Thanks to yoga’s popularity all over the world as a result of the incredible healing effects it can provide to the body, mind, and spirit, there is now a style of yoga to suit every individual. From power yoga that gets your muscles aching and your entire body sweating out toxins, to gentle hatha yoga and yin yoga, you can choose the form of this ancient practice that’s most appealing to you and reap all of the benefits it has to offer.
But yet another form of yoga is becoming more well-known and appreciated, especially in the Western world. It’s known as chair yoga and, as the name implies, it utilizes a chair to execute asanas that increase blood flow, promote mental clarity, and maintain flexibility. For individuals who have jobs that require them to sit at a desk all day, this form of yoga is accessible and easy to execute, and it may even help people get their work done more effectively. Plus, chair yoga is also great for those who are injured or disabled, further proving that yoga is, indeed, accessible by all people who wish to pursue it.
Below are just a few of the many chair yoga postures that you can execute at home, at the office, or even on the go and on vacation. Remember to execute each pose carefully and gently by honoring what your body is feeling and never pushing yourself beyond your limits. And if you have never tried any form of yoga before, be sure to read this helpful blog post for beginners first.
Mountain Pose in a Seated Position
Mountain Pose is one of the most popular asanas because it’s grounding, stabilizing, and calming. It helps to center you at the beginning of a practice and between flows because it requires that you stand perfectly straight with your arms hanging gently at your sides and your body in total alignment from head to feet. The key, too, is to equally distribute your weight throughout your body and on both feet so that you can enjoy a truly stable posture.
While sitting in a chair, Mountain Pose will help you re-establish your posture, focus for a few moments on your breath (which is great at relieving tension and stress during the day), engage your abdominal muscles and core, and release tightness from the back.
To execute this pose, sit up straight in your chair with your feet planted flat on the ground. Roll your shoulders towards your back and bring them down so that they aren’t crunching upward toward your ears and so that they aren’t slouching forward. This will ensure your form is correct. Engage your abs by pulling them in towards your back. Begin with your arms at your sides and, on an inhale, lift both arms up towards the ceiling. Make sure your shoulders are relaxed throughout the whole movement and that your arms maintain a distance at shoulder-width. Look up towards the ceiling, gazing between your hands, and hold the position for a few breaths. On the exhale, bring your arms back down by your sides, keeping the core engaged, the breath smooth, and the body straight.
Consider taking this course to learn other gentle yoga poses that, like Mountain Pose, are easy to execute.
Cat and Cow in a Chair
Who says you have to get on your hands and knees to perform a good Cat and Cow sequence? With chair yoga, you can do it right at your desk or even at the dinner table. These two poses always go together because they work wonders at opening up the spine and promoting flexibility and mobility. The good stretch you get throughout your back will help you realign your posture, and the stretch that you get in your chest will help you inhale more deeply and bring more oxygen into the body.
Start by sitting in your chair with your back straight. Once again, roll your shoulders back and make sure your shoulder blades are pushed down rather than moving up towards your ears, just as you did with seated Mountain Pose. Rest your hands on your thighs. Put your feet flat on the floor if you’re able to do so, and then start to gently engage your core by pulling your abs in a bit. Start by inhaling into a Cow Pose, with your chest extending out and your gaze moving up towards the ceiling as you arch your back. On the exhale, round the spine into Cat Pose as you tuck the chin down towards your chest and let the entire back, all the way into the shoulders, stretch. With each breath, move from one pose to the next for a few repetitions and then relax the body in the original position.
Forward Bending with a Chair
There are a few ways to enjoy a good Forward Bend using your chair, so you can choose the variation that feels best to you or try all of them to really open up the body and get it loose after sitting for a long time.
The first variation is easy and you can do it anywhere. Simply begin in a seated position, straightening your back and making sure your posture is set. Roll the shoulders back and down again and rest your arms at your sides. Plant your feet onto the floor and engage your core. You can choose to keep your legs together, hip distance apart, or a little more than hip distance apart. Take an inhale and, on the exhale, begin to hinge from your hips like you would in any other Forward Bend. Bring the chest down onto the thighs and your hands to the floor if you can. Relax the head and neck down and let the whole back open up, letting the shoulders round and relax as well. When you’re ready to come out of the pose, round your way up to a seated position, bringing your head up last and rolling the shoulders back and down again to the original position.
Another way to try a Forward Bend with a chair is to sit on the floor in front of your chair. Extend your legs in front of you and place them under the chair. Set the chair at a distance that allows you to reach your arms forward and rest your hands on the seat. Maintain a straight spine with the shoulders back and down, engage the abs, and flex the feet. Hinging from the hips, extend your arms and place your hands on the seat, bringing the head between the arms and resting it down. You should feel a stretch down your back and into your legs. Roll slowly out of it to the original position.
A third variation involves standing at arm’s length behind your chair. Set your feet beneath your hips, making sure your shoulders are aligned properly by rolling them back and down. Engage the abs. Hinge forward on the inhale as you reach your arms forward and grab the top of the chair with your hands. Let your head hang between your arms, breathing freely, and bend your knees slightly. When you’re done, roll up slowly to a standing position.
For more postures that open up and strengthen the back, check out this course on yoga for the neck and spine.
Yoga is accessible by anyone anywhere, especially when you have a chair to work with. Once you feel comfortable with basic poses, you can move on to advanced ones that will challenge you and stretch and strengthen your body further. Once you’ve mastered chair yoga, we challenge you to move on to wall yoga.