It’s no secret that practicing yoga comes with a multitude of health benefits, both physical and mental. Nowadays, it seems like almost everyone wants to give yoga a try! Its ever-growing popularity has laid the foundation for the birth of many variations of yoga that make it accessible to everyone. Chair yoga, the gentle practice of doing yoga postures while seated and/or with the aid of a char, is one of them.
Chair yoga is a good alternative to traditional yoga for those who:
- Have difficulty standing up.
- Have limited mobility, especially when transitioning from seated to standing postures.
- Just want a quick pick-me-up from their office work.
This modified version of yoga allows for practitioners to attain the benefits of yoga with a little more support.
Keep reading to learn more about chair yoga and its positive effects on the body.
Who should do chair yoga?
Chair yoga can be done by anyone, but it is especially beneficial for anyone that is recovering from an injury, has limited mobility, or just wants a little more support during their practice. Chair yoga classes are very popular amongst the senior population and are widely available in senior centers and retirement communities.
Older adults tend to be the target audience for chair yoga, but those who might struggle with obesity or have certain neurological diseases could also really benefit from chair yoga. If you have an office job and feel in need of a quick break, chair yoga can be done right at your desk! Since the modified poses performed in chair yoga tend to have the same body mechanics as other forms of yoga, chair yogis can stretch out their stiff joints, get some exercise, and reduce stress.
What kind of chair should be used for chair yoga?
The whole point of chair yoga is to be an accessible and adaptable practice that is all-inclusive. So don’t think that you have to jump online and order a special chair. When doing chair yoga, the type of chair you use is not important.
You should avoid using a chair with wheels as it can’t offer you a strong foundation to practice your poses, but other than that, most chairs will work just fine. If the chair is too tall and you don’t want your feet to dangle, go ahead and put blocks or a folded yoga mat under your feet to give you a stable foundation.
The best chair yoga poses
The cool thing about chair yoga is that it can be done just about anywhere as long as you have a chair. If you are interested in trying chair yoga at home, here is a popular chair yoga sequence to try out. Don’t worry, it’s beginner friendly. However, if you have any concerns about some of the postures or are unsure if it is okay for you to practice yoga due to health conditions, you should definitely ask a doctor before attempting.
Without further ado, here is a rundown of what a typical chair yoga sequence consists of.
1. Modified Cat-Cow in a Chair
Seated cat-cow is an excellent way to practice deep breathing and kick off your chair yoga session with mental clarity.
To do this pose, sit up straight on your chair with both of your feet on the floor. Rest your hands on your knees or on the tops of your thighs.
- For cow position: Take a deep breath in, arch your spine, and roll your shoulder blades gently onto your back.
- For cat position: On the exhale, round your spine and drop your chin toward your chest, bringing your shoulders and head forward.
Rotate in and out of these two positions, inhaling during cow pose and exhaling during cat pose. Cycle through this for at least five breaths.
2. Raised Hands Pose for Chair Yoga (Urdhva Hastasana)
This next pose is a chair version of a Sun Salutation pose, Urdhva Hastasana, or “raised hands pose.” In traditional yoga, the practitioner would stand upright in mountain pose, and raise their arms straight up above their head.
To modify this pose for chair yoga, sit up straight in your chair, maintaining good posture in the upper body. Your shoulders should be relaxed and your rib cage should rest naturally above your hips. Ground your sit bones down into the seat of your chair and stretch your arms up toward the ceiling on an inhale.
3. Chair Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
This pose comes directly after Urdhva Hastasana. On the exhale, come into a forward fold or forward bend over the legs, allowing your hands to rest on the floor if they can reach it. Allow your head to hang heavy, reducing any tension in the low neck.
On the inhale, raise your arms back up over your head. Repeat these movements for about three to five breaths, moving in sync with your breath.
4. Extended Side Angle for Chair Yoga (Utthita Parsvakonasana)
At the end of your final forward bend, stay in the folded position with your torso resting over your legs. Bring your left hand to meet the floor on the outside of your left foot. If you cannot reach the floor with your left hand, you may place a block underneath it.
Twist over to the right on an inhale, while keeping your chest open. Point your right arm up toward the ceiling and bring your gaze up to it. Hold this pose for a few cycles of breath before bringing the arm down and repeating this posture on the left side.
5. Chair Yoga Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)
There’s nothing quite like a good pigeon pose to stretch out the stiff joints in your hips. Pigeon pose can help heal chronic pain and improve physical function. Using a chair for support during this pose can be just as nice.
To do this pose, sit up straight in your chair and bring your right ankle on top of your left thigh. Try to keep your leg in a straight line from the ankle to the knee. Hold this pose for a few cycles of breath before repeating on the other side.
For a deeper stretch, consider folding forward while in the chair pigeon pose.
6. Chair Yoga Eagle Pose (Garudasana)
The modification for eagle pose is done nicely in the comfy support of a chair. To do this pose, cross your right thigh over your left thigh. Try to wrap your right foot all the way around the left calf if possible.
Sitting up straight in your chair, cross your left arm over your right arm and wrap it all the way around, bending your elbows and bringing your palms together. Relax the shoulders down away from your ears and lift the elbows up. Hold this pose for about three to five breaths before repeating on the opposite side.
7. Chair Yoga Spinal Twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
Spinal twists work wonders on relieving back pain. The chair yoga spinal twist is quite straightforward and easy to practice, even if you’re at work.
Begin by sitting sideways on your chair with your body facing left. Twist your torso toward the left while gripping the back of the chair. Aim to grow longer in the spine every time you draw a breath in and sink deeper into the twist on each out breath.
Continue this cycle for a minimum of three to five breaths, then switch over to face the right side and repeat.
8. Warrior I Pose in a Chair (Virabhadrasana I)
Keeping your right leg draped over the side of your chair, position the left leg so that it is directly behind you. Bring the sole of your left foot to meet the ground parallel to the seat of the chair and straighten out the left leg.
Your torso should face over the right leg as you raise your arms up toward the ceiling on an inhale. Stay in warrior I for three breath cycles.
9. Warrior II Pose in a Chair (Virabhadrasana II)
If you plan on going straight into warrior II from warrior I, you’ll need to stay in place. On your final exhale, open up your arms long ways with your right arm pointing forward and your left arm pointing behind you.
Make sure to energetically keep your left hip drawn in, and your torso turned so that it is in line with the front of the chair. Fix your gaze out over your right fingertips and hold this pose for three breaths.
10. Chair Yoga Reverse Warrior
For a nice side body stretch, bring the left arm down to meet the left leg and raise your right arm up to the ceiling on an inhale.
Cycle through the series of the three warrior poses on the left side.
11. Savasana in a Chair
At last, you’ve made it to the most rewarding part of your yoga practice: chair savasana! Yes, you can enjoy your well-deserved savasana from the comfort of your own chair.
At the end of your yoga session, sit on your chair with good posture and just take a moment to sit with your eyes closed. Rest your hands on your lap and allow your body to take in all the beautiful benefits of the yoga poses you accomplished during your practice.