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Chair Yoga: Accessible, Gentle and Great for Every Body




If you have mobility or balance issues or are just looking for a gentle way to practice yoga, chair yoga poses might be just what you're looking for! Chair yoga is a great way to bring yoga into your life even if you need a bit more support for your body in your practice. In this article, I'm going to share more information about what chair yoga is, its benefits, contraindications, and wrap up with some real life chair yoga poses to get you started with chair yoga.

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What Is Chair Yoga?

Chair yoga is an accessible form of yoga in which practitioners use a chair to support their bodies in various modified poses. It's a wonderful practice for anyone regardless of age, injuries, flexibility, or mobility issues.

In chair yoga, many yoga postures, asanas, are done from a seated position, bringing stability to the body. Many chair yoga poses simply require the chair as a prop to help with balance in standing postures or floor-based postures.

Chair Yoga Benefits

Chair yoga is a gentle type of yoga, and just like other types of yoga, there are several benefits to a chair yoga practice:

  • Improved strength, balance, and flexibility
  • Reduced stress
  • Improved focus, awareness, and confidence
  • Less physical pain

Chair Yoga Contraindications

While chair yoga poses are gentle, there are still some contraindications or limiting factors that might keep you from participating in a chair yoga practice. Even though there are many benefits of chair yoga, ultimately, you should consult your physician if you're unsure whether you should be participating in chair yoga. Here are a few reasons you may not want to practice chair yoga:

  • Recent heart attack
  • Regular chest pains
  • Acute infection

If you have high blood pressure, heart disease, arthritis, joint problems, or have had a hip replacement, please contact your doctor for approval.

7 Chair Yoga Poses

There are a number of yoga poses that can be done seated or using a chair. Some of the poses we're including here will be greatly modified from their original form, but others are just slight modifications. Before you get started, make sure your chair (a sturdy chair with a back) is on a stable, non-slip surface so it doesn't move around with you.

1. Seated Mountain Pose

Mountain Pose is a great chair yoga pose to start with. Take a seat on your chair with your feet flat on the floor and engage your core. Focus on your breath, taking a deep breath in as you lengthen your spine. On the exhale, ground yourself into the chair through your sit bones. Make sure the shoulders are rolled down and back and relax your arms at your sides. Stay here, focusing on your breathing and keeping your core gently engaged for a minute or so.

2. Seated Cat-Cow Pose

Sit in your chair with your feet firmly on the ground and your spine long and tall. Place your hands on your thighs, just above your knees. Inhale and tilt your pelvis forward, arching your lower back and lifting your heart towards the sky. On the exhale, round out your lower back, creating space between your shoulder blades and tucking your chin toward the chest. Repeat this sequence five times.

3. Seated Chandrasana

Chandrasana is a lateral bend that will help stretch the sides of your body. Start from a seated position in your chair with your feet firmly planted on the floor. On the inhale, reach both of your arms up toward the ceiling. Grab your left wrist with your right hand and stretch over to the right on the exhale. Inhale and come back to center. Next, grab your right wrist with your left hand and stretch over to the left on the exhale. Inhale back to center. Repeat this sequence five times.

4. Seated Uttanasana

Uttanasana is a forward fold that lengthens the back of the body. If you have high blood pressure, do not let your head drop below your knees.

From a seated position, bring your hands to your thighs, just above your knees. Keep your bottom grounded on your chair and fold forward until you can rest your elbows on your thighs. If you'd like, you can fold forward until your torso is resting on your thighs. Rest in this pose for about a minute and return to an upright seated position slowly.

5. Seated Twist

Twists are great for creating space in your spine, improving blood flow, and aiding with digestion. From a seated position, inhale and sit up tall. On the exhale, bring your right hand across your left knee and your left hand behind you on the chair. Stay here for five breaths before inhaling back to the center and repeating on the other side.

It's important to be gentle with your body in seated twists. Many people find it a lot easier to overdo these stretches so don't go as far as you possibly can, just go to where the twist feels comfortable.

6. Down Dog with Chair

Down dog is an excellent pose for strengthening your arms and core, lengthening the sides of your body and hamstrings, and building up your hip stabilizing muscles. Here we're going to use the chair as a prop.

Stand behind your chair with your hands on the back of it. Walk your feet a little farther from the chair, keeping your feet hip-distance apart. Your torso will begin to fold forward. Find a challenging position where you can still maintain even breaths and stay here for 5–10 breaths before slowly walking your feet back toward the chair.

7. Chair Surya Namaskar (Chair Sun Salutation)

Yes, you can even do a sun salutation from a chair! No matter whether you’re doing chair yoga because of mobility issues, disabilities, or just need a break while seated at your desk, a seated sun salutation is a wonderful option.

Sit on your chair with your feet close together and join the palms together at your heart, namaste. Extend the spine and torso upwards while keeping your sit bones grounded on the chair. Close your eyes and begin breathing slowly and deeply. Stay here for at least six breaths.

Inhale, raising your arms above your head, keeping your palms together. Extend your arms beyond your head and shoulders and exhale completely, taking the gaze either up to the sky or straight in front of you. Stay here for four breaths.

From here, exhale and bend forward at the hips, taking your hands down to the floor if you can and resting your torso on your thighs. Stay here for four breaths. If you have trouble breathing in this pose, feel free to place a cushion on your thighs.

Now, inhale and come up, sitting straight up on your chair. Exhale. On the next inhale, raise your right leg up and hold the right thigh, bending your knee into your chest for a low lunge variation. Stay here for six breaths or more. If it feels nice, you can deepen this stretch, resting your nose on the knee of your bent leg, and hold the pose for another six breaths. Exhale your foot back down to the floor.

On the next inhale, raise your arms up over your head again, slightly arching your back, and stay here for six breaths. Once again, move into a forward fold and stay here for four breaths before repeating the low lunge variation on your other leg. Exhale your foot back down to the floor.

Inhale, raising your arms up over your head, arching your back, and stay in this pose for eight breaths this time. Exhale into a forward fold and stand for eight breaths. Bring your arms up over your head again, stretching deeper, and stay here for 10 breaths.

Repeat the sun salutation sequence at least one more time. If you'd like, you can end your practice in Savasana with your legs bent and your lower legs resting on the seat of the chair.

Increase Strength, Flexibility, and Mental Focus With Chair Yoga

One of the biggest chair yoga benefits is that it consists of modified poses that are done while seated or using a chair as a prop for support and stability. This type of yoga has many of the same benefits as other more traditional types of yoga and is the perfect option for people with mobility issues, injuries, or other health concerns.

Interested in trying chair yoga? Sign up for a free two-week trial of myYogaTeacher and join me in my next class! You'll get access to more than 35 live yoga classes every single day, from chair yoga to power yoga to meditation and beyond.

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