Developing a Chair Yoga Class

Tracey Kelley
senior women yoga class with chairs

Yoga is always performed at the pace of the individual, but if you're developing a chair yoga class, there are even more factors to consider.

Who Benefits from Chair Yoga?

One major positive aspect of developing a chair yoga class is to further the meaning of yoga, which is to unite. For individuals who don't resemble the pose featured on the cover of a yoga magazine, much less have the ability to jump from Plank Pose into Downward Facing Dog Pose, using a stable prop keeps them in motion. This increases active participation and builds a stronger sense of wellness.

Current yoga instructors can use chairs for class members as easily as bolsters and blocks. Posture modifications designed for off the mat will still provide the same benefits to the body, and your students will appreciate the opportunity to perform yoga at a level better suited for them.

If you work with specialized clientele, you should be able to customize routines for their activity level. For those leading exercise programs in physical therapy, senior centers and senior living centers, and visiting home care, developing a chair yoga class increases flexibility and provides greater accessibility to a broader range of body movement. Many people may be experiencing yoga for the first time, or are including it as part of overall rehabilitation. Others may use a wheelchair for primary mobility and need additional exercise options.

Possible Routines for Chair Yoga

Here are some general conditions common with chair yoga practitioners and postures you can use with them - or must avoid.

Arthritis

The intent here is to ease joint pain and pressure. Have the individual perform small, gradual backbends that open the chest. Use leg-strengthening poses to decrease knee pain. Shoulder and wrist rolls are helpful, too. Also try using two chairs for a modified Child's Pose. The individual sits with legs at a 90-degree angle, then extends the arms and bends from the hip toward the other chair. Head and neck stay loose, and he or she reaches as far as possible toward the back of the second chair without straining the lower back.

Back and Neck Pain

Chair Pose is a good option, as is a modification of Seated Spinal Twist. Extensions and twists should be very gentle. With two chairs and a yoga strap, try some leg extension poses, too, to elongate the hamstrings and reduce strain in the back.

Breathing Issues

Whether an individual with a lung condition such as emphysema or someone with a disability, chair yoga is helpful by encouraging the person to focus more on building lung capacity. A modified Camel Pose, depending on mobility, is great for opening the chest, and gentle side-twisting poses might work, too. Mountain Yoga Pose with arms overhead can be performed by those who can stand for a period of time, or have the ability to hold their arms up from their chair.

Chronic Pain

Chronic pain sufferers can often perform many different yoga positions. However, have a consultation first to make sure you understand the source of the pain, and modify positions in this area accordingly. Yoga increases circulation and reduces inflammation, and many people may feel their symptoms are reduced with regular activity.

Osteoporosis

Backbends that strengthen the neck and spine and open the chest work well. Avoid forward bends.

Consult a physician before developing chair yoga routines for other individuals, such as those who suffer from scoliosis or multiple sclerosis.

Resources for Developing a Chair Yoga Class

There are some instructors you can study with to become certified in chair yoga techniques. This list includes a couple of helpful chair yoga DVDs, too.

  • Lakshmi Voelker-Binder is a yoga therapist and a leader in the practice of chair yoga. Her website lists certified teachers and outlines her certification class schedule.
  • Another instructor who certifies individuals in chair yoga is Liz Franklin. Creator of Yoga in Chairs, she offers various instructional classes involving conditions such as multiple sclerosis and arthritis.

John Schlorholtz has a two-disc DVD set called Ageless Yoga. It features a wide variety of routine lengths that may help you structure segments.

  • Depending on the members of the class, you may want some movement variations. Bob Klein has merged yoga with additional exercise in Zookinesis.
Was this page useful?
Developing a Chair Yoga Class