We're celebrating two years since In Fine Feather Yoga started offering Chair Yoga!
I began teaching Chair Yoga in 2012 while working as a Recreation Therapist in CAMH’s Geriatric Mental Health Program. I was aware of the many physical and mental health benefits of yoga and wanted to make it more accessible for my clients. This prompted me to take additional training, attend workshops, read, and really think about the purpose behind each pose to develop a program that is safe, adaptable, and therapeutic for a variety of people.
Chair Yoga in Hamilton
When I moved back to Hamilton I wanted to continue offering Chair Yoga to the community. After talking to Helena, the owner of In Fine Feather Yoga, she happily offered her space at the studio to host classes following our discussion about Crown Point’s need for accessible programs in the neighbourhood when the YWCA was due to close for renovations.
Reasons to Practice Chair Yoga
It's been wonderful to see the diversity of people coming to this class. They've joined for many reasons such as: looking for something more accessible while they recover from injuries, wanting to learn more modifications as a teacher, looking to build strength, balance and flexibility for healthy ageing, or to learn sequences that can be done at a desk during work. A chair as a prop has so many uses!
Benefits of Chair Yoga
Often people are surprised by the level of physical strength and intensity in this class. It's challenging while being accessible to all levels and physical abilities (getting down onto the ground is optional). Components of the class include: core strengthening, range of motion exercises for all the joints, balance poses, flexibility and strength, breath work, gratitude, and mindfulness. Golf ball foot massages and self-acupressure techniques are sometimes thrown into the mix just for fun (and their great therapeutic benefits).
Above is a pose you can try right at home, Seated Crescent Lunge:
First grab a sturdy chair with a straight back.
Sit relaxed but upright with feet grounded.
Close your eyes and take a few nourishing breaths to focus on the sensations in your body and commit to moving mindfully.
Walk your feet to the right, turning the whole torso so that only the right bum cheek is on the seat.
Right knee is bent with foot planted, ankle inline with knee.
Place right hand on the chair back for support and balance.
Keep shoulders inline above hips.
Moving onto the balls of left toes guide the left leg back until you begin to feel some stretch in front of the left hip. (There is no benefit to making this an intense stretch, keep it comfortable and look to your breath as a guide; a strained or restricted breath is a sign of going to far, encouraging you back out a little.)
Feet firm into ground, squeeze inner thighs toward each other, and squeeze belly toward spine. Keep this muscular engagement, and if you’re feeling steady, inhale to lift left or both arm(s).
Hold for 1-4 rounds of relaxed breath.
Exhale to release effort in arms and legs, bring left leg forward beside right.
Walk legs to the left to repeat pose on opposite side.
If you've ever been curious about this class, come check it out on Mondays at 12:00-1:00pm. It's a wonderful group of people in an inclusive, supportive space. All are welcome!!
Chair Yoga is listed as a Community Class meaning it’s Pay What You Can with a suggested cash donation of $5.00; making the yoga practice more affordable and accessible to everyone.
More About Amy Gowling
Amy believes yoga gives us the power to focus our attention on what we want to manifest in our lives and that in turn makes us limitless. With a mindful approach to both stillness and movement, she encourages students to cultivate the deep contentment that is available by being present, curious, and accepting. Read her bio here and read Amy’s past chair yoga blog about how accessible it is for anyone to practice here.