Mind and Body Benefits
Chair yoga, one of the most gentle forms of exercise, is practiced while seated or standing and using a chair for support. It provides numerous health benefits including boosting immunity, something we all value greatly during this pandemic. Backing this claim, new research published in the International Journal of Advanced Research in Microbiology and Immunology found that certain yogic breathing practices and movements strengthen one’s thymus, promote blood circulation, and allow for greater oxygen flow to the lungs, thus promoting immunity against seasonal diseases. Another compelling study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society revealed that chair yoga leads to a significant reduction in overall osteoarthritis-associated pain while reducing fatigue and improving gait speed during each session, exemplifying that chair yoga’s benefits reach every aspect of whole-body health.
The anxiety and uncertainty induced by the COVID-19 pandemic can start to take a toll on our mental and physical health. Many have turned to chair yoga as a solution. As certified yoga instructor Jessica Rosenberg in Minneapolis, Minnesota, explained, “humans are hardwired to be in a negative place of fear,” and this response has only been amplified because of the current, unfortunate, state of the world. Through chair yoga, you have the opportunity to reprogram that negativity from your mind. Remember that every time you take a deep breath and pause for a moment, that is yoga. It truly is as simple as that. Slowly integrating a few minutes of yoga into your daily routine will not only improve your physical strength but as recently reviewed by Harvard Medical School, it can even alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. These benefits hold immense value especially considering the circumstances we all face today.
Yes, Chair Yoga Really Is For Anyone
Created in 1982 to empower those with limited mobility, chair yoga is a practice that can be performed by those of any age or ability. Attracted to its accessibility, Rosenberg was first encouraged to learn and teach the practice when her mother was diagnosed with an illness that limited her mobility. She found that chair yoga allowed her mother to continue living an active lifestyle despite her diagnosis. Rosenberg enthusiastically shares that one of her current chair yoga students is 108 years old, proving that it is never too late to take up this gentle exercise.
Your Yoga Journey Is Just A Click Away
The accessible nature of chair yoga shines through in the ease to access it online. Some digital platforms provide a wide range of content allowing you to practice chair yoga from anywhere in the world. “Yoga with Kassandra” is a YouTube channel that features a variety of chair yoga workouts that can be viewed from any device. Another great resource is an affordable online fitness program called Cardiomelon that pairs cognitive thinking tasks with cardiovascular workouts and yoga to strengthen neural networks and promote healthy aging. Understanding the health benefits of chair yoga, Cardiomelon CEO Alison Weinlaeder worked with Rosenberg to create gentle yoga workouts that combine both thinking and movement exercises to stimulate the mind and body in a way no other fitness platform has done before.
Ditch “I’ll Start Tomorrow”
With the internet, there is no reason why we should not start taking care of our mental and physical health today. Step into your newfound resiliency and start dedicating just a few minutes every day to practice yoga. Whether you are taking a few minutes to practice mindfulness and meditation while on your lunch break, waiting at a red light and find yourself taking a few deep breaths, or sitting in your living room attempting one of Cardiomelon’s or Yoga with Kassandra’s chair yoga workouts, you are taking initiative to ultimately transform your life for the better, both in the present and future, all from the seat of your chair.
Praniti Agarwal and Eva Hendrikson are both second-year students at Middlebury College. This article was written as part of my January term learning experience focused on the health benefits of chair yoga and how it promotes healthy aging.