Adaptive Chair Yoga Benefits Seniors – Entertainment & Life – The Times


Muscles are stretched and strengthened to support the joints, while taking into account those with arthritis, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, and balance issues.

The space is intimate. Soothing music plays softly.

Sixteen women take their places in class on this sunny morning.

They are seated upright with their feet flat on the ground. The shoulders and elbows are back and down.

They breathe in deeply through their nose and once the lungs are fully inflated, breathe out slowly, again through their nose.

It’s a calming and relaxing prelude to chair yoga – modified yoga poses done while seated for the benefit of the elderly or anyone with health concerns that compromise balance and mobility.

“The chair yoga program is designed for all bodies – anyone who may need a little adaptation to stay safe and healthy,” said Leslie M. Benedetto, who designed the class for B Well Nation Fitness Center in Patterson Township. “It really focuses on strength, flexibility, as well as fall prevention and balance.”

This is one of the many classes at the center that offers programs for all ages and all fitness levels, including high intensity workouts like kickboxing, P90X, RAPPED and Zumba at lower intensity workouts. like chair yoga and Zumba Gold.

“What we do is create an atmosphere where every body can feel successful, feel secure, and progress to the next level of fitness or health it wants to achieve,” said Chris Cosky, Owner and B Well Nation Fitness Center instructor.

If, for example, you have arthritis or have had knee or rotator cuff surgery, instructors can tailor the movements and exercises to each individual’s level of fitness “so you don’t get in the way. a class or a workout and you felt like you had somehow been set up for failure, ”she said.“ We have a way for you to be successful and be safe. and that’s really the reason we have 74 year olds taking P90X, ”referring to rigorous training that includes cardio, resistance and nutrition training.

Benedetto, an exercise physiologist with a Master of Science in Physical Education with a specialization in Adapted Physical Activity from Slippery Rock University, founded the B Well Nation Fitness Center in 2009. She also holds a bachelor’s degree. Bachelor of Arts in Dance from the university and is nationally certified as a group exercise professional by the American Council on Exercise and the National Association of Fitness Certifications.

“I created it because I wanted a place to teach that was positive and welcoming to everyone,” she said. Here you don’t see “six-pack abs photos” on the walls. So many places, she said, “focus on great summer bodies. Some people just want to move. A bikini body isn’t even on the radar.

She started teaching yoga, then added Zumba and hired more “and go from there” instructors with day and evening classes offered Monday through Saturday.

“It’s just a comfortable space for all ages,” she said, where the instructors know each other’s names, goals and limitations.

“We know when you need a pat on the back or a push,” says the brochure from B Well Nation Fitness Center.

“Just a fun lesson”

“Sitting high, hands at sides for spinal balance, we breathe in, lift one arm, the opposite leg, breathe out, come down,” directs Benedetto, as the women burst out laughing.

This is the hardest part of chair yoga, joked Sandy Atkins, 78, of Beaver Falls. “When you don’t know your right leg from your left leg. “

Atkins says she can’t “jump” anymore, so chair yoga is perfect.

“Chair exercise is easier, but you get the same results… After exercise, I feel great. “

She also loves fellowship.

“It’s just a fun class to come to,” she said. “All women are nice. We’re just having a good time. “

Each Monday for an hour, the class progresses through a series of yoga poses – with names like Mountain, Front Eagle, Warrior, Cat Cow, and Sun Salutation – all designed to improve posture, balance, flexibility. and muscle tone while connecting breathing and movement.

Every part of the body is targeted for range of motion, said Benedetto, program development director and instructor – neck, shoulders, arms, wrists, hips, legs, knees and ankles – “all major joints to maintain that mobility. “.

Muscles are stretched and strengthened to support the joints, she said, while taking into account those with arthritis, osteoporosis, muscle weakness and balance issues.

All equipment for chair yoga (sturdy chairs, yoga straps, balls) is provided.

Participants should complete a questionnaire regarding their current level of health and fitness for their safety before starting any program.

