Stress Reduction with Chair Yoga

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a little bag of tricks to employ when feeling out of sorts from stress? Although we do operate at an elevated level with a brief increase in duress, there are many subtle tolls taken when it is prolonged. Signs and symptoms of excess stress vary widely, and are not always obvious. You can easily learn about this in the media. Whether you are aware of overload, or not, here are tips for managing a healthier life.

Stress management involves:

  • changing the stressful situation when you can
  • changing your reaction when you can’t
  • taking care of yourself
  • making time for rest and relaxation

The realization that you’re not always in control of what happens in your life is a key first step. Learning how to manage your responses to difficult events, is the foundation of stress management. This can be accomplished by gaining more awareness of your:

  • thoughts
  • emotions
  • schedule
  • environment
  • ways of dealing with problems

So much of life is spent seated. The chair can be an integral tool for health. Chair yoga provides you with an assortment of options to achieve greater control of your thoughts, emotions and environment. The tips offered can be done for a brief or prolonged amount of time. The ultimate goal is greater balance in your life.

Think of yoga as “making good space”. Your chair is your base for support. When stressed, your nervous system, muscles, and thoughts can become tense. Use pillows to set yourself in a comfortable position with feet flat on the floor. Create some sense of quiet around you.

The first step is to focus on your breathing. Do so through the nostrils. Your brain receives much feed back from nerve endings in the nostrils, especially on the exhale.  By observing the length and depth of your inhales and exhales, you may begin to sense agitation or depression. Adjusting your cadence and body position can change your state of mind. Look up “Breath of Fire” to wake up, “Extended exhale techniques” for calming.

Meditation is the process of sitting quietly and turning attention inward. For many of us this can be a challenge, and for those under duress this can be particularly difficult. One way to help focus the attention is to concentrate on the breath and add brief constructive images, words thoughts, sounds or counting. Start by evening out your breath to a slow, easy, even cadence. This helps you develop awareness of your body. Then you can increase inhale length to draw up energy, or exhale length to calm down. Add the meditation of your choice. Affirmations help build up energy. Simple sounds such as “so” for the inhale and “hum” for the exhale are comforting. Counting backwards with each exhale can bring your focus away from stressors and help reboot your thoughts.

Simple posture and stretches can be performed on or by the chair.

  • With glasses off, rub palms until warm. Place palm pads over the eyes, thumb pads on temples, fingers over the forehead. Breathe and relax upper face muscles. When cool, rub jaw muscles in front of the ear. Then massage ears (watch for earrings) and move forward along base of the jaw and then chin. Return to area above bridge of the nose “third eye”, massage there and down cheeks. Unhinge lower jaw, gently move it around, then have tongue massage inside of the mouth.
  • Place hands on your thighs, elbows by your ribs. With the inhale lift, press feet down, push buttocks back into the chair, fill your lungs and lift your heart. With the exhale, stay up and roll your shoulders gently onto your back ribs. Then settle. Add pinching the shoulder blades together with the exhale to awaken more muscles. Do this several time to unwind and energize.
  • Stand tall behind a stable chair, point feet forward. Place hands on the back of the chair. When you exhale, shift hips to the right and keep your head level. Alternate sides with each exhale. Don’t tip the head, pinch the shoulder blades.