Chair Yoga – A Conversation with Yogi Tina Coleman!
By Kastine Coleman
What is Chair Yoga?
When you picture people practicing yoga, you likely imagine impossibly supple, young people bent into all sorts of shapes no human should be able to get themselves into. However you’d be surprised to learn that yoga can be practiced not just from the matt but also from the comfort of a sturdy chair and remain incredibly beneficial for people of all ages.
What inspired your commitment to chair Yoga?
In my 25 years of teaching Yoga, I have witnessed the incredible healing and growth that people of all ages were experiencing through yoga. The biggest hurdles of joining Yoga, for some, were balance issues, a lack of mobility for numerous reasons, or even confidence of trying floor poses. I wanted to ensure all had access to the benefits of yoga especially the healing of the mind and a connection with their inner self that comes with doing any Yoga practice. Everyone needs a place where they can go to relax and take care of oneself, all are equally deserving of these incredible, life-changing tools. Chair yoga offers all these benefits.
Have you had an experience in one of your classes where you were able to work with someone for whom yoga was previously inaccessible?
Every class, way too many to describe! Through chair yoga, I have seen so many people practice yoga who would never otherwise step into a yoga studio. I remember one woman who was convinced that she couldn’t practice yoga because she found it most difficult to stand up from many of the floor poses of a regular yoga class. Gradually in our chair yoga class she built her strength and flexibility and then progressed to the point where she transferred to the floor matt and back using the support of a chair. She was so excited to practice and progress at her own pace.
What are the benefits of Seated Yoga?
As I had mentioned earlier, the biggest benefit is the healing of the mind and a connection with one’s inner self that comes with doing any Yoga practice. The essence of any practice is to become friends with your own mind! For people of all ages it helps them cope with feelings of isolation, promote a sense of calm and this inevitably leads to a greater feeling of happiness and well-being. The class offers an opportunity to meet people and socialize. Joining any yoga class is simply a wonderful venue to socialize and make friends.
I also suggest there is an improvement in overall strength, meaning participants will be better able to continue with hobbies and daily activities. There is of course improved flexibility which helps with activities that they have perhaps been unable to do such as reaching down to pick things up.
Have there been any a-ha! Moments that happened in a Chair Yoga class?
I think the biggest a-ha for me personally is when I develop a particular pose that I want to do in chair yoga. That is a real challenge for me at times and I am trying to deepen my own practice so I can offer an array of poses for each class. For example, you can do a cobra pose sitting in a chair, standing at the wall, standing in the middle of the room, kneeling, or even in bed.
Has your work with chair yoga changed how you teach every class?
Certainly, I’ve let go of the idea of advanced versus beginner in yoga classes. To me the advanced yogi is the one who is at peace with themselves and offering service to the world. With this understanding, my teaching is based on giving tools to my students to explore their bodies and minds.