The youngest chair yoga participant is around 60, said Benedetto, and the oldest is 87 and “she looks fabulous. Very healthy and strong.

But Benedetto said she also had “younger people who had had hip replacements, knee replacements, some who had autoimmune disorders or were recovering from cancer treatment.

“If you notice, I’m giving options,” she said, to accommodate those who can’t do some of the poses.

But this group is doing so well with balance that Benedetto has “increased the difficulty of balance and stability, but I can also go back in the same class with people who have just started”, they were four that day.

Beaver’s 82-year-old Elsie Russell notices improvement not only in herself, but also in her classmates.

“Do what you can comfortably do,” she said, “and you will be surprised in a few weeks how much you progress. We have had people here who have really improved. They came in and they could barely move and now they are doing most of the exercises.

Russell, Benedetto’s mother, said she suffered from arthritis in her knees and neck, neuropathy in her feet and sciatica pain, but chair yoga helped all of these conditions and gave her a sense of well-being. .

She not only participates in chair yoga, but comes on Thursdays for Zumba Gold – modified Zumba classes for middle-aged to older adults – and strength training with resistance bands. Chair yoga and Zumba Gold are both part of the Active Agers program at B Well Nation Fitness Center.

“I’ll tell you,” said Russell, “if I miss my yoga, I feel it. The reason I love chair yoga is that you get all of the benefits of floor yoga, but you have it. chair safety net… you feel good, you just feel good.

Sandy Hienz from Patterson Heights also comes regularly, “because it’s a nice place to be here.”

She has back problems.

“If I didn’t come here to stretch with the rest of the ladies, I would have the surgery, so that benefits me a lot,” she said.

Hienz comes with her friend Laura Canali from Chippewa Township.

“What I love about it is that they are always watching you,” she said. “They are going to modify an exercise. They will make sure you do it right. This is very important and I know that when I do housework now my back doesn’t get sore like it used to be so I have good muscle tone.

There is a mindset, said Benedetto, “that anyone can teach someone older because it’s just easier – like you do easier things with them.”

On the contrary, “it is very important to be properly trained to work with older people,” she said. “I was trained with Parkinson’s disease, MS (multiple sclerosis), rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis. It’s not just about putting people in a chair and making it easier for them. There is a very specific knowledge base for working with older people that people need… Osteoporosis has specific guidelines on what to do and what not to do. Ditto for stroke and Parkinson’s disease. This (chair yoga) is designed to ensure the safety of these people.

Darlene Coleman, 63, of South Beaver Township, has been coming to chair yoga for about three months and started “Strength and Serenity” on Tuesday, a new class also developed by Benedetto to develop strength, balance and coordination through yoga techniques and bodyweight resistance training. .

Coleman started chair yoga three years ago at another facility after the birth of his grandson, now 5.

“I wanted to be able to play with him. Lay on the floor and do stuff instead of just sitting on a chair. I needed balance and just to get in better shape and stretch. I can’t do as much Zumba and aerobics because of asthma. I’m short of breath and it doesn’t work for me. Chair yoga is just perfect. I love it.”

Friendly touch

The session ends the same way it started.

The women sit upright with their feet flat on the ground, their arms at their sides. They close their eyes and focus on their breathing – deep, repetitive breaths and breaths.

No one is in a rush to leave, however.

Benedetto incorporates a friendly farewell twist – a cup of freshly brewed tea, that day, spicy licorice.

It’s a nice transition, she says. At first, tea made it easier for women to talk to each other, but then “it really created a community.”

“Now women who would never have met are going out for lunch,” Benedetto said. And community is “important as we get older,” she said, especially among older women who are often more prone to isolation, which can foster depression and anxiety.

But not at the B Well Nation Fitness Center.

“It’s so much fun,” said Russell. “Everyone is laughing and joking. They make it so much fun. It’s a wonderful group of women and I think that’s what drives everyone to come… Everyone is trained and certified in every class they take so you’re not going to come here and you to injure. I think that’s a big plus for people.


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