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The ancient practice of yoga has taken on many modern forms. There are power yoga classes that make even the fittest people tremble. There is "hot yoga" that uses heated rooms to ensure joints, tendons, muscles, and skin stay pliable and flexible. There are yoga classes for pregnant women, runners, cyclists, swimmers, football players, children, teens, soldiers, police officers, and people who have arthritis. And there are now yoga classes for people who either cannot stand on one foot or who are confined to a chair.
Can Seated Yoga Really Do Your Body Any Good?
It is never possible, of course, to do a full set of traditional asanas (yoga poses) without standing up, or without standing up while supporting your weight on just one foot. However, that doesn't mean that the benefits of yoga performed while sitting down can't be measured. A group of researchers at the University of Western Sydney and the University of New South Wales in Australia compared the effects of 15 minutes doing office work, doing meditation, or doing seated yoga. They found that:
- Just 15 minutes of either yoga or meditation reduced perceived stress levels (how stressful participants rated their jobs) for a full 24 hours.
- Doing office work, even sedentary office work, caused people to breathe about 9 percent faster. Doing yoga allowed them to breathe about 24 percent slower. Yoga enables deeper, slower breathing that more completely oxygenates the body, especially the brain.
- Yoga gets the heart going, but the increase in heart rate is only about 6 percent, that is, from maybe 80 to 85 in most office workers.
- Heart rate variability (which is associated with a variety of mental functions and also sexual potency) increases during yoga, but decreases during office work. People who do yoga work are more interested in getting frisky when they get home (and presumably at the office as well).
One of the surprising benefits of chair-based yoga in the elderly is that it reduces falls
Every year, nearly 50 percent of people over the age of 80 take a fall, which can be a catastrophic event. A broken hip can require painful surgery and rehabilitation, or leave a person bedridden. A fall on the head can trigger the formation of tiny blood clots that lead to vascular dementia. Seniors who are independent, healthy, and active may face a lifetime in nursing care after just one fall.
It's nearly impossible to fall out of your chair when you are doing seated yoga. However, people who do seated yoga tend also to be less likely to suffer falls when they are walking or doing other forms of exercise. Research has shown that people who do chair-based yoga become more confident of their ability to avoid falls, get more exercise, and as a result have greater lung capacity and heart rate variability. Even when performed in a chair, yoga exercises increase the sense of balance that enables people to stay active at 80, 90, and well into their tenth decade of life.