More Than Asana

A CE workshop with Yoga Alliance

In August 2021 I was invited to deliver a workshop for Yoga Alliance (US), titled more than Asasa.
My intention was to demonstrate how the practices of chair based yoga promote community, independence and provide tools for managing chronic and age related conditions.

As the owner and founder of Yuva Yoga, I specialise in Chair Based Yoga.
I have been teaching this for 4 years to older adults and people with Multiple sclerosis.
I have also been dealing with chronic disease myself. I was diagnosed with systemic Lupus in 2004, which within 10 years, resulted in kidney failure. In 2014 I received a transplant and returned back to full health and a mission to enable others to cope with their condition through the practices of yoga.
Chair based yoga is one of those practices that allows me to be of service to my students and have a positive impact in their lives.

maria jones chair yoga
The dog is a shih tzu called Cody

While dealing with my own health issues and of course while teaching I realised that there is a lot more to yoga than asana: Pranayama, meditation, ethos and values; even Karma yoga and giving forward.

But how about the way we feel after we practice asana?

  • Comfortable in our body
  • Clear in our mind
  • Able to relax
  • Connected with our heart and others.

These things are also more than asana. Potentially , even categorically, these are things that your yoga students aim for when they come to class:

Functional movement and mobility:
The ability to reach for things high and low, get dressed in the morning , go to the toilet, feed ourselves, drive , get out of bed or on and off the floor unassisted are important elements of remaining independent in later life.

Independence:
Focusing on mobility is therefore an important part of Chair Based yoga. The focus shifts quite heavily from achieving a pose, or creating beautiful flowing sequences to independence; drills such as:

  • Sit to stand: going to the toilet
  • Balance practices: standing and walking
  • Hand, wrist and finger mobility: eating and dressing
  • Focus and coordination: Acuity of the mind.

Confidence:
On a different level chair based yoga practices may also help students gain confidence after a fall.

Delay the progression of widespread conditions such as dementia alzheimers. and Multiple Sclerosis..

Manage:
Many times those that already come to the class with a chronic condition say how much the practices help them manage.
It’s tough being chronically ill. From experience I know how limited my internal resources are. Often I think “I need more than an afternoon nap today to make it to the end of the day”.

This is exactly where yoga can come to the rescue:

  • Energising breathing practices
  • Restful practices that can offer more than an afternoon nap
  • Meditation practices that help manage physical and emotional pain.
  • Sleep better.
  • Raise internal awareness: Knowing when to stop and take a rest
  • Emotional awareness and knowing how emotions are even connected to physical health.

These are tools that yoga provides and they are vital to overall wellbeing. Many of my students say that they feel more grounded and stable after a yoga class. So the effects of the practices are not just long term, but also immediate and they also go beyond poses, beyond the physical aspects of yoga.

CHAIR BASED YOGA TRAINING MANUAL

The Chair Based Yoga Manual

Community:

But it is not just the yoga these people come for. In the Fibromyalgia group I teach, the class is more of a social opportunity.
As we get older the opportunities to make friends diminish. Kids leave home and people retire. Neighbours move on and people pass away.

Similarly if dealing with people who are chronically ill, they potentially spend a long time at home and not socialising. Loneliness can really exacerbate suffering.
As a mum, for example, I found great comfort in being amongst people that struggle in the same way. This is exactly what students also say, that it is great to find ourselves amongst people with the same level of understanding.
Feel connected & understood amongst others.

In addition many people who come to class require assistance to get there and often attending the class might be the only thing they do. So supporting them to feel connected and maybe even providing an opportunity after class to have a cuppa is important.

• • •

Chair Based Yoga has many ways to serve us and our students beyond the asana and pranayama. There is a certain magic in the practices of yoga that go beyond the poses.

Watch the full workshop and chair yoga practice here: