Chair yoga can sometimes be viewed as a modality for the elderly or the debilitated and although it is extremely beneficial for people in this category the style of yoga is abundantly fruitful for anyone who practices it. The April yoga day started with sitting on specifically designed yoga chairs and engaging in pranayama which translates to “breath control”: working with the breath and deliberately changing it for the body’s benefit. Prana is sanskrit for breath or “vital energy”and Ayama means control so pranayama is control of the breath. We engaged in Ujjayi which is a balancing and calming breath, Kapalbhati which is a cleansing breath and alternate nostril breathing which relaxes the body.
Once centered into the day by deliberately working with the breath we engaged in an hour of postures that use the chair to support the body in the perfect alignment for the posture being practiced. The age range in the class was 23 to 65 and some of the postures had everyone fully focused and present in order to maintain alignment and all could do so as the chair assisted. Postures included pelvic tilts and circles, cat cow and dancing cat to awaken the chakra centers that ground us in. This led to chair sun salutations with twists and side bends to cleanse and purify. Chair tricep dips with various leg variations had everyone laughing and the day settled into a beautiful flow.
A short break was followed by a more fiery vinyasa flow to create the heat required to move fluids through the body in such a way that works all elements within the body: fire, water, air and earth. There is always the option to rest during the practice as the demeanor needs to remain calm and centered. I was particularly moved by my older foundation students who kept up in a way that demonstrated the years they have been diligently maintaining their core work.
Lunch is an opportunity to replenish the body and the preparation of the food considers the practice that came before and the activities that follow after lunch. Food needs to be nourishing but not heavy or taxing on the digestive system. Digesting food can take a tremendous amount of energy and so foods that are light on the digestion are chosen. All food is organic or sourced from local farmers who are not registered as organic but subscribe to this wholistic approach to food. Abundant salads are available and in this instant wholesome slow cooked chicken and vegetables for the meat eaters and a chili butternut and sweet potato soup for the vegetarians. A few totally healthy treats always bring smiles to people’s faces. This time it was dates filled with cacao beans or brazil nuts.
Time to be in each other’s company is valuable so lunch becomes a relaxation experience where every need is taken care of while participants simply engage in the art of conversation and being together. Such interaction is followed by the deep stillness of the next session, which is a vital part of unwinding a stimulated nervous system. Meditation and stillness by the lake is eagerly received. The April Yoga Day focused on a Vipassana technique that is both grounding and uplifting while also centering the busy mind. Back at the studio a contemplation, rather than a concentration, based technique is offered while people are given the option of being in viparita karani or another inversion.
Somehow a whole day passed and the laughter and joy that echoed into the open space communicated the benefits of taking time out and to mindfully engage in practices that offer social benefits but also have their foundations in replenishing an already over worked nervous system and mind. People leave full of being in their own company and that of others but not drained. There is a feeling that the compass has been reset towards higher levels of consciousness and this is taken home to be kindled and nurtured once life routines resume.
These days are gentle and kind to both the mind and the body so the spirit can soar.
Accredited Meditation, Qi Gong & Yoga Teacher and Psychotherapist.