Chair Yoga from Studio to Care/Nursing homes

An initial pilot project that has created such amazing wonderful benefits both body & mind… Magically beyond our expectations 

Chair yoga in nursing homes was a concept I have always wanted to try get moving. Basically, I believed could it have a positive impact both physically & mentally on the lives of the people who live there… eighteen months in and the relationships are strong and the smiles are big !!!

Before we delve into it all I wanna give a little background to where this all originates from… First up I just love older people, like I love kids, they give you their undivided attention and are so in the moment of the conversation with complete and utter non-judgement or awkwardness. Conversations just flow and actually you end up spending more time chatting as you are so comfortable and blown away by the experience at the same time… know what I mean??

My granny lived with us until she passed at the age of 95 (in 2005), her presence and daily zest for life was a tonic to be around weather I appreciated the actual fact of that zest then, little did I know it was a great grounding to be around 🙂

Her belief in living and daily movement which was walking or on her stationary bike was so disciplined. That along with reading the newspapers cover to cover and having the radio chat shows blaring was the best first-hand experience to seeing and believing the good that movement can do – it’s probably actually what kept her so healthy for all those years… She had an interest and connection to chatting to everyone who came in and out of the kitchen… Gosh, I loved and still love that woman so much and to all of us including the neighbours, friends and strangers…  she was simply known as “Mother”!!!

So I worked as a fire engineer in Dublin Fire Brigade for almost 8 years, weekly inspections took me to various nursing homes and it used to break my heart going around and seeing very little interactive activity going on… It actually used to affect me so much I would come home and ask my mum could we go with my sisters and maybe sing for them or recite poetry or read or just do something! Nobody ever took me seriously when I approached them!

So from the start of getting involved with the studio, it had been a priority on our list… But how to do it was the question? Chair yoga seemed like my only viable option… with our location, we are lucky that there is an awesome Care Home located beside us and I approached them to see if we could pilot a weekly class Voluntarily where the studio would supply a teacher at no cost… We got all permissions and Garda vetting cleared and so we began!!!

Our Teachers Melissa Curtis & Jennifer Hurley deliver a weekly touch of magic on Friday mornings – a tonic for staff and residents! Our weekly class has evolved into not just an exercise routine but a vibrant connection to the residents who eagerly look forward to and categorically say Friday is their favourite day!!!!….. Our Teachers not just teach but bring soooo much love with them and deliver this love in turn to each person…

Last week Lisa Phillips (Our Senior Chair Yoga teacher in-studio) and I took a trip to catch up and met with CareChoice nurses & activity leaders to get an update on what the last 18 months has brought ….Simply everything they said ….. That meeting I literally sat there smiling and so full of love that such a breath-takingly positive and beautiful impact was becoming evident as they spoke….

The main findings from chatting to Nicola and Ciara was how much the Chair Yoga has brought about a community connection and sense of belonging to the residents… It is the only exercise activity where practitioners are brought in from outside of the Care choice staff… From the moment Melissa or Jennifer step into the room the atmosphere changes to welcoming, friendly and inclusive they said… Each person is welcomed by name and from here the class thrives off confidence, inclusion and stamina of being able to be there… This is mainly what keeps the people returning!

Practitioners here range form age group mid 40s to mid 90s and everyone is accommodated, with as many as 25 plus attending and the care workers also join in 🙂 The class involves mediation, affirmations and movement with a long savasana…. The class format doesn’t stray much form week to week as the familiarity and repetition is important for lots of reasons…..It helps people to feel a sense of transformation and achievement… it also gives a sense of security in knowing what might come next… That doesn’t mean every class is the same but it creates a steady framework to add new elements one at a time and manage expectations.. Trying something new becomes fun and not scary once the setting is right. 

They also reported that across the board movement improvements have been gradual with time and in fact a stroke patient is having better arm function since beginning these classes… The care workers have said the transition after class on a Friday is the calmest and most co-ordinated of the whole week and the staff put it down to the yoga…. They said they wouldn’t be without the weekly sessions now! The state of mind of the residents is more at ease and in tune, with some bering reported to doing exercises or breathing work from the classes throughout the week at various times…..
Care choice have said without a doubt they wouldn’t be without this weekly class now and that this particular movement class in comparison with any others brings the most overall rounded and positive sense of wellbeing connection to the residents…

We also took on a weekly Chair yoga class at the Studio a bit more focused with the inclusion of props for extra strength & greater mobility targeting….. Lisa Phillips who co-ordinates this class has helped develop the studio’s own sense of community for less abled or older people who may feel that other forms of exercise may not be achievable… The chair gives the initial security in ability BUT it’s not long before they discover there is a lot more Ability inside one they begin to strengthen and move under the correct guidance…

Not only the movement but again this weekly Monday class has formed some wonderful friendships that again creates a positive connection of older people to be an integral part of community life… The ages in this class again range from mid-30s to mid-80s… we also have people who are rehabbing strength maybe after a replacement operation or injury etc…

Bringing it all together we have Chair Yoga Teacher Training option Created & Delivered by Our Senior Yoga Teacher Lisa Philips running over the weekend of October 12th & 13th… This training will open your eyes to the variety of ways you can incorporate chair yoga classes into Community spaces, Studio, and Care/Nursing home environment…

To have an idea of making something better for someone and bringing it to life is simply the most incredible feeling… A massive thanks to the CareChoice, Melissa, Jennifer & Lisa who all make this happen…

My heart is full Much Love xxx

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