In our time-crunched, compressed life styles, opportunities to exercise may seem few and far between. Our society has evolved to a point of such busyness that for many of us, if we are doing something, we are often thinking of and/or doing something else. In addition, the growing elder population and baby boomers who are worn down from life’s vigorous activities have added to the millions of inactive people.

I have practiced yoga for thirteen years, and this has significantly helped with my arthritis while I practiced dentistry and was a recreational athlete. I have found that many people want to practice yoga but cite many barriers to getting started. To address this, I created a beginner’s program but have found that for many people, just getting down to the floor on a mat and getting up again can be too physically or spatially challenging.

I just completed a teacher certification training titled “Lakshmi Voelker Chair Yoga”. This concept and process was developed over 20 years ago by Lakshmi Voelker. As a certified instructor, she found that arthritis limited her client’s ability to practice yoga on the floor. Lakshmi modified the basic postures to the chair and included the necessary breathing techniques. Within six months, her student was able to return to yoga practice on a mat. The program was expanded to provide a challenge for those with more flexibility, but is easily modified to adapt to most physical conditions, including confinement to a wheelchair.

This breakthrough therapy is practiced completely while seated on the chair! This distinguishing factor creates possibilities of providing fitness for essentially anybody. The practice of yoga is about creating a balance of mind, body, and spirit. The opportunity for people with all types of challenges to engage in exercise is liberating from life’s restrictions. This significant result allows the spirit to rise as you focus on improving your health. The increase in flexibility of some areas of the body, enhanced by circulation of oxygenated blood to the brain and tissues (for better fitness) can be life transforming. So many senior citizens are isolated and dependent on assistance from a second party. The program can be taught to the helpers and family. Even children with medical and emotional challenges have benefited by the diminished need for behavior management.

Try this basic stretch now, or later, as you read this following text. Bring your buttock forward a bit in your seat so that your feet approach or touch the floor. Don’t go so far that you tip the chair over!! If needed, place a pillow or book behind your back and/or under each foot. This will allow your back (spine) to become more upright and remove strain on your leg muscles. Have your knees above your feet, but you should be able to see your toes. Keep your chin level with the floor so that you may be able to comfortably gaze forward. Bring your palms together and bring your hands towards your chest, placing the thumbs against the middle of your chest, at heart level. This area is known as
the “Sea of Energy”. Gently massage the area in a very small circle to the right. As you do this, breathe in slowly and fully through your nose if possible. If this does not work well for you, utilize your mouth, also slowly. Hold the breath for an equal amount of time, and the slowly exhale out your mouth. Attempt to focus solely on the breathing. Do this three times. Along with the fourth inhale, raise your hands straight upward over your head to whatever height is comfortable.

Keep your feet pressing downwards, shins perpendicular to the floor, thighs parallel to the floor, and the chest lifted upward. Your head may continue facing forward, or look upward as is comfortable. Repeat the three breath cycles. On the forth cycle, after a breath inwards, and holding the breath for a few seconds, exhale slowly and bring your arms down with palms facing upwards until you make a “T” (level to the horizon). On the next breath cycle, turn the palms downward, and lower them on the exhale to your side and up your belly back to the “Sea of Energy”.

Gently press the thumbs against the area with the next breath cycle. The thymus gland is under the bone and is part of the immune system. The massaging of the area stimulates the gland and is intended to enhance your wellness. This set of movements is called the “Mountain” series, an initial part of the program. The time required may vary from three to four minutes, and will promptly relax your mind and energize your body.

I have benefited immediately from the training process in having practiced the series several times each day. Every body now has access to feel better from practicing a personalized style of yoga. Visit our web site for information.

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Author's Bio: 

Dr. Shareff graduated the University Of North Carolina School Of Dentistry in 1982. He had owned his own practice in Raleigh, N.C. since 1986, until selling it in 2007. During most of his career, he annually spoke to the UNC freshman dental class about private practice. Over the last 12 years he has practiced yoga to help with the strains of sports, career, and life. In the last 2 years he created a new business, “Every Body Inc.” to promote his simple and easy beginners yoga programs, plus other systems that he has utilized for his own wellness. Currently, Dr. Shareff teaches “Chair Yoga” at several sites in the community and writes about wellness for different publications. Visit his web site" to learn more.