How can we transform our yoga practice into service?

One way is to bring yoga to people who are elderly, sick, or disabled. Anyone can do yoga, at any age, at any stage of life, and in any place—even bed. Two sequences are included here:

One is an in-bed sequence for people who are ill or infirm and one is a chair sequence for caregivers or people who may not be able to stand for the length of a sequence, or who just want a different kind of practice. Rodney and I frequently practice chair yoga. As our friend Donna Karan says: “At one time or another in our lives, we will be the patients and we will be the caregivers.” These sequences are for both, but also for people who might just be feeling plain exhausted.

This in-bed sequence articulates every joint and muscle in the body. Even small, seemingly insignificant movements are helpful for the general health of the circulatory, respiratory, and digestive systems—especially for people who are bedridden. They help relieve constipation, depression, anxiety, and insomnia.

The person’s mental focus is equally important while doing the exercises. If you are leading someone through the poses, watch the person’s skin, breath, and facial expressions; if a movement appears uncomfortable, or the person experiences pain or agitation, stop. Endless hours of boredom and isolation can wreak havoc on anyone’s spirit. Helping patients do exercises like these can give them some relief in the present—or help them turn the corner toward recovery

Chair Sequence for Caregivers and Others (15-Minute Sequence)

This sequence will be beneficial for loved ones or caregivers who sit or stand for long hours and who often neglect caring for themselves. An optimal time to do a chair sequence is when the patient goes for a test or surgery, or is asleep, or for a nurse on a break. It’s an all-around sequence that will leave you feeling balanced and provide much-needed relaxation.

Seated Cow Pose a - Yoga Sequence: Subtle Practices for Difficult Times

Seated Cow and Cat Poses. Sit on the edge of your chair, grab the seat with both hands, and arch your back into seated Cow Pose (a). Then round your back into seated Cat Pose (b). Repeat 5 times.

Seated Cat Pose b 1 - Yoga Sequence: Subtle Practices for Difficult Times

Ankle to Knee. Put your left ankle on your right knee; then do the same with the other leg. Stay for 2 cycles of breath each time and repeat 3 times.

Ankle to Knee - Yoga Sequence: Subtle Practices for Difficult Times

Chair Twist. Sit sideways on the chair with your outer right thigh against the backrest. Hold both sides of the backrest with your hands. Press your feet firmly into the floor as you turn your chest and head to the right. Hold for 3 breaths, slightly untwisting on the inhale and twisting deeper on the exhale. Switch sides. Do this 2 times on each side.

Chair Twist - Yoga Sequence: Subtle Practices for Difficult Times

Chest and Shoulder Openers. Sit near the front edge of the chair, and hold on to the sides of the seat with your hands. Then move your buttocks to the front edge of the seat. Scoot yourself off the seat, then raise (a) and lower yourself (b) as much as you can. As you dip down, keep your elbows as close to shoulder-width as possible. This sequence opens the chest and shoulders and builds the triceps. Repeat

Chest and Shoulder Opener Hips Lowered b - Yoga Sequence: Subtle Practices for Difficult Times

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