Inspiration Through Mindful Chair Yoga
by Jeanne & John Adams Owners/Directors of Inner Connections Yoga & Wellness
Asanasthah sukham hride nimajjati
One who is established in a comfortable posture while concentrating on the inner Self, naturally becomes immersed in the Heart’s Ocean of bliss.
– Siva Sutras III, 16 (translation by Mukunda Stiles)
One by one, students enter the room. Sometimes they enter with a friend, neighbor, or a family member who is also taking the class. They exchange simple pleasantries and then find their seats.
Mindful Chair Yoga invites people to discover and reconnect to the Heart’s Ocean of Bliss through the 8 limbs of yoga, guided breath-based movement, and connection to various aspects of mindfulness throughout the class. Once you begin practicing Mindful Chair Yoga, you start to feel a sense of ease and relaxation flow through your body. Over time, you notice the tension that once overtook your muscles and joints begins to release, and basic tasks of daily life are once again possible.
Chair yoga helps you feel stronger and offers mindfulness as an inherent part of a yoga practice that flows into your life. Focusing on movement, breathing, and on the body’s response to movement creates a moving meditation that promotes relaxation, reduces stress, and improves mental clarity. Like other forms of movement, Mindful Chair Yoga helps improve mood and confidence and relieve anxiety and depression.
Mindful Chair Yoga is a healing practice that is accessible and fun. It can be as challenging as a more traditional yoga class and is a great option for people with physical limitations such as multiple sclerosis, cardiovascular disease, and pulmonary disease. Healthy movement at any level and for anyone facing a health challenge keeps you motivated and provides a feeling of accomplishment. People of all ages who want to try something new can also benefit from it. Whether you are injured, lack mobility or flexibility, have been diagnosed with a chronic disease, overcoming an illness, are pregnant, use a wheelchair, or find yourself seated for more hours than you care to count, Chair Yoga improves your health and well- being. Yogis often quip, “If you can breathe, you can do yoga!”
Pranayama (breathwork) plays a powerful role in reducing stress, reinvigorating energy, and strengthening concentration. Scientific research is showing that mindful breathing—paying attention to your breath and learning how to direct it—is one of the most effective ways to lower everyday stress levels and improve a variety of health factors ranging from mood to metabolism. According to one of our teachers, Rolf Sovik, “The goal is to shape automatic breathing so that it flows optimally—in a deep, smooth, and effortless rhythm.” By bringing awareness to the breath, you learn to reverse stressful breathing patterns and relax tense nerves, clearing the way to quiet the mind.
Linking breath with movement invites you to connect more deeply with your anatomy and physiology. In yoga breathing, we often inhale during expansive movements and exhale during contractive movements.
This follows the same pattern of expansion and contraction of your respiratory diaphragm and lungs as you breathe. Hence, the pattern of breathing in yoga follows the same pattern as your body. The result is that you connect with yourself on yet another level in your yoga practice.
Once the qualities of breath are established in your practice, you utilize the flow of pranayama to connect body and mind. Breath is the vehicle that links the body to the mind and creates the synergy to connect to a state of peace, calm, and relaxation. By consciously connecting breath to movement, the mind becomes quiet and free from unsettledness.
Chair yoga helps reduce pain. When we move in a healthy way, it prompts the body to release natural painkillers like endorphins. Chair Yoga can help people with chronic pain by improving flexibility, reducing inflammation, and helping them cope with their pain mentally. For example, establishing a deep slow flow of breath and visualizing the pain leaving the body on each exhalation can be applied outside of the class to cope with pain and discomfort.
When you practice Chair Yoga you sleep better. Mindful movements have been known to create a more positive outlook on life, which in turn reduces stress and headaches and improves sleep – creating a mind-body experience- and connects us to the inner Self. You can also use pranayama techniques to help you rest more comfortably and to fall asleep.
There are many other benefits experienced when using a chair for seated and standing balancing yoga poses, such as increased circulation, feelings of well-being, and decreases in blood pressure, anxiety, inflammation, and chronic pain. Students often report improved mobility, reduced pain, greater flexibility, and increased happiness and peace as they feel more comfortable in their body, mind, and spirit through the practice of Chair Yoga.
Throughout Mindful Chair Yoga classes, we emphasize the practices of mindfulness, encompassing intention, attention, awareness, acceptance, being present, and letting go of what does not serve you. To live mindfully is to live in the moment and reawaken oneself to the present moment, rather than dwelling on the past or anticipating the future. To be mindful is to observe and label thoughts, feelings, and sensations in the body in an objective and non-attached manner. Mindfulness is a tool to help you let go of self-criticism, judgment, and analysis and replace them with curiosity, kindness, and compassion.
Once meditation arrives at the end of practice, you have applied Patanjali’s 8 limbs of yoga, practiced animating the body with breath, and implemented mindfulness – all to immerse in the Heart’s Ocean of Bliss. Mindful Chair Yoga students leave the room changed; they describe themselves as feeling more peaceful, connected, grounded, open, and aware.
Explore the benefits of yoga for all with Jeanne and John in person this April! Passes available now.