Yoga is a great way to improve your health, but a traditional class might be too difficult for older people. That’s where chair yoga comes in, and the benefits are big.

“Chair yoga is ideal for seniors, anyone who wants to get better with their balance, anyone expecting to go into surgery or recovering from surgery,” said Rachel Baer, the instructor at the chair yoga class offered at the Old Saybrook Senior Center. 

Just as the name implies, the class entails a lot of yoga moves with the assistance of a chair.

“In my chair yoga classes I start focusing on breathing,” Baer said. “We focus a lot on posture to make sure people are sitting straight and engaging their core and their spine, and we practice stretches strength movement with the legs.” 

The first half of this hour-long class is seated.

“And then we progress to practicing getting out of the chair and then we stand behind the chair so we can use it for balance to practice different poses,” Baer explained.

She says chair yoga can reduce joint pain, lower blood pressure and help seniors with everyday tasks like getting in and out of a car or reaching for something high in the kitchen.

“You’re much less likely to fall if you have strong ankles and strong legs,” Baer said.

“What I love the most is that I feel so much better within 24 hours, and if I don’t take her class I deteriorate,” said student Sandra Childress. “My balance deteriorates. My muscle tone deteriorates. I feel it very quickly.”

“I like the balance and I like the going up on your toes,” said student Larry Drobny. “If I’m really good that day I can do the airplane pose.”

There’s no doubt these moves keep the seniors in this class younger.

“I’m 91,” Drobny said. “I owe it all to Rachel.”

By the way, Drobny rides his bike to class in the summer. Baer also says one of her students actually grew an inch taller at a physical because her posture had improved so much.

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