If you teach chair yoga to a group or individual student for a while, at some point you will inevitably feel like you ran out of ideas. There are definitely fewer chair poses then there are regular yoga poses and the classes might start feeling repetitive. What can you do to keep your students (and yourself) interested and engaged?
When it comes to chair yoga, there are two main routes that you can take.
1. Experiment with more intricate yoga poses
In intricate chair yoga poses you come up with new ways of arranging your body around a chair – you can wrap yourself around it, climb on top of it or under it, thread yourself through it, and so on. You can come up with some pretty interesting stuff.
Personally, I am not a big fan of that approach for the following reasons:
• Getting in and out of those poses is tricky and potentially dangerous for the students with more limited abilities; for them it can be discouraging and fear-inducing.
• Taking 5 minutes or more for each pose to arrange every body in the intricate position can interfere with the energetic flow of the practice and can be distracting for students.
• Using your body weight to hang over a chair or leaning into it can push you way past your capacity.
• Chair tripping or slipping from under the student is always a possibility that is potentially very harmful.
• What is the point? There are much easier ways to get a similar effect with much less risk.
Of course, if your students are feeling adventurous, you can always try one of those as the icing on the cake, but you would need to be right there watching your students like a hawk to make sure that they don’t hurt themselves.
2. Add layers to more basic chair poses
Another way to approach it is to stick to more basic yoga poses that are mostly done either seated in a chair or standing next to it (with addition of some other simple moves like putting the feet up on a chair). This provides a much more stable base and is much safer for your students. To make it more interesting and relevant, you can add layers – other practices that you add on top of the basic poses. Those layers can be:
• Movement-related (You can use different arm adaptations to emphasize different parts of the body, or support different practice themes).
• Attention-related (You can direct your student’s attention to different aspects of the pose or to different body parts that are involved)
• Theme-related (You can choose a specific theme for the practice, like being open to new experiences, for example, and use breathing patterns, gestures, reflection, sound, meditation and so on to cultivate that theme throughout the practice).
Ultimately, intricate chair yoga poses have a bit of acrobatic flair to them – they present an interesting challenge and primarily cultivate the sense of accomplishment. They also aim to replicate more traditional yoga poses with the support of the chair. Layered chair yoga poses, on the other hand, are less about achieving specific forms of poses and more about getting the effect you are after. Layered chair yoga poses use movement variations, breath patterns and focus points to help direct your student’s attention and actualize the intention that you set for the class.
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