Chair Yoga May Help to Manage Osteoarthritis

Chair Yoga May Reduce Pain and Help to Preserve Physical Function

Chair yoga
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Chair yoga may be a solution for millions of people who have osteoarthritis and find it difficult to keep up with an exercise regimen or regular physical activity. While it is well-documented that regular exercise is important for people who have osteoarthritis, many people cannot stand and perform the exercises—especially those who are older and have osteoarthritis in their lower, weight-bearing joints, such as the hip, knee, ankle, or foot.

People with involvement of those joints can have considerable joint pain, muscle atrophy, balance problems, or even a legitimate fear of falling. Chair yoga compensates for many of those issues.

Chair Yoga Study Results

A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (December 2016) was the first randomized controlled trial (note: randomized, controlled trials are the highest quality trials) to consider the effects of chair yoga on pain and physical function in older adults with osteoarthritis.

A group of older adults with osteoarthritis, 131 of them to be exact, were randomly assigned to the Sit N Fit Chair Yoga program or to a health education program. The study participants attended twice-a-week, 45 minute sessions for a period of 8 weeks. Researchers measured certain parameters before, during, and after the sessions which included pain, pain interference in daily life, balance, gait speed, fatigue, and functional ability.

Results revealed that the chair yoga group had a greater reduction in pain and pain interference during their sessions compared to the health education group. The reduction in pain interference lasted 3 months beyond the 8-week period for the chair yoga participants. The chair yoga program also was linked with reduced fatigue and better gait speed during the 8-week study session, but not after.

In 2014, results were published in the journal Holistic Nursing Practice from a study that assessed the effect of Sit N Fit Chair Yoga on pain, as well as physical function and psychological functioning in community-dwelling older adults with osteoarthritis. A chair yoga group was compared to an attention control group (a health education program). The chair yoga group reportedly had greater improvement in depression and life satisfaction than the control group.

While results look promising, there was a negative aspect that surfaced. A study published in Holistic Nursing Practice (October 2016) that considered the feasibility and sustainability of completing an 8-week chair yoga trial in older adults with osteoarthritis determined that people, once they were outside the group setting, did not continue the chair yoga program on their own at home even when provided a guide book.

he findings suggest a need for group programs for older people with osteoarthritis, but insurance coverage of non-pharmacologic treatments is not assured in every case. It also suggests the need for instruction to promote adherence to home chair yoga programs.

Sit N Fit Chair Yoga

The Sit N Fit chair yoga program is designed for older adults with osteoarthritis who are unable to do standing yoga and, as was already mentioned, it is the program that was used in the aforementioned studies.

The Sit N Fit chair yoga program is performed while using a chair with arms. The program was developed by a team of health care providers and a yoga teacher (Kristine Lee) who is experienced and certified by the International Yoga Alliance.

There are four components to Sit N Fit Chair Yoga: breath of life (10 minutes), body proper (20 minutes), warrior in the body (5 minutes), and mind-body connection (10 minutes). Benefits of the program, along with reduced pain, include increased oxygenation, circulation, flexibility, balance, strength, and improved posture. A 46-page Sit N Fit Chair Yoga book by Kristine Lee is available, packed with photos to help people with the program.

Other Illustrated Resources for Chair Yoga

You may be able to find a chair yoga group at your local "Y" or in certain fitness clubs. There are also several easy-to-follow, illustrated chair yoga books available at your favorite bookstore.

There is illustrated information online, too. Here are some chair yoga resources:

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