What is Chair Yoga?
In Chair Yoga the traditional yoga poses are adapted to the chair with modifications to suit all body types. This means there is no getting up and down from the floor so wherever you are in terms of mobility, strength or fitness you are always able to participate.
Perhaps you are experiencing age, weight, balance, mobility or flexibility challenges. Those who may be experiencing and recovering from injury, or are living with disability, stroke, cancer, osteoporosis, scoliosis, arthritis, parkinson's, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis or diabetes will benefit profoundly. Chair yoga is wheelchair accessible. It can also be applied to workplace environments where sitting for long periods is common.
Chair yoga provides a platform to build strength, flexibility, mental clarity and peace of mind. Breathing and meditation techniques are also taught to support well-being and promote deep relaxation.
At Shakes Yoga our mission is to provide a diverse range of yoga to include the wider community. We believe that yoga is for everybody! It is our aim to offer accessible and inclusive yoga practices so that each individual can experience the many benefits of this ancient practice.
What are the Benefits?
Chair Yoga is a wonderful, inclusive, enjoyable physical activity, that has many benefits, our qualified teachers can modify positions for individuals or tailor entire classes depending upon requirements.
Chair Yoga has been shown to
improve core stability
develop lung capacity
promote mobility by improving flexibility & strength
reduce arthritis and regulate digestion
help promote feelings of well-being and overall stress reduction
We love using a chair to teach and educate because it is accessible to almost everyone. No matter if you can stand or not, if you can sit with or without support, or if you can run circles around a chair…. the most important thing is finding creative and different ways to move.
Our teachings continually reinforce the need for our bodies to move in different and variable ways. This keeps our minds and bodies healthy because we are challenging ourselves… and that’s healthy stimulation! As equally beneficial to the physical movement of Yoga is the approach to mindfulness and breathing. Many people living with chronic pain, or illness can suffer from anxiety, depression or mood imbalances. The benefits of mindfulness have been extensively proven to support and improve multiple aspects of the body and mind. Singing Bowls are used in each session, the healing sound vibrations help participants to relax more deeply and come into the present moment.
We have included further documents and links below which provide a more in depth look at the scientific evidence of the benefits of chair yoga. Scroll down to read more.
Who is Chair Yoga for?
Everybody welcome! From beginners to intermediate, as well as seasoned practitioners, these classes are suitable for all levels of practice. All classes/postures can be modified to suit varying levels of mobility, strength & mental faculty.
Prenatal & Postnatal students
Physical or Mental disability
All ages - kids to senior citizens
Our classes can be run in:
Corporate Offices & Workplaces
Aged Care Facilities
Yoga Studios & Fitness Centres
About Our Teachers
Meet the team at Shakes Yoga who are passionate about sharing the benefits of Chair Yoga with their community. All of our teachers are fully qualified and accredited instructors with Yoga Alliance International, with extensive experience in supporting those with disabilities, injuries, and cognitive challenges.
Donald Shakes has been teaching for over 10 years and began his yogic journey with chair yoga while recovering from an injury, he knows first-hand the potential of the practice. Donald (Lead Trainer) and Georgie Evans (Trainer and Program Manager) are Yoga Teacher Trainers, where Chair Yoga is part of the school curriculum, we are extremely passionate about making yoga accessible and beneficial for everybody.
If you are a yoga teacher and would like to expand your offerings to reach a broader community & discover more personalised ways to work with your current clients who may be experiencing & recovering from injury or illness, take a look at our Chair Yoga Teacher Training courses.
Research & Relevant Articles.
Making Mindfulness a Movement
article by Ian Bennett
Physical advantages of using a Chair:
Perform postures which are difficult to perform independently;
Achieve and maintain correct alignment during the practice; Bring more awareness to our everyday postures.
Stay longer and relax in challenging postures, in order to attain their full benefit and maintain mindfulness.
