According to Yoga Alliance, in 2006, preoccupation with weight control is reaching new heights as the obesity crisis is approaching epidemic proportions. The prevalence of adults who are officially considered to be overweight is at an all-time high. Approximately 65% of American adults are overweight, and around 30% are officially obese. The danger in being overweight comes from the complications of carrying excess weight, which include increased risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. People often look toward fad diets or quick solutions in order to lose weight, but it is usually long-term lifestyle changes involving sensible dietary changes and exercise that help to support lifelong weight management.
For many with weight problems, normal exercise, even regular mat yoga, is too much until there is substantial weight loss. For these folks, chair yoga is a great exercise alternative. It gives the exercise so needed as a part of a long-term weight loss program. Chair yoga increases muscle tissue which helps to raise your metabolic rate. Chair yoga is a stress-reliever which reduces comfort-eating, a major weight loss benefit. Also, it balances the glands and organs which allow you can control your weight more easily.
Many of you are in life situations which reduce your physical exercise. This situation, especially as we get older, can lead to osteopenia (low bone mass) which can turn into osteoporosis (a disease of bones that makes them more fragile). Lakshmi Voelker Chair Yoga as proven effective in slowing and, at times, in reversing these conditions.
If you have osteopenia or osteoporosis, you want to become mindful of any of the forward bending or trunk contracting poses. Opening the chest with gentle back bending postures assures extension of the front spine thus allowing full inhalations and exhalations. You are better able to release excess carbon dioxide which eliminates fatigue.
Here are some osteoporosis facts (from FORE, the Foundation for Osteoporosis Research and Education):
• Osteoporosis affects 44 million Americans (California's population is around 34 million) at a cost of $17 billion dollars annually.
• One out of two women and one out of eight men will be affected by osteoporosis in their lifetime.
• Having osteoporosis puts people at higher risk for fractures that are painful, can be disfiguring, and reduce their ability to lead active lives.
• In a recent study, one half of all women over 50 years old had osteoporosis or low bone mass and did not know it.
• Only 35% of American adults consume the recommended daily allowance of calcium.
• An estimated 14 million men in the United States currently have low bone mass or osteoporosis.
• Osteoporosis is treatable and may be preventable.• People need to know their risk for osteoporosis and talk to their doctors about diagnosis, prevention, and treatment strategies.
Arthritis causes pain, stiffness, and sometimes swelling in or around joints. This can make it hard to do the movements you rely on every day for work or taking care of your family.
Strength in the body and confidence in the mind are increased for those with arthritis who take a weekly chair yoga classes. You do not have to get up and down off the yoga mat. You can receive all the benefits of yoga on the chair leading to reductions in pain and stiffness.
There are 20.8 million children and adults in the United States, or 7% of the population, who have diabetes. While an estimated 14.6 million have been diagnosed with diabetes, unfortunately, 6.2 million people (or nearly one-third) are unaware that they have the disease.
A decrease in fasting blood sugar levels is seen by practicing chair yoga for 40 minutes daily. Lung capacity improves 10 percent and over time, type 11 diabetics can achieve better blood sugar control and pulmonary functions when they follow a daily chair yoga regimen. (Dash, Telles, 2001)
Heart disease and strokes are common cardiovascular diseases. They are the third and first top causes of death for both genders. (Cancer is in-between the two.) Forty percent of all deaths, in America, are related to a cardiovascular disease mainly heart attack or stroke. About 910,000 people die of cardiovascular diseases each year in America. That is about one death every 35 seconds. It used to be that it was mainly around 65 years or older. Nevertheless, heart disease and strokes for people around 15-34 have increased. 70 million people actually live with a cardiovascular disease.
One hour of chair yoga daily for 3 months can decrease the blood pressure as well as blood sugar, cholesterol and triglycerides.
Researchers at Harbor UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, Calif., found that just four weeks of regular yoga sessions significantly reduced the frequency and severity of chronic pain.
Yet, for many with back pain, regular yoga is not possible. Chair yoga is their only way to gain the benefits cited in this study
My experience matches this study in that much chronic pain is improved or at least maintained after only a month on the chair.
Breathing problems can be corrected by yoga through yoga’s science of the breath–Pranayama. Pranayama has various techniques designed to maximize the capacity of your lungs. Pranayama also helps in regulating the temperature of the breath flow which solves many of problems related to the lungs.
Additionally, relaxing the neck muscles and improving the posture while on the chair will relieve lung problems with just 30 minutes of chair yoga.
About 18 percent (51.2 million people) of Americans in 2002 said they had a disability and 12 percent (32.5 million) had a severed disability, four million were children ages 6-14 or 11 percent, according to information released by the U.S. census bureau.
Exercise is vital for those with disabilities. It increases your self-esteem and spurs you to strive for perfection in your own way within your disability (according to NCSD the National Council for Support of Disability Issues).
Disabled people who are wheelchair bound begin to enjoy life and become more playful with weekly chair yoga classes. This is especially true for children. Turning your yoga practice into fun breathing and moving games on the wheelchair has proved successful. Your confidence begins to build and as times goes on you will want to lead the weekly classes.
MS is thought to be an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. Symptoms can include numbness and/or tingling in the extremities, weakness, lack of coordination and/or balance, gait difficulties, slurring of speech, blurred or double vision, bowel and bladder dysfunction, vertigo, and heat intolerance.Despite yoga’s popularity, there has been only one quality study of yoga and people with MS. The study from the Oregon Health Science University* (see below for study information) looked at the effect of yoga and aerobic exercise on cognitive function, fatigue, and mood in 69 participants assigned to conventional exercise, yoga, or nothing. After six months, both those who did yoga and conventional exercise showed decreased fatigue as measured in two fatigue measurement tests.
For those whose MS has made mainstream exercise prohibitive, chair yoga is a good answer. It will strengthen your physiology, especially your nervous system, and improve your mental alertness, coordination, circulation, energy, flexibility, and general mobility.
If you have mental illness that limits your ability to partake in usual forms of exercise, , chair yoga is a way to exercise and to move you gradually into a state of inner peace by using the breathing techniques and the deep meditation and restorative relaxation poses. Your mind is made stronger and less vulnerable to outside impressions. In the case of mental illness, chair yoga has often proven a more manageable mode of exercise and fitness.
It is common to spend hours upon hours on your chair at your desk doing your job, especially with the popularity of the computer. The time just slips by as your body fills with stress and fatigue. Only when you finally get up to get something to eat, to go to the bathroom, or to attend a meeting, do you realize that your body has become a tight rubber band and your mind is dull. If, every few hours, you do the spinal movements and focus on our inhaling and exhaling breathe for just a few minutes, your body/mind stays alert and flexible.
While in the office you can incorporate chair yoga poses throughout the day without anyone even noticing. A few simple spinal movements, a lower back circle, facial and eye movements, wrist and ankle rotations, deep breathing techniques–replacing things like coffee and sugar. Production goes up, self-esteem goes up, and weight goes down. (Chair yoga at the office has positive effects on carpal-tunnel syndrome.) All this benefits you and makes your employer smile.