I teach a number of senior citizen Chair Yoga classes here in Portland, Oregon. One special woman, Alma, has shared yoga with me since day one at her community. She comes in a wheelchair and is always the first to arrive. Alma’s can-do-smile always greets me and another woman Jean when we arrive second and third. Jean walks to the class with a walker, amazing as ever at age 94. We make room for others with wheelchairs, walkers, canes, and the like, accommodating each and every person’s necessity.
Chair Yoga helps us exercise our ranges of motion from a sitting position of strength and ease. It’s not who can lift the heaviest weight or who is the swiftest in the race. Chair Yoga is about realizing your fullest potential can be fulfilled in any position, especially in a chair, as long as you put your heart into it.
Here are my communities’ two favorite Chair Yoga exercises:
Watch your left hand rising up like a sun, each heartbeat lightening your reach, higher and higher.
Spread your fingers like rays and twinkle your reach at the tippy-top, breathing.
Then, like a setting sun, reach far off over the horizon and set your hand down between your feet.
Wake your face up by yawning, tasting, squeezing the eyes, and fluttering your gaze.
Pick up all the energy you’ve amassed, and then repeat the process with your right hand.
Leg Swing and Toothpaste Squeeze
Scoop up your left hamstring and brace your forearms close.
Wiggle your toes. Kick a little and swing your leg. Kick, wiggle, & swing, kick, wiggle, & swing, etc. Make sure the momentum never stops.
Just like a pushing a grandchild on a swing, this should be fun!
Ready a second to last kick, then one more.
Set your heel down at a distance. Squeeze your hamstring and thigh toward your knee.
Squeeze around your knee, then down the shin and the calf toward your ankle.
Now reverse your squeeze up the leg.
Just like squeezing toothpaste from a tub, you are squeezing swelling out of your leg and healthy blood through it.
Repeat with your right leg.
Charlie Higgins is a graduate of Reed College and a certified yoga instructor. Charlie specializes in yoga for retirees, and his classes focus on range-of-motion, peripheral awareness, balance and breathing. As a guest author for Milestone Retirement, Charlie is excited to share fun, safe and easy tips for senior health & wellness. To learn more, or explore more exercises by Charlie, visit his website:www.samdhyayoga.com.