Chair yoga is a general term for practices that modify yoga poses so that they can be done while seated in a chair. These modifications make yoga accessible to people who cannot stand or lack the mobility to move easily from standing to seated to supine positions. Many of the basic body mechanics of the individual postures are retained, no matter the stance of the practitioner. While seated on chairs, students can do versions of twists, hip stretches, forward bends, and mild backbends.
In addition to a good stretch, chair yoga participants can also enjoy other health benefits of yoga, including improved muscle tone, better breathing habits, reduction of stress, better sleep, and a sense of well-being.
Who Can Do Chair Yoga?
Chair yoga classes are most widely available in senior centers and retirement homes, as senior citizens are its biggest target audience, but obese people and people with neurological diseases are also good candidates to give the chair method a try. Office workers can also take advantage of chair yoga’s adaptations to sneak in some stretches at work.
What’s In a Chair?
Since chair yoga is all about adaptability, it should come as no surprise that the particular chair you use is not important; you don’t have to run out and buy a specialized yoga chair. Chairs with wheels are not ideal since they are unstable, but almost any other chair will do. If you are short, put blocks or a folded yoga mat under your feet to give yourself a firm foundation.
Let’s Get Started
Chair Cat-Cow Stretch
Come to sit on a chair with the spine long and both feet on the floor. Place your hands on your knees or the tops of your thighs.
On an inhale, arch your spine and roll your shoulders down and back, bringing your shoulder blades onto your back.. This is cow position.
On an exhale, round your spine and drop your chin to your chest, letting the shoulder and head come forward. This is cat position.
Continue moving between cow on the inhalations and cat on the exhalations for five breaths.
Chair Raised Hands Pose – Urdhva Hastasana
On an inhalation, raise your arms toward the ceiling.
Allow your shoulder blades to slide down your back as you reach upwards with your fingertips. Anchor your sit bones in your chair seat and reach up from there.
Chair Forward Bend – Uttanasana
On an exhalation, come into a forward bend over the legs.
Let the hands rest on the floor if they reach it. Let the head hang heavy.
On an inhalation, raise the arms back up over the head.
Repeat this movement between a raised arms position and a forward fold several times, moving with the breath.
Chair Extended Side Angle – Utthita Parsvakonasana
After your final forward bend, stay folded.
Bring your left fingertips to the floor on the outside of your left foot.
Open your chest as you twist to the right on an inhale, bringing your right arm and gaze up to the ceiling. This is your chair version of extended side angle pose. Hold here for several breaths. Bring the right arm down on an exhale.
If your left hand doesn’t come easily to the floor, place a block under it or bring it to your left knee instead and twist from there.
For a more intense twist, bring the left fingertips to the outside of the right foot (pictured here) before twisting.
Do the same position with the right arm down and the left arm up.
Chair Pigeon – Eka Pada Rajakapotasana
Come back up to sit.
Bring your right ankle to rest on your left thigh, keeping the knee in line with your ankle as much as possible. Hold this chair pigeon for three to five breaths.
You may forward bend to intensify the stretch if you like. Repeat with the left leg up.
Chair Eagle – Garudasana
Cross your right thigh over your left thigh for eagle pose. If you can, wrap the right foot all the way around the left calf.
Cross your left arm over the right one at the elbow. Bend the elbows and bring your palms to touch.
Lift the elbows while dropping the shoulders away from the ears. Hold three to five breaths.
Repeat on the other side.
Chair Spinal Twist – Ardha Matsyendrasana
Come to sit sideways on the chair, facing to the left.
Twist your torso toward the left, holding onto the back of the chair, for a spinal twist.
Lengthen your spine on each inhale and twist on each exhale for five breaths.
Move your legs around to the right side of the chair and repeat the twist to the right side.
Chair Warrior I – Virabhadrasana I
Now keep the right leg in position over the side of the chair while you swing the left leg behind you.
Plant the sole of the left foot on the floor roughly parallel to the seat of the chair and straighten the left leg.
Keep your torso facing over the right leg as you raise your arms up to the ceiling on a inhale coming to warrior I. Hold three breaths.
Chair Warrior II – Virabhadrasana II
On an exhale, open up the arms with the right arm coming forward and the left arm going back.
Draw the left hip back and turn the torso to the left, so that it is aligned with the front of the chair.
Gaze out over the right fingertips and hold warrior II for three breaths.
How to Do Reverse Warrior Yoga Pose
Let the left arm come down the left leg and lift the right arm up to the ceiling on an inhale for reverse warrior. Hold for three breaths.
Bring both legs to the front of the chair before coming to sit sideways on the chair facing left and going through the series of three warrior poses on the left side.
Take a few minutes to sit with your eyes closed and hands in your lap at the end on your practice. This seated savasana will help your body absorb all the good effects of the poses you have done and transition you into the rest of your day.