Chair Yoga for Anxiety and Depression

chair yoga for anxiety

Are any of you struggling with all the things going on in the WORLD right now? It’s very easy to let the heaviness get you down. Anxiety and depression is a common thing right now, but there are some things we can do to help alleviate it. Living in survival mode for days on end is NOT A GOOD THING!

We all have to find ways to adapt, and one of those things is finding new ways in which we release stress. A lot of us, me included, are used to going to some kind of class: a yoga class, the gym, water aerobics, or walking with a friend. And now we can’t.

Although we can still exercise from home, or walk by ourselves, it’s not the same and takes a lot of motivation. However, as I mentioned in a previous post, WE HAVE GOT TO KEEP MOVING!

Movement can be VERY effective for counteracting anxiety and depression. It doesn’t’ have to be major movement. I know a lot of you out there are very limited on what you can and can’t do as far as movement goes. NO WORRIES. There are things you can do, even while sitting in a chair.

I just uploaded a short video to my YouTube station with some stretches and exercises to get your whole body moving. Don’t expect to sweat with this workout, those classes are coming, but do expect to feel better.

If you want to skip to the relaxation portion of the video, it is marked in the description. 

How will this chair yoga class help with anxiety and depression?

  • It will get your mind off whatever you’re stressing about
  • Movement and stretching are proven to help with your sense of wellbeing.
  • I show you a few techniques to help relieve stiffness in your neck and tension headaches.
  • Best of all, I guide you through a 10 minute guided meditation to help you relax every part of your body.

Movement is so important and vital not only for our physical health but for our emotional health as well. Know that you are NOT alone in this. We are all in this together.

This will take effort on your part. None can move your body for you. Push through the dread, the feelings of being overwhelmed, the hopelessness, and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

We will get through this. Be easy on yourself, take care of yourself. Reach out and share this with anyone who you think could benefit from this.

Check out my other video tutorials, and don’t forget to love and take care of your FEET!

Until next time my friends.

Sending love your way,




Move Your Body: The Benefits of Daily Movement

Daily movement of some kind is one of the best things you can do for your overall health. I have always thought that exercise was important, but the older I get the more I find this to be TRUE based on experience.

Now this doesn’t mean you have to run a marathon or attend an aerobics class every day, I’m talking movement. The human body is designed to move, not stay still for hours at a time.

I’m not sure where I heard this, but I love the analogy. “Just as running water does not freeze, moving muscle and joints will not either!”

It is so true! I work with a lot of seniors and I have seen firsthand how simple movement can improve the way one feels physically and emotionally. Once you start moving every day, you are going to notice a big difference! On the days you skip, you’ll feel the tension and tightness start to creep in again.

I even advise people who experience arthritis, to not baby that joint, but to gently keep it moving. Movement will help improve and keep range of motion. The less we move, the more limited we will be.

What are the benefits of daily movement and exercise?

  • Improves your mood
  • Combats chronic diseases
  • Helps you manage your weight.
  • Strengthens your heart and lungs
  • Can put the spark back into your sex life
  • Promotes better sleep
  • Can be — gasp — fun!
  • Maintain optimal weight
  • Gives you energy
  • Better memory
  • Has been found to lower the risk of health conditions such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s

Unlike the blood circulatory system, which is pumped by the heart, the lymphatic system relies on the contraction of muscles to drain the lymphatic wastes back into the bloodstream via lymph nodes.

Exercise will help you stay well by helping your lymphatic system out. It doesn’t matter what form of exercise you do, all that matters is that you MOVE YOUR BODY and do it daily!

Studies show exercise to not only help us physically but it helps us maintain mental fitness as well. Exercise releases endorphins in the brain, which in turn cause us to have what is commonly known as a “natural high” or a “runners high”.

Psychological Benefits of movement

  • Helps with depression

“Exercise is a powerful depression fighter for several reasons. Most importantly, it promotes all kinds of changes in the brain, including neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being. It also releases endorphins; powerful chemicals in your brain that energize your spirits and make you feel good”

  • Reduces Anxiety
  • Lowers stress

Are all types of exercise good for everyone?

Absolutely not! You have to find what works for you and what makes you feel good.

Years ago, after being diagnosed with a particular autoimmune condition and finding that running and aerobics were too harsh on my body system; I had to find another way to move my body. After trying my first yoga class, I was hooked and have been doing it ever since. It has helped me immensely on my path back to health and vitality. For me, I had to find a more gentle approach to move my body.

