This class incorporates breathing and gentle stretching while sitting in a chair and standing using a chair for balance. Students are able to experience the benefits of yoga poses with the safety and security of a chair. Class is taught with gentle guidance and attention to students pre-existing conditions. Class ends with relaxation and meditation leaving the student feeling more open and calm. Chair yoga classes are taught at senior living centers, churches, and recreation centers throughout Dane County.
Chair Yoga Testimonials
“I look forward to yoga every Tuesday & Thursday.” – Mary
“It slows me down when I feel like I am speeding.” – Liz
“Now I can bend down and clip my own toenails. The three part breath helps me fall asleep at night.” – Bill
“Yoga improves my breathing and keeps me moving.” – Lorraine
“I like getting a stretch in my back and hamstrings.” – Kathie
“Yoga helps my arthritic limbs.” – Margaret
“My residents love this class and they love Meg! She pays attention to each person’s abilities and is able to give plenty of one-on-one instruction because of the small class sizes. I can always count on Meg to lead a great class.” – Katie White, Director of Lifestyle Enrichment
"I had a bad limp and my right arm was limited," said Hocking, a retired production supervisor for Oscar Mayer. The weekly class, she said, helped her regain the ability to lift her arm to shoulder height and higher.
"I started chair yoga and my right arm came back," she said. "It was shaking, but I got it up there."
Continued exercises in the chair yoga group have meant even more improvement. "It was pure murder to raise (my right arm) high. Now I easily lift it above my head," she said. "I noticed I could walk without a limp."
Hocking's story is one of many shared by participants in the program led by Meg Miller, a yoga teacher certified through Feel Your Best Yoga in Grafton.
"More than any other population, they really do experience the benefits so much," Miller said.
The Tuesday morning clientele at St. Patrick Church is mostly people in their 70s. There also are 80-year-olds and even two or three regulars in their 90s, including Norma Sainsbury, 90, and Ann DiPiazza, 93.
"The exercise is good for us," Sainsbury said. "It loosens up the muscles."
DiPiazza noted the program can have other health benefits, too. "I had my blood pressure tested before and again after — and it was much lower," she said happily.
On hand to perform blood-pressure tests and otherwise monitor participants' health is Peggy Weber, the parish nurse at St. Patrick. Weber was responsible for setting up the chair yoga program after talking to Miller, 39, who led an exercise class Weber attended. Miller offers on-site yoga with a charitable spin (benefiting local food pantries, for example) through her business, Yoga for Good.
Chair yoga at St. Patrick Church is one of several Madison-area offerings provided through St. Mary's Parish Nurse program. The class, free for participants, is part of a broader "Stepping On" program at St. Mary's designed to help seniors avoid falls and improve their overall health.
The St. Patrick class spearheaded by Weber, a registered nurse, has been well-received, with growing attendance and new five-week sessions added several times already.
"I told Peggy, 'I think you're sent from heaven,'" said John LaBine, 71, who finds chair yoga a great way to help battle his Type 2 diabetes. She's "making a big difference in everybody's life."
The Rev. John Sasse, pastor of St. Patrick Church, said the exercise program means more than just physical benefits for participants.
"When the body feels bad, it's tough to feel spiritually good," he said. "As they regain physical security, they feel better spiritually as well."
He also noted the sense of fellowship the class brings to people who otherwise might feel isolated.
A recent session began by wishing happy birthday to Alice Mellin of Cottage Grove.
"I'm not going to ask you how old you are," Weber called out.
"I don't care if you do," Mellin replied. "8-0!"
Miller then proceeded to lead the group of about 20 participants (as many as 35 show up regularly) through breathing exercises, neck movements and arm rolls in their chairs.
"Stay where you're comfortable," she said, coaching them to "give yourself a great big hug."
"How many people have seen an improvement in their range of motion?" Miller asked, and heads nodded. "I see a huge improvement — it's amazing!"
Participants then stood up for a series of light exercises, using their chairs for support. Focus was on core strength and maintaining balance.
"We're not just learning to physically balance, we're learning to mentally balance," Miller said.
She encouraged her students to remember the exercises and practice them at home for even better results. "You could do this at your kitchen counter while you're doing dishes," she said.
Feeling more physically fit will help these older individuals in many ways, Miller said.
It can improve their self-esteem and make them more confident in their movements, which is especially important in winter when fear of falling on icy surfaces is much more real for them.
"It's mind-body for sure," Miller said.
Then she added: "And they get such a kick out of telling their kids they're doing yoga."