What is Mindfulness:
In the context of modern day research literature, mindfulness is generally defined as “nonjudgmental attention to experiences in the present moment.” (Kabat-Zinn, 1990, p.64). According to Tibetan Buddhist tradition, mindfulness is defined as the ability to maintain and focus attention on a single object at a time. This intense period of concentration and mental focus, otherwise known as mindfulness, is believed to be a precursor to attaining higher spiritual states (Mata, 2012).
According to modern day psychological research, mindfulness is typically something that is acquired through the implementation of specific practices including focused breathing, guided imagery, seated meditation and movement-based meditative exercises such as yoga or walking, (Siegel, 2007).
Wide range of benefits from mindfulness practice, also known as mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) among clinicians.
People have known for a very long time that meditation, or mindfulness, can help to enhance spiritual growth, and, that it can also help to improve wellbeing, by reducing anxiety and stress.
We now know that it can also help with short-term memory function, and a person’s ability to concentrate. It has been said that meditation is the key to calmness, clarity and concentration. And, while there is a long tradition of meditating cross-legged on the floor, this does not suit everyone. Chair meditation is now a widely-accepted alternative.
What is most interesting is that clinical research has begun to link mindfulness meditation with many other health benefits, such as managing depression and chronic pain. For example, it has been found that over an eight weeks course - and in some cases even less time - there are proven benefits.
Scientific American reports on recent studies that show that mindfulness meditation help patients let go of negative thoughts instead of obsessing over them.
Promising results have also come from research into the use of mindfulness in managing chronic pain. Research using magnetic resonance imaging can influence our sensory perception of pain, reducing the unpleasantness by about 50 percent. The research show that meditation engages multiple brain mechanisms that altered the pain experience.
In fact, we now know that the practice of meditation actually alters the brain itself and can make us more resilient, such as boosting our immune system.
The American Psychological Association has identified a number of areas where mindfulness meditation has positive empirical results, such as by reduced rumination, less emotional reactivity and more cognitive flexibility. It has been shown to enhance self-insight, morality intuition and fear modulation. These are all functions that are associated with the brain’s middle prefrontal lobe area, which is stimulated when we meditate.
The brain is much like a muscle. If you use it, and train it, it can help when it comes to mind over matter.
Chronic Pain & the Nervous System
by Kathryn Boland - Masters Degree in Dance/Movement Therapy at Lesley University
Breath is important in managing pain because it can help bring pain into perspective, mentally and physically. A good number of peer-reviewed, empirical psychological studies have verified that pain can seem worse when anxiety rises. In the “fight-or-flight” mode, the body is extra-sensitive to sensation—including pain—as a survival mechanism. Key to reducing anxiety is finding steady, deep breathing, because this activates the parasympathetic (“cool-down,” we might call it) part of the nervous system. Through such a process, chronic pain sufferers can learn to mindfully use their breath as a tool to ease what ails them.
Yoga can also help practitioners learn to release unnecessary tension, a main cause of chronic pain, through helping them to develop more efficient, anatomically informed movement patterns. That can take stress and strain off areas of the body that are crying out for mercy through pain. For example hunching of the shoulders and excessive tension in the neck can lead to chronic migraines.
A yoga instructor can notice this pattern and, through physical cueing and associated verbal instruction, help the student learn to release his/her shoulders down the back in those postures and throughout practice. With a mindful approach and consistent self-correction, the student might just be able to carry out that new shoulder positioning off the mat, in everyday life.
Muscle Memory & Conscious Movement
by Sarah Warren - Certified Clinical Somatic Educator and owner of Somatic Movement Centre.
The way that we habitually use our bodies—the way we sit, stand and move—is determined by our muscle memory. Contrary to what the term suggests, muscles have no memory of their own. The way that we automatically use our muscles is a result of a learning process that occurs in our nervous system.
We first learn new ways of standing and moving very slowly, and have to consciously think about every aspect of the posture or movement that we’re trying to do. But as we repeat the posture or movement over and over, the neural pathways controlling our muscles become stronger. We gradually become more accurate and efficient at the muscular pattern we’re learning, and soon we’ve learned it so well that we don’t have to consciously think about how to do it. The result of this learning process is known as muscle memory.