The Webster Dictionary defines ‘remedy’ as: a medicine, application, or treatment that relieves or cures a disease. I consider exercise to be just that, a “remedy”.

There are three types of exercise the body needs; Cardiovascular, Strength Training (Muscular Strength & Endurance), and Flexibility Training (stretching).

Cardiovascular Exercise involves continuous, rhythmic movements of large-muscle groups, such as:

  • Rebounding
  • Walking
  • Jogging
  • Biking
  • Aerobics
  • Dancing
  • Hiking
  • Pickle ball (my new love)

Ideally, this needs to be done 3-5 days a week.

Strength Training, sometimes called weight training or resistance training decreases the risk of osteoporosis and maintains muscle mass and function. Alternate these exercises with your cardio workouts and make sure to get all muscle groups to keep your body balanced. 

Flexibility Training will help with the ability to move the joints through their full range of motion. Pain free, flexible joints are important to good health and lifestyle. Inactivity causes us to become stiff and inflexible. It is amazing how fast you can lose range of motion.

Stiffness leads to improper posture that can lead to muscle imbalance, which causes a lot of other problems. An example of a great flexibility program is yoga. 

I LOVE yoga!  Flexibility exercises can be done daily and should be done at least 2-3 days per week. If you stretch just once a week, you will never progress, but always feel like you are just catching up.

Listen to your body

Some days you may wake up and not feel like doing anything, let alone exercising. Maybe you feel achy, or you just don’t feel right. Those are the days you need to do something.  Maybe it will be just a little stretching, or a short walk, but move your body in some way.

The only time I can honestly say that I didn’t feel good after exercising was when I attended a vigorous yoga class at the onset of the flu. It was a little too much for my system, when I should have been resting. Other than that, I have ALWAYS felt great both physically and mentally after moving my body.

People of all ages and abilities, and sizes can exercise.

Some may feel that their health is too compromised to be able to do any kind of exercise. They may be thinking “I’m too fat”, “I’m not flexible enough”, “my body is too achy”, “I don’t have enough energy,” or “I have bad knees.” and on and on. I want you to know that we can all do something!  Even if you are in a wheelchair, and have a very limited ability to move, there are ways to adapt. Exercises can be modified and diluted to fit your needs at ANY AGE! My oldest student is almost 101 years old.

Adapt the exercise to fit your needs

I teach a class at the senior center in my community where I show them how to use a chair to support themselves while doing exercises and yoga poses. Despite their limitations, they can do amazing things. I have seen them improve dramatically both physically and mentally!

You can watch several of my live chair yoga classes on my YouTube station. Check them out HERE.

Don’t compare yourself to anyone else 

Whatever you do, do not compare yourself to anyone else. We all have different bodies, different lifestyles, and different experiences. If you have limitations, it is easy to become frustrated, trust me I know. Do not get discouraged, accept where you are at and enjoy what you CAN do!

Each time you exercise you will feel different. One day you might have a lot of energy and on other days you may not. Adjust accordingly and do what feels good.

Choose a form of movement you enjoy!

  • Walking
  • YOGA

Improve your health one healthy habit at a time!

Start today, CHOOSE to do something for yourself, no one can exercise for you. By exercising you will not only help yourself, but those you associate with and love will benefit, as you release stress, improve health and enjoy your life more fully!




Adaptive Yoga: An Exercise Anyone Can Do

What comes to your mind when you hear the word “yoga”?  Perhaps you visualize a person folded in half or maybe you have an image of a lady with her leg wrapped around her neck like a scarf. Yoga can be very intimidating for some people, therefore they never try it. I am here to tell you that adaptive yoga is awesome and it’s an exercise that anyone can do.

You don’t have to be a flexible gumby, or a young healthy college student. You can adjust yoga to fit any body type and condition.What’s stopping you from practicing yoga?

Some of the reasons that keep people from trying yoga are:

  • joint problems
  • age
  • weight
  • chronic illness
  • inflexibility
  • and other physical limitations

These things do NOT need to stop you from benefiting from one of the best forms of exercise out there. Yoga is not only great for the physical body, but does wonders for your mental health as well. Yoga can change your life. It did mine.

