In our Muscles for Myeloma (Fitness) Chapter event, we had fellow Multiple Myeloma Warrior Jeff lead us through a wonderful flow of yoga poses from the chair. Jeff was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma in August 2018. He sought his treatment in Roswell Park, Buffalo NY, where he had a bone marrow transplant. Following his treatment, he wanted to reduce his back and rib pain which led him to yoga. In July and September 2020 he finished his 200 hours of yoga training and now teaches yoga in Hawaii and loves sharing how yoga has helped him in his journey.
Getting to know Jeff has been truly inspiring. All his life he was a very active person, although receiving news of having Multiple Myeloma he has not allowed it to get him down. He lives by the mantra of: He may have Multiple Myeloma, however, it does not have him. His desire is to help as many people as he can through his experiences and share his gift of yoga. It was such a wonderful event.
There are often many questions that arise when people hear about chair yoga. What kind of chair does it require? Who is chair yoga recommended for? How can you avoid twisting with back problems? How long do I hold a pose? Can you really feel a stretch and benefit from just the chair? I’d like to help answer these questions.
First; What kind of chair do you use? Since chair yoga is about being adaptable it really doesn’t matter what kind of chair you use. The best thing to be mindful of in a chair is to make sure it doesn’t have wheels- as that can be a safety hazard. Armrests can get in the way of certain poses in the chair, however, if you have difficulty standing up on your own without the assistance of an armrest, then keep that in mind. Finally, you want to make sure you can plant your feet firmly on the ground, if you’re like me and a tad on the shorter side you can use yoga blocks or a folded up yoga mat under your feet.
Second; Who does chair yoga? Simply put, it's for anyone. Yoga has so many benefits and regular floor yoga can be difficult for anyone with mobility limitations, however, it doesn’t mean it’s only for those who have mobility issues. Chair yoga provides more support, so anyone who may need more support on their back is managing an injury, is new to yoga and limited with range of motion, or just doing some mindful poses at work.
Third; How to get a good stretch in your back without twists? Twisting positions can be hard when there are spinal or back injuries, some great poses to stretch your back and improve your mobility in the spine are: Chair cat-cow, chair down-ward dog, chair forward bend, and chair pigeon (see descriptions below).
Chair cat-cow- sit on the chair with the spine long and both feet on the floor. Place your hand on your knee or top of your thighs. On an inhale, arch your spine and roll your shoulders down and back (cow). On an exhale, round your spine and drop your chin to your chest, letting the shoulder and head come forward (cat). Continue moving between breaths- 5-7 breaths.
Chair down-ward dog- pushing your chair into the wall for stability, place your hands on your chair, stepping back feet under your hips- arms lengthened out and parallel to the floor. Holding that position.
Chair forward bend- sitting in your chair, on exhalation come into a forward bend over the legs. Let the hands rest on the floor (if they reach), and let your head hand heavy. Hold pose through 5-7 breaths and remember to come up slowly allowing your head to come up last.
Chair pigeon pose- From sitting position, bring one ankle to rest on the opposite thigh. Keeping your knee in line with your ankle, if you can through the breath lean with your chest forward, holding your back straight. Repeat with the other leg.
Fourth; How long do you hold a pose? It’s important to remember that if the pose hurts in any way you should not hold. If you feel good in the pose and it’s working well for you, hold through 5-7 breaths. Make sure you’re executing long full breaths.
Finally, can you really get a benefit from chair yoga? Absolutely! I am here for it. Yoga itself can be challenging for anyone, however, there are so many benefits that can come from the regular practice of yoga. It helps to reduce risk of injuries, increase strength in your core and back, improve balance and mobility, reduce stress, and improve your immune system. These benefits are important for anyone, and especially Multiple Myeloma warriors. This fight is so important, it’s essential to combat it at every opportunity. Finding strength from doing chair yoga will come from regular practice, correcting your posture and poses, as well as making sure you are staying safe.
For the Muscles for Myeloma Chapter, it’s such an honor to get to know so many inspiring warriors like Jeff and see how their active lifestyle has provided them the strength to move forward and fight so strong. Jeff loves giving back to each and every one of you, we love having his classes and are looking forward to more opportunities. Don’t miss out, sign up for our Chapter updates so you can attend more classes like this.
about the author
Linnley joined HealthTree in January 2020 as the Fitness Events Manager. Her husband is a childhood cancer survivor as well as a cancer biologist. Finding a cure, better treatments, and balance through treatments is what drives their family. Linnley is an Advanced Cancer Exercise Specialist and focuses on finding what you can do rather than can't.