When you picture people practicing yoga, do you imagine impossibly supple, young people bent into all sorts of shapes no human should be able to get themselves into?
It is common to spend hours upon hours on your chair at your desk doing your job, especially with the popularity of the computer. The time just slips by as your body fills with stress and fatigue. Only when you finally get up to get something to eat, to go to the bathroom, or to attend a meeting, do you realize that your body has become a tight rubber band and your mind is dull. If, every few hours, you do the spinal movements and focus on our inhaling and exhaling breathe for just a few minutes, your body/mind stays alert and flexible.
While in the office you can incorporate chair yoga poses throughout the day without anyone even noticing. A few simple spinal movements, a lower back circle, facial and eye movements, wrist and ankle rotations, deep breathing techniques–replacing things like coffee and sugar. Production goes up, self-esteem goes up, and weight goes down. (Chair yoga at the office has positive effects on carpal-tunnel syndrome.) All this benefits you and you will feel so much better. VCU HR provides twice monthly Chair Yoga classes and chair yoga videos available on demand.
Many places do not have the floor space for mats, but most places have space for chairs. You can create an intimate circle, or space chairs out if you have more room and want to do sweeping arm movements.
Everybody has one or has access to one. Alternatively, you could use that nearby park bench or low concrete wall. Easy access to a chair removes a barrier to yoga practice. No more “the dog ate my yoga mat” excuses!
That includes a lot of people. A surprising number of seemingly able-bodied people who I come across greet me with lots of nervousness until I reassure them they will not be on the floor. People have all sorts of body issues that you may never know about. Somehow, a chair is an equalizer for them.
There’s no downside; fit people can still “feel good” from the slow movement. Non-fit people – or perhaps folks who are a little disconnected from their bodies – usually can give themselves permission to try something as non-threatening as sitting in a chair.
You can sit on it. You can stand and use it to help you balance, or put your foot on it for some hip work. If you like the pose Balancing Half Moon but struggle with it, try using a chair instead of blocks. It’s a beautiful and freeing thing. The idea is to find steadiness and ease in every pose.
Sit at the very front of your chair with your feet hip width apart and firmly planted on the floor to challenge your posture. Do this for 15 minutes each day, and see how your posture and your breathing will improve.
They bring their own chairs and love being part of the group and participating just like everyone else is. Normalizing is good.
Some of us need all the help we can get. It is hard to hurt yourself when you slow down. Often, it is harder to move mindfully when we are trying to move slowly. We feel more. But that’s the idea: to feel more, physically and mentally, and to notice what’s going on internally.
There’s no pretention here; just you and the chair. It is okay to balance with both feet on the floor. Humbleness is good. Neither chairs nor yoga have the corner on the market when it comes to relaxation. There are many ways to practice, relax and meditate. However, if you have never tried yoga, chair yoga is a great way to start.
Yes, this really is yoga, and no, you do not have to stand on your head or be flexible to practice. That prevailing image folks have in their heads about yoga intimidates many people. Historically, yoga was almost entirely non-posture based, as is evidenced by Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 1.2″Yogas citta vritti nirodhah,” meaning “Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.” Yoga originated as meditation practice.
Chair yoga (and yoga in general, really) includes breath work, which can help people not only with stress management but also for coping and managing pain. Through meditation and paying attention to your breath, you can help your body and mind to cope with the pain of an illness or condition you may suffer with.
April 10th - 12 noon - Cary Street Gym April 24 - 12 noon - Larrick Center
You can sign up for these classes at training.vcu.edu
Chair Yoga Videos are provided (on demand – you can access anytime!) – these can be found at ramstrong.vcu.edu