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How yoga helps me

Almost 25 years ago, I was introduced to yoga. I had just been diagnosed with an autoimmune condition and I did not feel well. Exercising was something I loved to do, but couldn’t anymore because it totally wiped me out. I became depressed, overwhelmed and stressed out. ( I was not in a good place). There was a community yoga class advertised and I enrolled.

Now this was back in the day when yoga was not a popular thing. There were no yoga studios in town. This class was held in the hall of a community high school, lockers and all. Yep, not the most aesthetic place to practice yoga, but it was good enough to get me hooked. Hooked for life!

I continued to study yoga, and shortly after began teaching. Sharing yoga is my passion! Even though I experience Lupus and a few other health conditions, yoga keeps me going. I seriously don’t know where I would be without it, probably still lying on the couch with fatigue and pain. You can get the full story in my book.

Yoga helps me manage stress, reduces the inflammation in my body, and keeps the stiffness at bay. I can tell when I miss a few days. My body craves it. I used to practice and teach power and flow yoga, but my now my body resonates with a more gentle type of yoga.

So what is so great about adaptive yoga?

Let a few of my senior yoga students tell you why they love yoga.

1-  Can slow the effects of stress and aging

It is pretty much a given that yoga is good for stress, right? Well here is some interesting research that shows how reducing stress by doing yoga can reduce the negative effects of aging.

Researchers measured biomarkers of cellular aging and stress before and after the 12-week yoga program and found that yoga slowed down markers of cellular aging and lowered measures of inflammation in the body.

2-  Increases flexibility

Most people think you have to BE flexible to practice yoga, but it’s actually a benefit that comes from doing yoga. Stretching the body is so healthy. Stretching keeps the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy, and we need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints. Without it, the muscles shorten and become tight. That puts you at risk for joint pain, strains, and muscle damage. Stretching just makes you feel good!

3-  It’s non-competitive

When you practice yoga, it’s just you and your mat. There is no one else to impress or compare to. At least that is how it’s supposed to be. I encourage my students to listen to their body and not to compare themselves with anyone. Only you can know what’s good for your body and if you press further than that you won’t be productive.

4-  Can be done almost anywhere

Just roll out your mat and do your thing. You can practice yoga at home, in a studio, out in nature, on the beach, or in the airport waiting area. (My husband has been known to find a corner at the airport between flights where he can do a few poses to relieve sciatic pain between flights).

5-  Increases body tone and endurance

Yoga is a great way to tone your body and increase endurance. Most people are very surprised when they first practice yoga how much strength and endurance it does take. What a great way to build muscle. Depending on what type of yoga you are doing, yoga can even give you a great cardiovascular workout as well.

6-  Improves mood

Yoga is a natural way to increase serotonin and other mood enhancing hormones. The production and serotonin is believed to play a major role in happiness. I think we all could use a little more happiness. The breathing that you do in yoga is also beneficial for improving your mood. I don’t think there has ever been a time when I felt worse after practicing yoga.

7-  Can be adapted to fit almost any physical condition

This is what I love about adaptive yoga. It doesn’t really matter what you are experiencing in your body, there is usually a way to adapt a pose to make it suitable for you. Even if you are in a wheelchair, you can move and exercise those parts of your body that do move. If you have limitations, a chair can be used.

8-  Can be done at any age

I teach a weekly chair yoga class at the senior center in my community, and it’s amazing what those folks can do with the assistance of a chair. My oldest student is a 100 year old woman. What an inspiration she is to me.


Even children can benefit from yoga. Kids love yoga. So if you feel tied down because you have children at your feet all day, have them join you on the mat!

Find a yoga class that works for you

I encourage you to find a yoga class that suits you and get started! If you haven’t ever done yoga, find a beginners class. Keep in mind that there are a lot of types of yoga out there. Don’t get discouraged if the class you take isn’t your cup of tea. Keep looking until you find one that suits you.  Some like a more vigorous intense practice, and some enjoy a more restorative class. Mix it up and explore.

I also recommend trying different styles and teachers. Some will resonate with you and some won’t.

Some yoga resources

YOUTUBE Channel – Gentle Yoga with Jan

One of my passions is to share yoga and make it available to everyone, especially to those with limitations. I recently started a Youtube channel that focuses on a more gentle type of yoga. There are a few videos up and running right now.  These first videos focus on proper alignment and benefits of specific poses.

I will also be listing classes and tutorials for those of you who need a little more assistance using a chair.

