Many of the same physical and emotional benefits of a regular practice of postures and breathing exercises can also be found in the practice of Chair Yoga. If you are Yoga student who is living with a chronic health condition that necessitates the use of props in order to safely practice asanas, by participating in chair classes, you will gain many of the benefits of a traditional class, while still maintaining your safety. If you are teacher, offering Chair Yoga classes to those students who need to practice a modified set of postures with the support of a chair will greatly increase your marketability and adaptability in a variety of different teaching environments.
There are many different populations of students who can benefit enormously from a practice of Chair Yoga. Some of the specialized groups of students who benefit from a supported practice include older students, students who are recovering from head injuries, students who are healing from surgical procedures, and students who may be living with long-term, chronic diseases that affect their balance, coordination and their ability to stand for extended periods of time. Additionally, larger students may need the assistance of a chair when they first begin practicing, in order to allow them to safely engage in a Yoga practice in a way that works for their own bodies.
One of the primary underlying intentions of offering Chair Yoga classes, is to include groups of students who may not otherwise be able to engage in a regular practice safely or comfortably. If you are an avid Yoga practitioner, you are well aware of how beneficial a regular practice of Yoga is for you, both physically and emotionally. By offering chair classes to specialized groups of students, who would not otherwise be able to engage in a traditional practice of postures, you also offer them the opportunity to experience the same benefits. The inclusion of non-traditional Yoga students into the practice, through the use of chairs and other props, will help to further expand the life-enhancing and energizing effects of Yoga, both on individual students and on the community at large.
Imagine for a moment that you have recently sustained a serious concussion from a car accident. Usually, you would go to your local Yoga studio several times a week to take a multi-level class. However, because of the difficulty you are having with balance and coordination since your accident, you are reticent to take your usual class. In this situation, if your teacher was adept at offering modified Chair Yoga postures, you would most likely feel much more comfortable attending your usual class. Furthermore, by maintaining a regular practice of asanas and pranayama exercises during the healing process, you will facilitate a greater sense of well-being, health and the continuing inclusion into the Yoga community. The same sense of safety and inclusion is, of course, just as beneficial for other groups of special consideration students, who made need to engage in a modified practice for a wide variety of reasons.
If you are Yoga teacher, by developing your ability to teach Chair Yoga classes you also make yourself more marketable. By enhancing your teaching skills with the knowledge of how to lead a group of special consideration students through a safe and effective modified chair class, you will be able to offer classes to a variety of non-traditional students in a wide diversity of environments, including hospitals, senior centers and specialized cancer recovery programs. In a complementary manner, if you are teaching a multi-level class and you find that a number of students would benefit substantially by using a chair during the practice of some of the more challenging postures, by sensitively and appropriately offering modified Chair Yoga poses to those students, you will improve their overall safety level and enjoyment of your Yoga classes.
Virginia Iversen, M.Ed, has been practicing and studying the art of Yoga for over twenty years. She lives in Woodstock, New York, where she works as a writer and an academic support specialist. She is currently accepting Yoga and health-related writing orders and may be contacted at: [email protected].