Finding a careful balance

Chair yoga is an adaptive take on traditional yoga, helping people improve mobility, achieve clarity of mind, and relax

Yoga instructor Monica Cummins (centre

Yoga, the word invokes images of sleek bodies in varying poses, yoga mats, and of course a yogi encouraging balance, and promoting flexibility. Traditional yoga involves the mind and the ability to use the body as a tool to create improved health, emotional well-being, and enhanced clarity.

There is an adaptive method that allows people who are just starting out, or have limited mobility to access the benefits of yoga, using a more gentle approach.

Chair yoga. What is that, one might ask?

This adaptive method has been around for quite some time, and offers an alternative and unique style of yoga that uses a chair instead of a yoga mat.

The chair acts as an extension of the body, as yoga positions are adapted to the use of the chair. The student can safely warm up the body, and practice poses with increased support and stability.

The Recreation Centre in Hope has offered chair yoga for many years, according to assistant manager Mandy Arbuckle.

“The poses practiced in chair yoga are often adaptations of Hatha yoga poses,” she said.

Hatha yoga’s earliest known beginnings date back to the eighth century. The word “Hatha” comes from “Ha” which means sun, and “Tha” which means moon.

Chair yoga is an option for people that want to try a more gentle approach and might be struggling with limited mobility, strength, flexibility or injury. Age can be a factor, sedentary lifestyle, or unused muscles are all reasons for utilizing the enhanced benefits of a chair. This type of yoga can be a starting off point for people until they’ve achieved more knowledge about the practice, strength and flexibility.

The aided discipline might be a consideration for people who are suffering from physical disabilities, or coping with arthritis, diabetes, pre-diabetes, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, or scoliosis to name a few.

Chair yoga addresses issues and habitual patterns such as poor posture, tight muscles, crunched neck, wrist issues (carpel tunnel), disc injuries, osteopenia (low bone mass), obesity, and lung disease. By creating new muscle memory the student can shed bad habits, while instilling new ones, and relieving symptoms of old injuries.

“Chair yoga has been a popular class among residents of Hope and those in the surrounding areas for many years,” said Arbuckle. “The Recreation Centre has been fortunate to have had some great instructors who have led this class and contributed to its long standing success.” Yoga posturing allows for a greater blood flow to the body, and with implementation of breathing exercises, helps create a greater sense of overall well-being.

“Chair yoga is typically well attended by the senior population, however, people of all ages can benefit from this class,” said Arbuckle. “This class can be a great option for those who are just getting back to the gym or starting a new fitness plan after a period away.”

Monica Cummins, the Recreation Centre’s present chair yoga instructor, brings a variety of experience to the class as a registered yoga teacher (RYT) with Yoga Alliance.

“I enjoy teaching chair yoga, as I feel the benefits of yoga as a technique to optimize health on all levels, should be available to anyone and everyone, regardless of age, fitness level, or injuries.  The greatest feeling is when you see improvement in a student’s mobility, stress level,  or mindset,” she said.