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Chair yoga helps seniors find confidence
chair yoga
Erik Fuentes, center, is leading Turlock’s senior citizens on a journey to balance and confidence through chair yoga (Photo contributed).

A yoga instructor is hoping to help Turlock senior citizens gain balance, strength and even a little bit of confidence through a modified workout class that focuses on both the mind and body.

Certified yoga instructor Erik Fuentes has hosted chair yoga classes for seniors age 60 and up for about two years now, he said, giving the city’s elderly a chance to try their best tree pose without any inhibitions. While he typically teaches traditional yoga at Turlock’s I Am Yoga, Fuentes offers a chair yoga class at the Senior Citizens Center once a week, and at Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church bi-weekly.

Rather than having participants get on the ground on a yoga, mat, chair yoga serves as a way to improve senior health by utilizing a seat as a means of stability and comfort during the activity. The workout is an excellent way for older adults to loosen and stretch painful muscles, reduce stress and improve circulation while helping to reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure and even protect joints.

“I realized shortly after my initial training that there are plenty of classes and studios that tailor to young and abled bodies, but what about senior citizens or someone who maybe can’t do a traditional yoga class?” Fuentes said. “Besides, yoga shouldn’t be a privilege, but instead accessible to everyone and everybody.”

Each 60-minute chair yoga class that Fuentes leads consists of about 30 minutes of seated yoga, he said, focusing on movement of the spine through common poses, all while emphasizing steady, deep breaths. There are also some standing poses involved, helping participants build strength and balance in a feasible way. The classes aren’t “body-centric,” Fuentes explained, but focus heavily on the mental, reflective aspect of yoga.

“Yeah, maybe we break a sweat every now and then, but in the end it’s more than just exercise,” he said.

Participants in chair yoga range anywhere from 60 years old to those who are in their mid-90s, and many have bettered their physical wellbeing through the classes. There are some who walk to the class at the senior center, who at the beginning needed to take breaks while making their way over. Now, they can complete the full walk without stopping. One of Fuentes’ chair yoga students, who is in her 80s, can now complete a six-mile walk on the beach with her children, he said.

But, for every physical milestone, there is often a breakthrough with the mind as well.

“I focus on building strength and stability, but I want to help improve their balance and confidence, whether it’s social confidence, having more confidence in being able to walk or stand without falling, being a little stronger or just the fact that you’re coming out of your house into a social setting for an hour once or twice a week,” Fuentes said. “Sometimes that confidence helps in their lives.”

For senior citizens who would like to try chair yoga but are unsure about where to start, Fuentes is hosting a chair yoga basics lecture and workshop at I Am Yoga, 2031 Geer Rd., from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sept. 7. Chair yoga classes are held at the Turlock Senior Citizens Center, 1191 Cahill St., from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. every Tuesday for members and cost $5, and classes are held at Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church, 2602 S. Walnut Road, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. every Monday and Wednesday and cost $3.

“They’re finding more balance, more strength and some of them even find more peace in their lives,” Fuentes said.

For more information, contact Fuentes at