by Mana Iluna, Certified Purna Yoga Instructor
Terry’s sore shoulder healed in a few weeks. For several years prior, her shoulder used to have very little range of motion and whenever she moved it in almost any direction, it caused her pain. Terry (not her real name) also has had 3 different surgeries on her foot for various reasons. The foot was painful if she stretched the top of her foot. This discomfort has lessened dramatically in just a few weeks. Terry is a good example of how healing can take place when the body is gently coaxed into doing what it already wants to do.
You must be wondering what in the world could have these kinds of effects on different parts of the body. Terry has accomplished these changes in her body by sitting in a chair…and doing chair yoga. Chair yoga is for a person who wants to learn how to move specific parts of their body in ways that they have never moved before without putting undo stress on them.
Because one is sitting while doing chair yoga there’s no need to balance the body. Terry could sit and focus only on the movement of her arms and shoulders from the place of the inception of the movement. She had undivided attention, focus and concentration in each small movement. That was the simple trick…focus. When Terry puts weight on the top of her toes to stretch the top of her foot, she is focused on only that movement. She can put just enough weight on the top of her foot to stretch it with minimal discomfort…holding back any ego involvement that says, “I want my foot to stretch more…now.” The little trick was again…focus and concentration on that one spot.
The movement is so simple that it allows the muscles to work in a balanced way for the first time, instead of always having to carry the weight (and work) of the sore or injured muscles. Muscles are designed to work in balance with each other. Like teams of co-workers, if some don’t do their assigned job, others have to carry the extra burden. Muscles (and co-workers) get irritated when we use them in unbalanced ways, or when we make some work too hard, others not enough, or try to make them do what they were not designed to do.
Chair yoga, is the newest most exciting yoga, and almost anyone of almost any age can do it. It can easily be done two or three times per week or even once a week and it makes a difference. People say it’s “very relaxing”, “they feel lighter” or they’ll just leave a chair yoga class with a relaxed happy smile that says it all.
Mana Iluna teaches Gentle Yoga at Alive and Shine Center in Bellevue, WA.