. Mary’s designed to help seniors avoid falls and improve their overall health.
The St. Patrick class spearheaded by Weber, a registered nurse, has been well-received, with growing attendance and new five-week sessions added several times already.
“I told Peggy, ‘I think you’re sent from heaven,’” said John LaBine, 71, who finds chair yoga a great way to help battle his Type 2 diabetes. She’s “making a big difference in everybody’s life.”
The Rev. John Sasse, pastor of St. Patrick Church, said the exercise program means more than just physical benefits for participants.
“When the body feels bad, it’s tough to feel spiritually good,” he said. “As they regain physical security, they feel better spiritually as well.”
He also noted the sense of fellowship the class brings to people who otherwise might feel isolated.
A recent session began by wishing happy birthday to Alice Mellin of Cottage Grove.
“I’m not going to ask you how old you are,” Weber called out.
“I don’t care if you do,” Mellin replied. “8-0!”
Miller then proceeded to lead the group of about 20 participants (as many as 35 show up regularly) through breathing exercises, neck movements and arm rolls in their chairs.
“Stay where you’re comfortable,” she said, coaching them to “give yourself a great big hug.”
“How many people have seen an improvement in their range of motion?” Miller asked, and heads nodded. “I see a huge improvement — it’s amazing!”
Participants then stood up for a series of light exercises, using their chairs for support. Focus was on core strength and maintaining balance.
“We’re not just learning to physically balance, we’re learning to mentally balance,” Miller said.
She encouraged her students to remember the exercises and practice them at home for even better results. “You could do this at your kitchen counter while you’re doing dishes,” she said.
Feeling more physically fit will help these older individuals in many ways, Miller said.
It can improve their self-esteem and make them more confident in their movements, which is especially important in winter when fear of falling on icy surfaces is much more real for them.
“It’s mind-body for sure,” Miller said.
Then she added: “And they get such a kick out of telling their kids they’re doing yoga.”
Health and well being can be greatly increased with yoga. Chair yoga is just another great way to find a way to participate and increase your health.
If you’re looking for some great chair yoga then you might like this yoga video. Very helpful information and some great techniques for doing yoga poses in the chair.
Be sure to post this to your Facebook page so everyone you know can benefit from yoga.
Stronger Seniors Chair Yoga Program - Experience the amazing practice of Yoga without getting on the floor. Improve flexibility, mobility, strength, proper breathing, and overall sense of well-being. Excellent for relaxation and better sleep.