So excited to get this up and running. I hope you will join me.

Adaptive Yoga with a Chair – DVD & Book

This is a DVD and Book that I have available on Amazon.


In the Adaptive Yoga book and DVD I teach you a modified sun salutation. One version of the salutations is totally done in the chair and the other version is a standing salutation using the assistance of a chair. What I love about the book, is that you can hang it from the chair so you can follow the illustrated steps and exercises.

So whether you have a healthy, toned body, or you have a few health issues, you CAN adapt yoga to fit YOU!

You may be interested in these posts:




I’m excited to connect with some of you on the yoga mat. I hope you’ll join me!

Please send me a note if you have any questions or comments!






Stretches in Bed – Start Your Day the YOGA Way

stretches in bed knees to chest

Stretches in bed? Getting out of bed some mornings can be a little challenging I know. Perhaps your body is stiff and you just want a few more minutes to rest your aching bones.

Well, you go right ahead and stay there for just a few more minutes. Yep, stay there and do some morning stretches right in the comfort of your own bed.

I’m going to show you eight different exercises and stretches that will help alleviate some of that stiffness and get your blood flowing. You’ll be able to pop out of bed energized and ready for your day.

Feel free to do the exercises in whatever order you choose, however, I do recommend starting with a full-body stretch.

Morning stretches in bed

Full body stretch

  • Kick off the covers and stretch your arms overhead. (You may need to scoot down in your bed to give you room). Reach down with your feet at the same time to feel your WHOLE body stretching. Take a few deep breaths


  • Increases circulation and awareness of your body
  • Stretches your arms, back, neck, legs, and feet.

Knees to chest

This pose is also referred to as a wind-relieving pose or Energy freeing Pose. Yep, wind-relieving.

Believe me, I’m a yoga instructor and it’s not a complete yoga class unless someone “relieves some wind”.  It doesn’t always happen but frequently. No biggie! 

We got to let go of that gas somehow. So if you do relieve some WIND, embrace it and count it as a good thing, especially first thing in the morning. Ok. Now on a more serious note.

  • Bring one knee at a time towards your chest. Take your arms around your legs and give yourself a big hug. (This may be your first and only hug, so make it a good one)!
  • Rounding the spine, bring your forehead towards your knees.
  • Rock side to side to massage out the back.


  • Stretches the body
  • Eases Tension in the lower back
  • Easy to do
  • Massage the abdominal organs
  • Improves blood circulation
  • Reduces bloating
  • Rebalances your energy
  • Reduce the hip fat
  • Relaxes the mind and body
  • The best pose to relieve gas

Spinal Twist

  • With your knees still drawn towards your chest, let both knees drop over to one side.
  • Take the arms straight out to the side, like the letter “T”.
  • Turn your head in the opposite direction of your knees.
  • Stay there for several deep breaths.
  • Repeat on the other side


  • Stretches the IT band, glutes, lower back, abs, chest, shoulders, and neck
  • Improves spinal mobility
  • Relieves compression at the lower back
  • Relaxes the body and quiets the mind
  • Relieves stress

Feet to the sky, ankle circles

  • Lying on your back, lift your legs up so your feet are directly over your hips. Your knees can be bent.
  • Circle your ankles several times in one direction and then change directions.
  • Point and flex your feet a few times.


  • Moves any stuck or stagnant fluids that have accumulated in the feet.
  • Regulates blood pressure
  • Increases circulation and flexibility of ankles and feet
  • Soothing to the low back

Hip Circles

  • Lying on your back, bend both knees and place feet on the mattress.
  • Take one knee towards your chest and then pull your knee over to the opposite side. (It won’t go very far). You should feel a stretch in the outer side of the leg (IT band).
  • Now let the knee drop open away from the body. Move the knee back and forth a few times.
  • Starting with the knee towards the chest, allow the knee to drop out to the side and then slide your foot away from you, straightening the leg out.
  • Bring the knee up towards your chest, slightly rolling to that side, making a complete circle.
  • Do two circles on each side.



My dear friend who just turned 100 years old this month, shared with me that she does 10-15 sit-ups every morning before getting out of bed.

This amazing woman still lives alone, still cooks her own meals, AND exercises every day. She does “Sit and Be Fit” from the television three times a week and always ends each session with the chair yoga sun salutations.  On the other days, she does chair yoga.

