Yoga from your armchair.
When I tracked down Mrs P and Stuart Robertson last week they were embarking on a one-to-one mindfulness class.
Mrs P recently suffered a fall and that, coupled with her high blood pressure, meant she had been advised not to take part in her beloved yoga class, so she jumped at the opportunity of a one to one with Stuart.
Stuart started with a gentle breathing exercise. For 10 minutes, Mrs P closed her eyes, and under quiet instruction focused her attention on specific parts of her body, breathing slowly and gently.
Now aged 94, Mrs P is taking up yoga again, having had to stop her regular and much loved class at 83, she recalled how she really benefits from yoga. Now at Forest Oaks she has been given the chance to take it up again. Using mindfulness techniques to focus on sounds, controlling any drifting thoughts back to the present, using counting techniques to tie in with her breathing pattern.
Stuart rounded up the one to one session, leaving a calm and invigorated Mrs P with various breathing techniques to practise over the next week.
Stuart, a qualified Physiotherapist, came up with the idea of chair based yoga some years ago. Having also trained as a yoga teacher in 2009, he started teaching wheelchair bound children aged between 3 and 19 and discovered that the art of mindfulness and seated yoga resulted in; improved focus, increased concentration, better mobility and recognition and improvement of movements from week to week. With fairly limited movements he could see improvements in cognitive awareness and their ability to connect well through various breathing techniques.
Stuart developed this idea further by introducing ‘seated yoga’ to older individuals and found they felt the benefits too.
During a 40 minute seated yoga class individuals do warm ups, before concentrating on breathing, posture and mindfulness through various parts of the body. All things which aid and improve blood pressure, troubled sleep and cognitive awareness.
Some individuals who initially found it hard to follow instruction are now, through repetition, remembering what’s coming next. Their focus on postural muscles has meant their movements are much more effective.
Stuart’s website suggests that as we reach our fifties, from a physical perspective, it’s a question of“use it or lose it.”
With age, stiffness sets in as the spine compresses and joint mobility and balance deteriorates, as well as muscle and bone mass. Too much sitting and bad posture commonly result in neck and back problems by midlife.
As Stuart explains; “yoga counters the effects of gravity by lengthening the spine, opening the posture (and chest) and moving each joint through its full range of movement. The yoga postures and sequences can be carried out in safety and comfort!
Over a period of time you could become more flexible, increase your core strength, develop your sense of balance, and learn to find a sense of inner stillness and calm in those stressful moments.”
Stuart has been visiting Forest Oaks care home in Brockenhurst for 9 months and has a band of staunch followers who frequent his class every fortnight. For those who are receiving respite care, seated yoga comes as a welcome class and they participate as fully as possible.
One resident is 102 and still comes to all the classes and looks younger as a consequence!
Stuart told me “people should start yoga before they go into care, be proactive, use yoga as a preventative regime, it will keep you fitter for longer.”
It is still possible to do fairly strenuous exercise from a chair, and exercises can always be adapted to suit individual’s needs. The beauty of being in a care home is that before Stuart takes any class he has a chat with the Duty Manager to see if there are any individuals who require particular attention on any given day so he can advise exercise changes to suit.