From reduced stress, to improved strength and flexibility, the benefits of yoga have made it an increasingly popular form of exercise in the West. But, it can be rather intimidating to some too. Perhaps you may feel that you just 'don't bend that way', or you might find it difficult to keep up with others in class, or maybe, you have a physical limitation that prevents you from attempting a yoga class for a full hour.
Whatever your reason may be, using a prop, such as a chair, will help change your perception of yoga. Chair Yoga, as it is justly named, adapts traditional yoga poses so that they may be done from a (predominantly) seated position, offering support to people who cannot stand for long periods of time. Despite the extra hold you get from using a chair, the mind-body benefits of a traditional class are still incorporated into the 'chair pose'.
Who can do Chair Yoga?
This form of yoga practice is generally targeted at senior citizens, however, it may also be adopted by obese people and people with neurological diseases. Office workers may also take advantage of Chair Yoga, enabling them to sneak in a couple of stretches at work too. The particular chair you use is not important, however, it goes without saying that chairs with wheels are not ideal.
So, whatever your reason, this series of seated yoga exercises can be a great addition to your daily routine.
Disclaimer: Whilst the following poses are suitable for most people (including seniors), people living with chronic pain and/or those who use a wheelchair should consult with their healthcare provider before beginning any new physical activity.
1. Chair Cat-Cow Stretch
• Keep your spine long, both feet planted flat on the floor.
• Inhale, come into cow position, arch your back and drop your shoulders.
• Exhale, round your spine, allowing the shoulders and head to come forward into cat position.
• Continue to move between cow on the inhalations, and cat on the exhalations for five breaths.
Benefits: This posture improves spine flexibility and abdominal strength.
2. Chair Forward Bend
• Spread your feet hip-distance apart.
• Exhale, coming into a forward bend, resting your torso over your thighs.
• Let your hands rest on the floor (if you are able to reach it. If not, keep your hands on your thighs).
• Let your head hang heavy between your legs.
• Inhale, raising your arms up over your head.
• Repeat this sequence five times, moving slowly as you breathe.
Benefits: Relieves tension from the head, neck and shoulder region. This pose also helps sooth the nervous system and relieves stress.
3. Chair Spinal Twist
• Keep your spine straight, knees together, feet planted on the floor.
• Twist your torso towards the left.
• With your left hand hold the back of the chair, placing your right hand on your left thigh.
• With each inhale, lengthen your spine and with every exhale twist as deeply as you can.
• Hold this posture for five breaths, then repeat on the right side.
Benefits: Opens the shoulders and neck, whilst stretching the spine.
4. Chair Thread the Needle
• Sit up straight.
• Bring your left ankle to rest on your right thigh, keeping your knee in line with your ankle as much as possible.
• Hold for three to five breaths.
• If you would like to intensify the stretch, proceed with a forward bend, holding for a further three to five breaths.
• Repeat with your right leg up.
Benefits: Stretches the thighs, groins, back and psoas muscles.
5. Chair Eagle Arms
• Lengthen your spine and stretch your arms out in front of you.
• Cross your left arm over the right, at the elbow.
• Bend the elbows and bring your palms together until they touch.
• Lift the elbows while dropping the shoulders away from your ears.
• Hold the pose for three to five breaths and repeat on the other side.
Benefits: This pose provides a deep stretch in the shoulders.
6. Chair Warrior II
• Position your right leg over the chair and swing your left leg behind you.
• Plant the sole of your left foot on the floor and straighten your left leg.
• Let your torso turn to the left, aligning your hips with the front of the chair.
• Exhale, open your arms out to the side, with your right arm extending forward, and your left, back.
• Gaze out over your right fingertips and hold for three breaths.
• Repeat on the other side.
Benefits: Strengthens the legs and arms, opens the chest and shoulders and tones the abdomen.
7. Reverse Chair Warrior
• Position your body in Warrior II, as described above.
• Let your left arm come down your left leg and lift your right arm up towards the ceiling as you inhale.
• Hold for three breaths.
Benefits: Strengthens the legs, improves flexibility of the spine.