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Chair Yoga for Seniors Seated Twist

Yoga ‘asanas’, poses, are a physical expression of our mental and emotional energy state. In Yoga physiology, breathing is critical because mind follows breath and energy follows mind. We want to learn to manipulate our energy and create a relaxed body and calm mind – we do this by focusing on our breathing as the connection between mind and body. Today, we will be practicing Yoga twists, and we’ll want to establish a constant, deep, natural breathing pattern. Not holding the breath at any time is important in practicing our Yoga twists.

Yoga is noted for being extremely adaptable and deeply thorough. While performing a Yoga twist understand that we not only exercise muscles, connective joint tissue, and skeleton. We also accomplish a massage of the lungs, diaphragm, stomach, intestines, bowel, and the sciatic nerve.

Today, let’s learn two twist ‘asanas’, that impart flexibility, strength, inner cleanliness, improved evacuation, and calm mind. The first is called ‘Matsyendra-asana’. The second is called ‘Bharadhvajasana’. We will be accomplishing these two twists in a chair variation. Perform these asanas in the order given as the first twist prepares the body for the second twist.

A chair without arms or a chair with arms that adjust to drop out of the way is required. If this is a wheel chair, remember to put on the brake.

‘Bharadhvajasana’:

1)Sit tall in the chair. When performing a twist, it is important to keep the spine as stretched out and straight as possible. Take a moment to lift the arms overhead and clasp hands – now, “gently” bend back as far as is “comfortable” while keeping the feet planted on the ground. Hold this position for just a moment or two to stretch and straighten the spine. Let’s find our natural nasal breathing pattern and stay with it throughout the practice.

Come out of the stretch with arms down and hands resting palms up in our lap. Maintain a tall spine. Keep the head and chest centered and allow the head to twist only in unison with the chest. Shoulders and chest lead, head follows.

2)Let’s sit left sideways on the edge of the chair, feet planted on the ground. Our knees should be stacked above and in line with our ankles and our left side should be closest to the chair back. Continue sitting with a tall spine. Imagine a string tied to the top of the head being pulled taught. Allow the shoulders to drop. Remember to breathe.

3)Exhale and simultaneously “gently” suck in the mid-section abdominals. Lift hands and arms, rotate rib cage left and allow the hands to rest on the chair back. Relax. Breathe. Keep the shoulders dropped and loose. If we can “comfortably” twist our torso further left then let’s do so. Finally, slowly turn the head until we are looking over our left shoulder.

Tip: Feeling a stretch is normal. Feeling pain is not.

Continue breathing evenly and hold the twist position for ten breaths. Come out of the position slowly. Rest. Repeat the position on the right side.

‘Matsyendra-asana’:

1)Sit tall in the chair, facing forward, and all the way back planting our feet on the ground.

2)Lift the right leg high and bent at the knee. Place it so that the right ankle is hooked over the left leg at the knee. Remember to breathe. Place the left hand on the right ankle and allow the right arm to drape over the chair back.

3)Lift the left arm and hook the left elbow on the right side of the right knee. Our right forearm is pointing straight up. Let’s exhale and “gently” right twist our torso keeping our head aligned with the chest. Twist only so far as is “comfortable.” Twist the head right, aligning the chin with the right shoulder.

Hold for ten breaths and slowly come out of the twist. Rest. Breathe. Perform on the other side. If we feel any pain, we’ve twisted too far.

We should be feeling a pull deep in our right buttock and up to the knee. This pull is on the piriforma muscle which wraps around the sciatic nerve and can squeeze the nerve or pinch it during times of stress. This twist loosens that muscle and relieves pain in the sciatic nerve. Piriforma Syndrome takes place deep in the buttocks and differs from Sciatica which takes place in the spine. Both conditions feel similar.

Remember to communicate with your physician before trying any new exercises.