How to target the 6 common imbalances Chair Based Yoga students face.
Students that are usually attracted to chair based yoga classes are affected by illness and injury that makes getting to the floor harder. Getting to the floor though is not the only limitation they face. Some of the additional common imbalances are explored below. The practices that target these conditions should aim to increase awareness and bring balance.
Kyphosis is the abnomal rounding of the upper back. Lifestyle and inactivity can be the cause.
Yoga for kyphosis should target stretching front shoulder muscles and strengthening the upper back and abdominal muscles.
Incorporating practices such as shoulder rolls and cactus hands in chair yoga is useful for targeting kyphosis.
Scoliosis is the lateral bend of the spine.
It can be challenging to target scoliosis in a general chair yoga class as students experience scoliosis at different degrees and directions.
The concave side muscles in scoliosis are tight and the convex are weak. Asymmetric asana that targets these imbalances practiced on one side is recommended.
Students with scoliosis must be encouraged to move with integrity, therefore initially asked to practice mountain pose and maintain it throughout the practice.
Backbends are contraindicated in general, even the gentlest kind; mobilising the spine with seated cat-cow is a safer alternative.
Osteoporosis is the thinning of the bones, due to old age, illness or medication.
Many biochemical processes exist in the body for maintaining calcium balance. When that is disturbed, calcium leaks out of the bones to restore it. When the balance is affected long term the bones thin and are prone to fractures.
The problem with osteoporosis is bone fractures, which happen after a fall. In some cases in fact it is reported that bone fractures are the cause of a fall and many people are often diagnosed with osteoporosis after a fall.
Practices that target osteoporosis are those that improve balance and standing strength, as well as improve confidence after falling. These practices, when done with the support of chair can improve balance and even, with consistent practice reverse the effects of osteoporosis.
Forward bends and twists much be practiced with great care.
Osteoarthritis is a general term that refers to the degeneration of the joints. This subsequently causes stiffness and reduced range of motion.
Osteoarthritis develops over time, but movement can delay the disease progression.
In general we want to promote circulation and healing in the arthritic joints and that can be achieved with the practice of yoga.
Small, dynamic practices such as pawanmuktasana, the joint freeing series, are favoured, while “loading” injured joints is not.
5. DEMENTIA AND ALZHEIMERS
Dementia and alzheimers are the names used for the collective symptoms of memory loss and loss of logical thinking. It mostly affects the elderly and it is a terminal condition. 1 in 3 people born in the UK this year will develop dementia in their lifetime.
Dementia symptoms will get worse over time. People who have been diagnosed with dementia will struggle to function; get dressed, eat and generally struggle to remain independent.
Yoga that targets dementia, targets focus and concentration as well as hand to eye coordination and finger mobility.
Practices should focus at creating interaction and a social opportunity, promoting hand and finger mobility for independence and improving focus.
The Love-to-Move program by the British Gymnastics has a great range of activities that can be adapted to a chair based yoga practice.
6. PARKINSON’S & MS
Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis are diseases that affect the central nervous system. This in turn affects moving, sleeping, feeling and talking.
People lose feeling of their extremities, (hands and feet), balance and walking is affected and their balance is poor.
Yoga that targets these conditions should aim to work on improving balance, hand to eye coordination and improved awareness. Both conditions benefit from meditation deeply.
ALL CHAIR BASED YOGA PRACTICES must:
- Aim to increase physical awareness.
- Move mindfully, focusing on maintaining “neutral spine” during the practice.
- Avoid long holds and favour dynamic movement lead by the breath.
- Practice forward bends and twists with great caution and integrity.
- Avoid unsupported inversions at all costs.
- Practice balance and standing asana to improve balance and strength.
- Offer support not just with the chair but also other props such as blankets, straps and blocks.
- Create opportunity for people to reflect, chat and socialise. Finally
- Include pranayama and focus practices.