Yoga is all the rage these days, but it can also be intimidating for a lot of people. Fortunately, there’s a great way to get started with yoga poses, and you don’t even have to get up to do it. It’s true! While getting down onto a mat to exercise may not seem like such a big deal for many, there are a lot of folks who find it difficult to get up and down easily, so chair yoga poses are perfect for them.
What is Chair Yoga?
Chair yoga is, as it sounds, yoga poses done either on a chair or with the assistance of a chair. Originally from the mind of Lakshmi Voelker, a yoga instructor with a student experiencing mobility problems due to arthritis, chair yoga became a great way to adapt mainstream yoga poses for those with physical and/or space limitations.
What are the Benefits of Chair Yoga?
Great Intro to Yoga. While doing yoga may seem scary and overwhelming if you’ve never done it, starting out with chair yoga may be just the initiation you need to break into the world of yoga.
Greater Accessibility (i.e., allows more people to take part in yoga). Not everyone can get into the various poses that come along during a full-fledged yoga class. People who have physical limitations, arthritis, balance problems, weakness, or are recovering from illness or surgery or even those who can’t get away from their desks can benefit from chair yoga.
Improved Flexibility. Probably one of the most important benefits of chair yoga is the ability to improve your flexibility in a gentle, yet effective, manner.
Better Balance. Yes, yoga can help you improve your ability to balance. Since you can use the chair for assistance, you’ll feel more confident learning the poses. You’ll strengthen your muscles and, over time, improve your balance as well.
Support Mental Health. Yoga, including chair yoga poses, can help those who feel anxious, depressed, and overwhelmed. Practicing yoga has well-known mental health benefits. Many folks use their time doing yoga to unwind, destress, and practice mindfulness.
Try These Chair Yoga Poses
1. Upward Salute
This pose is performed just like you would if you were standing. With your feet flat on the floor in front of you, scoot your hips forward until they are resting on the front edge of your sturdy chair. Lift your arms out to the sides and up above your head until your palms are overhead. Elongate the muscles in your sides and shoulders as you lift your heart toward the sky to get a good stretch and hold it for a count of three. Release and sweep your arms back down to your sides. Repeat five times.
2. Forward Fold
Begin by sitting in a chair with your feet flat on the ground in front of you and your hands on your knees. Allow your hands to move forward and toward the floor as you bend and lean forward at the waist. Allow your back to open up and your shoulders to fully relax as your arms hang at your sides or, alternatively, wrap around to hug your thighs for a deeper stretch. Take a few deep breaths before you straighten back up to a seated position and repeat.
3. Chair Twists
Sit in your chair with your feet flat on the ground and your hips toward the front edge of your chair. Take your right arm and twist to reach behind you until you can grab the seatback of your chair. Feel a good stretch throughout your torso: back, chest, shoulders, and abdominals. Breathe deeply for a few breaths. Return to the start and repeat on the opposite side.
4. Pigeon Pose
This is an excellent way to stretch the hips. Begin seated with your feet on the floor in front of you. Lift your right leg and place your ankle on your left knee. With your palm on your right knee, gently push down on your leg and feel a good stretch through your right hip and groin. Place your right leg back on the ground and repeat the sequence with your left leg.
5. Warrior Pose
This is where the chair really comes in handy. While seated in your chair with your feet flat on the ground in front of you, twist and slide your right leg over to the right side of the chair. Straighten your left leg behind you as you stay twisted to the right with your torso facing your right leg. Raise both arms until they’re parallel with the floor as you inhale. Hold as you breathe for a few counts and bring your arms down and your legs back to front and center as you exhale. Repeat on the opposite side.
6. Cat-Cow Pose
You’ve probably seen your cat or dog do these poses. It is slightly different when done in a chair but still effective. Sit upright in your chair with your feet flat on the ground in front of you. Place your hands on your legs. Stretch your upper body to sit as tall as you can and take in a big breath. Arch your back, look upwards, and roll your shoulders back to stretch out your chest area.
As you exhale, roll your shoulders forward, drop your chin to your chest and push your stomach into your spine. Repeat this sequence ten times, breathing in as you look up and breathing out as you contract.
7. Goddess Pose
This pose will provide you with a great stretch, not only through the hips and groin areas but also through your chest, shoulders, arms, and sides. Begin seated in your chair and facing forward. Slide to the front edge of the chair, bring your knees out to each side of the chair, and point your toes outward. With your legs opened, reach your right hand down to your right heel and look upward as you stretch your left arm toward the ceiling. Feel a good stretch and repeat the process on the opposite side.
These chair yoga poses can be performed throughout the day to relax and release muscle tension or put together for a full yoga session. As your body gets stronger and more flexible, you can then consider adding in some standing poses.