Dear chair yoga: I’m sorry
Emma West writes a personal and heartfelt letter to the miracle that is chair yoga
On the first day of my year-long yoga teacher training, I broke my leg.
I slipped on a wet drain whilst rushing to get to class, and arrived with a bleeding, bruised knee. Being as stubborn as I am, I powered on through, refusing to go get it checked, insisting, “It’s only a bruise, I’ll be fine”.
I didn’t know it was broken at the time, but an ultrasound later showed I had fractured my tibial plateau in two places.
I was far from fine.
After two months of powering on through and pushing my body through a lot of vinyasa and various exercise classes, I was in agony. I had to stop all yoga and exercise and I had to use crutches to walk. Not the best situation for a yoga teacher trainee.
I was miserable.
It was suggested to me that I try chair yoga as a way of continuing my practice but without the strain on my knee whilst it recovered.
However, I refused, choosing not to practice at all. I saw chair yoga as something that was only for community-based senior groups who wanted to socialise and dance whilst sitting on a chair.
I did not believe that it was possible to get the same warm, happy, post-yoga glow whilst sitting on a chair and moving my arms around.
In my mind, if it wasn’t arm balances, vinyasas or inversions, it wasn’t yoga, right?
I admit it, I was wrong. I owe chair yoga an apology.
You see, yoga is not about arm balances or inversions. Yoga is a journey of self-discovery; it is about how you feel on the inside.
It doesn’t matter whether your practice takes place on a mat, in a chair or even in a bed. It does not matter what shapes you make, how strong you are or what your body looks like. Contrary to popular belief, yoga is not about the handstand.
Speaking from experience, it absolutely is possible to reap the benefits of a yoga class whilst sitting on a chair.
I now teach a weekly chair yoga class and it is my favourite class to teach. It is also my most popular class. We practice pranayama, we move through various warm-up sequences, sun salutations, flow sequences and cool-down stretches before Savasana.
But the real benefits don’t come from moving our bodies through a series of shapes.
What makes this class exactly the same as any other yoga class is the intention behind it — bringing yogic philosophy, principles and history into these classes is what makes it yoga.
So thank you, chair yoga, for always being there when we need you, for giving us a way to practice when we are not able to practice any other way.
I’m sorry for misunderstanding you, for judging you and for letting my ego convince me you weren’t ‘real yoga’. I’m sorry that I didn’t put my faith in you sooner and I promise to tell the world how amazing you can be.