Chair Yoga for Dialysis
With yoga becoming an increasingly popular exercise and fitness activity across the United States, Fresenius Medical Care North America (FMCNA), the nation’s leading network of dialysis facilities, has asked Lakshmi Voelker, a noted author, lecturer, and yoga instructor, to create a “chair yoga” program specifically for dialysis patients.
Patients with kidney failure who depend on dialysis typically have to remain seated for three to five hours at a time, three times a week, while their blood is being filtered during dialysis treatment. Chair yoga, which is done while seated or standing next to a chair, is ideally-suited for dialysis patients. The stretching exercises can be done by people with a wide range of fitness levels and medical conditions, while the breathing techniques work well for calming and stress reduction.
FMCNA reached out to Voelker as part of its ongoing Healthy Lifestyles initiative, which encourages patients with chronic kidney disease to lead healthier and better lives on dialysis by eating nutritious, kidney-friendly foods and staying physically active.
Voelker has been educating people for years about the therapeutic benefits of yoga which, according to many medical experts, can include lower blood pressure and stress, better heart function, and improved strength, circulation, and flexibility. But rather than simply passing along the traditional yoga techniques that she learned from her own teachers, she has spent the past three decades developing and teaching a form of seated yoga that can be done by almost anyone.
She got the idea for chair yoga in 1982, when arthritis prevented one of her students from getting down on the floor to practice. “There ought to be an easier way,” she thought, for the elderly and people with physical limitations to participate in yoga and enjoy its many health benefits. So in 1999, after several years of adaptation and trials with her own students, Voelker introduced chair yoga to a wider audience through an acclaimed series of instructional audio and video recordings. Since then, she has continued to spread her “Get Fit Where You Sit!®” message by training and certifying more than 1,100 chair yoga instructors, while helping to introduce the increasingly popular program to senior centers, nursing homes, physical rehabilitation units, hospitals including the Mayo Clinic, and even the New York City Department of Education.
“Chair yoga exercises have been successfully adapted for office workers seated at their desks and for people on airline flights,” says Voelker. “So I’m confident they can be just as effective and beneficial for dialysis patients.”
“Chair yoga’s unique regimen of stretching and breathing exercises lends itself well to dialysis patients’ needs,” says Jill Hall, RN and vice president of quality management at FMCNA, “It should also be a great way to inspire patients at all fitness levels to be more active.”