Chair Yoga NOT for the Weak!
When you think about chair yoga, do you picture in your mind weak people who have limited movement? Have you had thoughts that maybe those who practice yoga asana using a chair are lazy and just want to say they “do” yoga?
Many years ago I may have thought the same thing. In fact there are some gentle yoga classes that use chairs and I’ve even seen chairs used at assisted living facilities, which is really a great idea when you think about it.
When I refer to chair yoga, I’m talking about using chairs in sequences that actually give you more access to an asana (pose). I’ve had a few inspirations when it comes to using chairs, most often by Sandy Carmellini, but also Diane Valentine. And then, THE book came out, Experiment & Experience on the Chair by H.S. Arun.
I got my copy of the book just after it was published, but I didn’t really have a lot of time to read anything other than Anatomy, Kinesiology or Ayurveda Course work at that time.
Then in class this last week, Sandy taught a sequence that included some really cool asanas using chairs in the class. During class I was thinking, I need to read the book from Arun, and plan out a sequence. Well, that was on Tuesday, and then I got really busy and finally, when I was preparing for the class I teach on Friday mornings I had the AHA moment – USE THE BOOK!! my mind reminded me. Okay, I have to admit, usually I take a little more time to plan and think ahead, but not this time. I started out early Friday morning flipping through the book pretty fast and found the book to be organized by the type of pose, Seated Forward Bends, Standing Forward Bends and then I saw it, STANDING POSES! I could look at just this section and replace part of another sequence using the chair.
I picked standing asanas because for the most part, I have been in a class where some version or another of those poses were taught so I knew what they could look like. I read thru the instructions and had a few minutes to practice and then off I went to teach my class.
I am big on reminding the students in my class about how it’s okay to use props such as blocks, blankets, straps, wedges, chairs etc. Our culture looks at using help as a weakness, but I argue that point saying the props help to access the asanas, and even more important, reap the benefits of the asana.
When we practice Virabhadrasana II (Warrior 2) with a chair, there is no hanging out in my class. You don’t just plop your butt on the chair and stick your arms out, no way. The legs are still working, maybe even harder as well as arms and trunk. The chair just gives support to go deeper into the pose.
When class begins, I explain about the book I am using as well as the author of the book and how I have enjoyed his advanced teachings every year when he comes from India. I frequently use chairs when I teach but this time it was different. The body is using the chair in a different way than I have taught before. I think the students like it, at least that’s what they say at the end of class. It’s alway fun to do things a little different from the way you’ve taught in the past because the last thing you want to be is boring!