Chair Yoga Seniors Can Do For Neck Pain & Back Pain In 7 Easy Poses

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This video shows 7 simple chair yoga poses seniors can do to relieve neck pain and back pain.
(They work for younger people too).

Click the play button to watch now...

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Is Chair Yoga Good For Seniors With Neck Pain And Back Pain?

The short answer is: YES, chair yoga is good for seniors with neck pain and back pain

However, you want to make sure to use  correct technique in order to get the most benefit from chair yoga.

Overall exercise, stretching, and mindfulness are good for lower back pain, but certain poses can actually cause lower back pain from yoga.

In this post we'll cover:

How Does Chair Yoga Help Seniors With Back & Neck Pain?

In my last post about Yoga For Back Pain, I decribed the general effect of yoga in terms of it's benefits for improving mobility, reducing pain, and managing stress, so I'll refer you back to that post for the general effects of yoga.

In summary, yoga is a form of mindful movement that allows you to be present in the moment, escape from the other stresses in your life, while moving your body.

After writing that post, I got tons of questions from our senior clients about our yoga classes.

"Would I Be Able To Do The Yoga Classes?"

A lot of seniors would like to be more active than they are, but they feel worried they may be out of place in a yoga class, or not be able to keep up, especially if it requires getting up and down from the floor.

I assured them that modifications can be made to allow people of all levels to enjoy yoga.

Chair Yoga Is Great For Seniors

Chair yoga is one alternative that's great for seniors. Chair yoga is especially good for seniors with back pain or neck pain, or for people who have trouble getting on and off the floor due to knee arthritis or cartilage loss.

Benefits Of Chair Yoga For Seniors

Chair yoga help seniors to stay active, even if they don't have great balance or can't keep up with a regular yoga class.

Physical activity not only helps mobility, balance, and fall prevention, but being physically active has also been shown to slow the onset of cognitive decline such as dementia or Alzheimer's disease.

Additionally, going to an actual chair yoga class is good for socialization, especially for seniors who now live alone. Maintaining social contact and having a support group helps combat depression, which is increasingly common in seniors.

Is Chair Yoga Just For Seniors?

Although chair yoga classes are targeted toward seniors, chair yoga can be beneficial for people of any age.  Chair yoga is great for younger people who work at a desk, or even students who sit at desk all day.  Incorporating a few chair yoga poses throughout the workday can be great a great way for office workers to prevent neck pain or back pain from sitting all day.

Chair Yoga Poses For Seniors With Neck Pain

Chair yoga for neck pain poses include:

  • seated mountain pose
  • seated neck stretch
  • seated cat-cow pose
  • seated warrior pose

Read the descriptions below to learn how to do each of these chair yoga poses.

Seated Mountain Pose

Chair Yoga Mountain Pose

The seated mountain pose is basically just good sitting posture.  To do the seated mountain pose, sit up in a chair with your chest up, shoulders tipped back slightly, head over shoulders, and chin tucked.

DON'T try to sit overly upright.  There is naturally a little bit of forward curve (kyphosis) in your upper back.  Explore the extremes of all the way rounded and overly upright (like cat-cow below), and then come to a resting position in between.

Then put your arms out to the side and turn your palms forward so that your body resembles a mountain.

Chair Yoga Neck Stretch

Chair Yoga Neck Stretch

The chair yoga neck stretch helps stretch the muscles on the side of your neck.  This is a common stretch people do for neck pain, but sometimes this stretch can make neck pain worse, especially if you have a low shoulder blade on the side that you're stretching.

To do the chair yoga neck stretch in a way that won't make your neck pain worse, just tip your head to the side slightly as if there is an axis of rotation through your nose.  You should feel the stretch at the base of the skull.

Next tip just a little farther so that the axis of rotation moves down to your chin.  You should feel this in the side of the neck on the opposite side of the direction you're tipping your head.

Continue doing this until you feel the stretch in the area of your neck where you need it.

You should NOT feel this in the top of the shoulder (upper trapezius).  If you do, you're probably stretching too far.

Yes, you may feel tight in that area.

Yes, it will feel like a good stretch if you stretch all the way.

Don't overstretch!

Doing so may overstretch nerves in your neck and shoulder area, and although it feels good at the moment, in the long run, it may prolong your neck pain.

You may also consider using a towel while stretching to isolate the stretch to the correct area.

Seated Cat-Cow Pose

Chair Yoga Cat Cow Pose

Seated cat-cow pose is a modification of the traditional cat-cow pose, normally done while kneeling on all fours.  While traditional cat-cow is considered an exercise for the back, seated cat-cow targets both the back and the neck because it helps you find and maintain a good upright sitting posture.

Traditional cat-cow involves arching your back up like a cat, and then letting your belly sag down like a cow.

In seated cat-cow, you allow your back to round out as if you're slouching.

Then you sit up tall, similar to the posture that you use in mountain pose.

Naturally, your upper back (thoracic spine) has an easier time moving into flexion (cat pose), and your lower back has an easier time moving into extension (cow pose).  However, when doing cat-cow, you want to try to move evenly at all levels of your back in a gentle oscillating movement back and forth.