So if June can do a sit-up at 100 years old, I think we can at least try. She said to me one day “if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it”. She is so RIGHT! (More about June coming up).

If you haven’t done a sit-up in a while, most likely it’s going to be a little difficult or maybe even impossible. NO WORRIES! You can work up to it.

  • If it’s been a while, start in a seated position.
  • Hold behind your legs for support and start to roll slowly down to a reclined position.
  • Then roll back up. (Hold behind the legs if you need to. If that is still too challenging, only roll down halfway).
  • If that is too easy, let go of your legs and do full sit-ups.
  • Wanting more of a challenge? Cross your arms over your chest and then do your sit-ups.
  • Do 10-15 reps in the thought of JUNE. More or less depends on your ability and desire.


  • Obviously, improves core strength
  • Improve hip flexor strength
  • Increase flexibility
  • Help lose tummy fat
  • Tone the ab area
  • Improve posture

Wrist circles

  • Reach your arms up over your chest and simply make several circles with your wrists.
  • Change directions.
  • Do several reps.
  • Make a tight fist and then spread your fingers out as far as they’ll go. Open and closed several times.


  • Improves circulation
  • Increases mobility
  • Reclined Pigeon Pose

Reclined Pigeon Pose

This pose is also referred to as the Eye of the Needle pose. It is a great alternative to an upright pigeon pose, which can be very stressful on the knees and hips.

  • While on your back and with bent knees, take one foot and place it top of the other thigh. (Just above the knee).
  • Flex the foot that is on the leg.
  • That may be enough stretch for some. If not, gently press the knee away from you to increase the hip stretch.
  • If that is still not giving you the stretch you want: reach your hands behind the leg that is underneath, and pull your leg towards you. (This will increase the stretch in your gluteal muscles).
  • Hold for a few breaths and repeat on the other side.


Releases tension in the muscles of the lower back, hips, and hamstrings.

Opens the hips and reduces the symptoms of sciatica.

Enhances blood flow in the lower back


Those suffering from knee injuries or sacroiliac conditions should avoid practicing this pose. If you experience tingling, numbness, or pain in your hips, legs, or lower back, immediately stop.

I hope you’ll take a few minutes and do a few stretches in bed. Trust me, you’ll feel better if you do!

More resources for yoga and stretching

Office yoga

Exercise That Anyone Can Do

Tension Release For Neck & Shoulders

Chair Yoga DVD

Jan Howell Yoga YouTube Station

Start your day the yoga way!





Exercises to Strengthen and Stretch Your Feet – Foot Lovin’ Yoga


Here are some great exercises to strengthen and stretch your feet. You can prevent and relieve plantar fasciitis, bunions, weak arches, and even knee, hip & back pain by strengthening and stretching your feet.

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Our feet are complex, multi-functional parts of our body that have many nerve endings, muscle groups, and connective tissue. Did you know there are 26 bones, 33 joints, and more than a hundred muscles, tendons, and ligaments in our feet? Crazy hugh?

The feet are intricately connected to the rest of our bodies in ways we don’t realize.

Because our feet are the furthest thing from our brain, we often forget about them and neglect them. (However, we quickly give our feet awareness when something goes wrong with them, don’t we)?

What Happens If We Don’t Take Care of our Feet

Conditions like flat feet, hammertoe, plantar fasciitis, and more can cause a lot of pain. This pain can get carried all the way up the body, to the knees, the hips, to the spine, and to the neck. All this misalignment can cause the body to do some pretty intense overcompensation, causing you to walk, sit, and stand in unhealthy ways that may only make the condition worse.

In order to avoid allowing our foot problems to dictate the health of the rest of our body, it’s so important to for us to take care of our feet! When we take care of our them, the rest of our bodies will thank us!


These exercises are great for anyone who has FEET!

This video is a 35-minute class that will strengthen, stretch and even help with the coordination of your feet.

You’ll need

  • a chair
  • yoga block, access to a step or stairs
  • yoga blanket (optional)
  • a dishcloth or small piece of fabric.

Check out the props and equipment I use. 

Take off your shoes and socks and give your feet some lovin!

Here are some other gentle yoga videos and posts you may be interested in:

Office Yoga

Foot Lovin’ Yoga – Myofascial Release with a Ball

Building Strong Bones: the Gentle Yoga Way

Gentle Yoga with Jan Youtube station

Have a fabulous week my friends!