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Chair Yoga is a Popular Option for Cardiopulmonary Rehab Patients

Chair Yoga Physical rehabilitation is important for UAB Medicine patients with heart and/or lung conditions or recovering from related surgeries. Since patients have different levels of physical ability, UAB Medicine offers a variety of rehab activities – including chair yoga – to help improve strength, breathing, range of motion, and overall quality of life.

Yoga is becoming a popular exercise option within outpatient cardiopulmonary rehab programs, which typically include treadmills, stationary bikes, rowing and stepping machines, resistance training, weight machines, hand weights, and other aerobic exercises. In addition to mat and standing yoga, UAB offers chair yoga, which can be practiced by patients at nearly any level of physical function. This makes it ideal for cardiopulmonary patients, who tend to be older and often are not capable of doing high-intensity exercise or traditional yoga.

“Our pulmonary patients enjoy chair yoga because it’s less physically demanding than traditional pulmonary rehabilitation aerobic exercise, but it still enhances their health,” says Chris Schumann, program manager for UAB Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Services. “It doesn’t require any expensive or specialized equipment, and it’s a great way to strengthen the body and, just as importantly, focus on breathing techniques.”

UAB Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Services accepts referrals for patients with a wide variety of heart and lung conditions, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart failure, and restrictive lung disease, as well as those who have undergone cardiac surgery, coronary stenting, or heart or lung transplantation. More than 120 patients are enrolled in the program presently. Many patients choose to practice yoga in either chair or mixed (chair, standing, and mat) classes. These classes are offered one to two times per week and are conducted in the atrium of the Civitan International Research Building, adjacent to UAB Spain Rehabilitation Center.
Chair Yoga
“The yoga component is something we’ve really begun focusing on the last few years,” says Wayne Atkinson, RN, clinical care coordinator and a registered yoga teacher. “You’d be surprised how many people don’t know how to breathe properly while moving. If we can just get them moving, burning calories, breathing better, and to not be so defined by their condition, then they’re going to have a better quality of life. Yoga is, in truth, a moving meditation, where mind and body can join together for participants to gain insight and clarity about themselves and the world they live in. It is, in every way, a healing practice.”

Caregivers often participate in yoga classes with the patient, which helps reinforce continued practice at home, even after they’ve completed the Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation program. “We encourage long-term adherence to the program, so getting a family member to participate may stimulate doing more exercise at home,” Schumann says.