Focus on rounding your lower back towards the backrest of the chair going into cow pose.  Then lift your chest from the upper back going into cat pose.

Seated Warrior Pose

Chair Yoga Warrior Pose

Seated warrior pose is a modification of the Warrior 1 pose in standing.  In seated warrior you raise both arms up toward the ceiling as high as you can, lifting from the shoulder pain.  This is a good exercise to relieve neck pain as well as back pain.  Because your unload the weight of your shoulder blades and arms when doing seated warrior pose, it helps decompress your spine, much like cervical traction or lumbar decompression.

Decompressing the spine takes pressure off of the joints, discs, and nerves in the neck and back and can help relieve pain.

Make sure when doing the warrior post that you lift from the shoulder blades and avoid bending backward from the lower back.  If you have stiff lat muscles or chest muscles, or have shoulder pain when raising your arms overhead, you may have to limit your range of motion.

Again, that's OK. 

It is better to keep your lower back in a good position than it is to have your arms perfectly vertical over your head.

Interested In Chair Yoga?

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Chair Yoga Poses For Seniors With Back Pain

Chair yoga poses for seniors with back pain include:

  • Cat-cow (see above)
  • Seated warrior (see above)
  • Seated spinal twist
  • Seated forward bending
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Seated Spinal Twist

Chair Yoga Seated Twist Pose

The seated spinal twist is an alternative to the thread the needle pose for people who can't kneel.

During the seated spinal twist, you rotate your trunk side to side, focusing on moving through your upper back or thoracic spine.

DON'T twist through the lower back!

Your lower back isn't designed to twist. To learn why, read my post about Back Pain When Twisting.

Your upper back is however made to twist.  Having good trunk rotation is important for seniors who golf or play pickleball. It's also one of the motions that's important to preserve in people with Parkinson's disease.

This helps create extension (backward bend) in the upper back.  If you can get more arch in the thoracic area, you won't excessively bend backward in the lower back.

Seated Forward Bending

Chair Yoga Seated Forward Bend Pose

This is a seated version of the child's pose, which is in my opinion the best exercise to relieve lower back pain overall.  Obviously that varies from person to person, but taken on the whole, child's pose is one of the poses that helps most people quickly get (at least temporary) relief from back pain.

However, some people just can't do child's pose because the have knee pain when kneeling.  In that case, the seated forward bending stretch is a great option.

To do the seated forward bending stretch, lean forward from the waist, sliding your arms down your legs ONLY as far as you feel comfortable going.

Use your hands to support the weight of your body.  Put your hands on the floor if you can reach, or use yoga blocks if you can't reach the floor.

If you can't even get down to reach yoga blocks, just sit bent over with your elbows resting on your knees.

Just do the best you can, and over time, you'll be able to stretch farther.

Yoga isn't about being the best, it's just about being YOUR best.

And eventually your best will get better.

Want To Get Started With Chair Yoga?

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(available as chair yoga)

 

4 Reasons Why Seniors Should Attend A Chair Yoga Class vs. Doing It At Home

1. Technique & Intensity

Will you do the yoga poses correctly and modify them appropriately?

Modifications need to be made to tailor each yoga pose to your own physical needs and limitations in order to achieve its intended effects without causing injury.

When you're watching a chair yoga video on YouTube, it's one-way communication.  You're receiving generalized, one-size fits most instruction, but the YouTube creator can't see you or give you feedback.  As such, you don't know if you're actually doing the stretches in a way that's best for your body.

It's also important to check the credentials of the YouTube creator as literally anyone can have a YouTube channel.  (Yes, I realize the irony that you're watching my YouTube channel, but you can check out my credentials here)

Most yoga instructors are used to working with generally healthy people, not seniors who may have neck pain, back pain, or other mobility limitations.  Our yoga instructors are used to working with seniors with mobility limitations.  Learn about our yoga classes here.

2. Social Contact

As mentioned above, going to an actual chair yoga class is good for socialization, especially for seniors who now live alone. Maintaining social contact and having a support group helps combat depression, which is increasingly common in seniors.

3. Consistency, Motivation, & Accountability

Will you actually do it, and keep doing it?

Life gets busy, even for seniors who are retired.  Keeping up with grandkids (sometimes from different children or in different states), household and other daily activities, and an increasing number of doctors appointments is time consuming.  Somehow you thought you'd have all this time when you retired, but amazingly, it gets filled rather quickly.

That being said, it can be hard to stay motivated to consistently find time to squeeze in your chair yoga sessions.

If you're in a class or an in-person group, other people in the class and/or the instructor hold you accountable to actually show up and do the yoga.  (It only works if you do it 😉)

Click here to learn about our Chair Yoga classes.

3. Addressing the Root Cause:

Doing chair yoga on a regular basis may help with your overall mental and physical health, but it may not necessarily stop your back or neck pain for good.

Why?

Because yoga doesn't address the root cause of your pain... the thing that your back pain to start in the first place.  Although doing yoga may relieve your pain temporarily, if you don't fix the root cause of the pain, it will eventually come back.

Want To Discover The Root Cause Of Your Back or Neck Pain?

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