“Two simple chair yoga moves saved me from chronic pain and constant falls!”

How can I do my job if I can’t even walk around the house every day without falling? Patty Remmell was concerned after a spill in her kitchen left her with a painful broken foot. For the 66-year-old resident of St. Petersburg, FL, a broken limb was a terrifying new development, but unfortunately it wasn’t the first fall she’d taken nor, she feared, it would be the last if she hadn’t found a way to control her mobility issues.

Pattys lawsuit falls

For years, Patty has struggled with her mobility after decades of battling obesity. She had made the decision to go back to college in her late 40’s, and with her weight climbing into 50, Patty began to feel her muscles lock up and chronic pain and discomfort in her back, hips and knees as she reached 375 pounds.

This led to not only pain but an unsteady feeling and her feeling unsteady on her feet. Working as an adjunct college instructor at the time, Patty had taken her first significant fall on campus, landing on both knees after tripping on an uneven sidewalk.

From then on, things went from bad to worse as she was constantly worried about falling. It became more difficult to walk from the parking lot to her office than her and even move from classroom to classroom during the day.

My ankles are giving out, Patty would think as she struggled to make it to class, where things ended up going so badly that she had to quit her job and pick up another academic paper drafting from home.

Traditional exercise, including walking, became too difficult and painful to do, and Patty started having trouble even walking to her front door without feeling anxious about falling. And when the pandemic hit her, what little exercise she had been able to get like walking to the grocery store became even more limited as she found herself spending 8 to 10 hours a day at her desk.

I have to move morePatty decided, terrified that if she didn’t, she might end up wheelchair-bound. But how?

The many benefits of yoga

The moment she asked the question, a memory of herself as a teenager in the 1970s spontaneously entered Patty’s mind along with the exercise that had caught fire among her generation at the time: yoga.

Patty had developed a strong interest in the practice then—after all, it had become well known that simple yet effective stretches completed during a yoga session had multiple physical and mental health benefits. In addition to feeling more flexible and less stressed, yoga has also been shown to help with things like balance blood sugar, heal thyroid health, and ease chronic pain.

At the time, Patty had finally walked away from the practice, but now it seemed like a good way to do the stretching that her massage therapist was so adamant about doing to help her cope with her back pain.

Though Patty remembered to stretch occasionally, he was often alone After his muscles had locked up and the pain had taken over. Now, unable to get down and get up, she didn’t know how to start and Patty began to despair.

How Gentle Chair Yoga Saved Patty’s Health

Talking to a colleague and friend about her situation, Patty came up with a surprising insight. You don’t have to get down to do yoga, her friend assured her. You can actually do this at your desk, right in your chair!

Truly? Patty thought as her friend explained more. As it turned out, modifying traditional yoga moves so you can perform them in a chair makes them ideal for adding a little extra activity without the fear of falling, especially for seniors like Patty.

In fact, a recent study found chair yoga for the elderly to be particularly beneficial for those dealing with dementia as well, with researchers stating that those who practiced chair yoga showed better balance, lower levels of depression and agitation, and an overall improvement in quality of life.

Patty’s friend also explained that chair yoga is also beneficial for anyone with physical disabilities or constraints that prevent them from performing certain poses. Or it can be a perfect starting point for people who have never tried the activity and are nervous about taking a class.

The chair yoga moves that saved Patty’s mobility

Intrigued, Patty asked her friend to show her some moves and was surprised to find how simple they were. It’s easy enough to try! she thought, excited to commit to doing desk yoga in five-minute bursts 5 times a day. Early on, Patty found two moves were the most effective:

Spinal torsion

The first was a spinal twist, in which she sat across the chair, facing to the left. Then she rotated her torso to the left, holding onto the back of the chair, feeling a stretch in her hips and lower back.

On each inhalation, he lengthened the rotation and twisted on each exhalation for five breaths before moving his legs to the right side of the chair and repeating the twists to the right.

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Patty Remmell

The dog sitting upside down

The second stretch Patty tried required her to sit up straight in her chair, arch her back, and take a deep breath. She then leaned forward to the floor while she was still seated and exhaled holding for 5 seconds, feeling the stretch in her back. As she got stronger and more flexible, Patty was able to stand up slightly (with the chair behind her knees as an observer) to get a deeper stretch in her hamstrings, lower back, and along her spine.

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Patty Remmell

As she found, doing these moves multiple times a day got her blood circulating, and Patty realized her friend was right, she didn’t have to get up to do the exercise.

Even more exciting, Patty discovered she didn’t even need a lesson to learn new moves—she just started watching Lilias, Yoga and you on PBS, which gave her moves to do anywhere, anytime, and set her Alexa to remind her to stop once an hour to stretch.

Did chair yoga work for Patty’s pain and stability?

When she began strengthening her body with desk yoga over a period of weeks, Patty found she was able to move more, even getting off her desk to walk around and do some standing yoga. She started being able to extend her leg to put her foot on the counter or grab the edge of the dishwasher door to do a deep forward bend. She hurt, but she Patty felt more flexible than she’d felt in years and also more stable on her feet.

Today, Patty feels more agile than she has ever been in her life and is on her feet for good. She didn’t fall from her when she learned to center herself with the deep breathing practice that yoga entails and she can even walk without fear of tipping over.

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Patty is thrilled that she can do a standing stretchPatty Remmell

Chair yoga is also helping her stretch and strengthen different muscle groups as she loses 75 pounds since she started. I feel much less pain, I haven’t fallen in months and the breathing exercises help with my stress and anxiety too! Patty smiles. Chair yoga keeps me grounded in more ways than one. I will never stop.

Other Amazing Benefits of Chair Yoga

Tame arthritis pain

A study in Journal of the American Society of Geriatrics found that arthritis sufferers who practiced chair yoga twice a week experienced a 32 percent decrease in pain and an 11 percent decrease in fatigue after eight weeks. Researchers note that chair yoga allows those with pain to make movements they might not otherwise be able to, and this gentle movement reduces joint swelling and tenderness for better function and less pain. A book including the moves used in the study: Sit N Fit Yoga Chair by Kristine Lee (SitNFitChairYoga.com).

Dramatically reduces urinary losses

Women with urinary incontinence reduced their leaks by 76 percent after just six weeks of yoga classes, say scientists at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine. Researchers credit yoga’s ability to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles that support the bladder. Can’t find a yoga class near you? Search yoga for incontinence on YouTube.

An armchair yoga routine that you can follow at home

For gentler yoga moves, check out these The world of women stories:

Doing this yoga pose for one minute a day can ease anxiety, increase bone mass, and boost brain power

The only yoga pose you need to avoid pain if you sit all day

This type of yoga has finally helped one woman relieve chronic pain and depression

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your doctor before pursuing any treatment plan.

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