Ever felt a bit overwhelmed by those intimidating yoga poses but still keen on giving it a shot? Chair yoga might just be the style for you.
Take note that while chair yoga isn’t exactly “easy,” it provides a safe, accessible alternative for home practice if traditional yoga feels a bit too challenging for now.
In this guide, we’ll explore the ins and outs of chair yoga—how to do it, the benefits and some of the best poses you can hold for it.
So, What Is Chair Yoga Exactly?
Chair yoga is a gentle practice in which postures are performed while seated and/or with the aid of a chair. This type of yoga distinguishes itself from other styles through its adaptation of poses to be comfortably performed by using a chair for support.
This modification removes the need for challenging floor poses or extensive standing, making it perfect for those people who are seeking a milder approach to yoga. It’s an ideal fit for people of all ages and abilities.
However, don’t mistake chair yoga for being easy—it’s a modified version of traditional yoga that offers similar physical and mental health benefits. Even in a chair yoga session, standing poses are included, and the chair is utilized to assist with balance.
Chair yoga also incorporates breathing techniques and meditation. In fact, practically any type of yoga can be modified into chair yoga for it to be a gentler practice. For example, a mountain pose with a chair is sitting on one with both feet flat on the ground with arms raised to the ceiling. The only difference is the yogi is not standing but sitting on a chair.
The Benefits Of Chair Yoga
Just like traditional yoga styles, chair yoga also offers a lot of benefits for your body and mind. However, due to the nature of this yoga style, it’s typically done by people who are looking to support their joints, strengthen their lower back, and fix their posture.
Accessibility is probably the biggest benefit of chair yoga. Practically anyone can do it, even children. There are sessions for children ages six and above. Depending on the age, they practice basic yoga poses, and the more difficult ones are reserved for older children.
Chair yoga is an excellent option for those recovering from injuries or dealing with mobility issues. It’s equally suitable for senior citizens, offering a gentle flow that avoids strenuous activities.
Pregnant women, especially those hesitant about prenatal yoga, find support in chair yoga, particularly for lower back comfort.
If you’re new to yoga or hesitant to try traditional practices, chair yoga is an ideal starting point. It allows you to learn poses and breathing exercises without exerting too much pressure on your body.
It improves flexibility
The practice of yoga in a chair deepens the stretches in the yoga sequence. Engaging in gentle stretches and poses while sitting enhances flexibility. Especially in areas like the spine, shoulders, and hips.
With regular practice, your range of motion also gradually increases. There are people who have been doing chair yoga for a long time, and they were surprised to find out that they can easily complete a difficult pose even without a yoga chair.
It enhances your body’s strength
While sitting on a chair might seem like it doesn’t do much for your muscles, it’s surprisingly effective. The simple act of lifting your legs or holding a seated pose engages various muscle groups—particularly the core, arms, upper body, lower back, and legs. This not only boosts strength for workouts but also comes in handy for everyday activities.
For those with mobility issues, chair yoga provides a means to move easily without straining the body. It even improves mobility eventually.
It improves balance
Chair yoga includes poses with gentle balance adjustments, which helps enhance stability. This is particularly beneficial for older adults who want to restore or preserve their balance.
Additionally, using a chair for support makes it easier to lean deeper into poses, intensifying stretches. With the added stability, you can focus more on your breath and experience the benefits of the stretches with less effort.
It fixes your posture
Doing yoga poses on a chair promotes awareness of proper posture. After all, when you’re seated, you can easily notice any slumping or strain on your spine during yoga poses.
Additionally, regular practice of chair yoga can help correct your posture and develop a stronger spine. Maintaining proper posture becomes easier, allowing you to align your neck effortlessly in poses. This relieves tension in the neck, which will help you better focus on breathing and the yoga poses.
It reduces stress
The focus on breath and gentle movements in chair yoga induces a state of relaxation, lowering your stress levels.
Additionally, it’s not just a physical practice but also fosters a strong mind-body connection. Being present in the moment enhances your ability to relax and tackle more challenging poses. Its focus on mindfulness and breathwork plays a key role in uplifting mood and improving overall mental well-being.
Bonus: It promotes joint and respiratory health
Chair yoga not only brings a sense of calm but also strengthens the lungs through conscious and deep breathing. This plays a huge role in promoting respiratory health and also enhancing lung capacity, making it extremely beneficial for people with respiratory conditions.
The gentle movements in chair yoga also provide joint lubrication, promoting flexibility without causing excessive stress on the joints. This is especially helpful for individuals dealing with arthritis or joint discomfort.
Best Chair Yoga Poses
The majority of traditional yoga poses can also be done on a chair. There are also seasoned yogis who do floor sequences on a chair to add difficulty and to further master their craft.
However, for this guide, we’ll be focusing on gentle poses that most chair yoga sessions include.
- Mountain pose
- Seated forward bend
- Chair cat-cow stretch
- Leg lifts
- Chair warrior I
- Chair warrior II
- Seated side stretch
- Ankle rolls
- Visualization with deep breathing
- Chair pigeon pose
- Seated butterfly stretch
- Chair boat pose
- Seated eagle arms
- Seated tree pose
- Seated side plank
Begin by sitting tall on the chair, feet flat on the ground. Inhale deeply and extend your arms overhead, palms facing each other. Engage your core, stretch upwards, and lengthen your spine.
Tip: This pose improves posture and strengthens abdominal muscles. To know that you’re truly reaping these benefits, you should feel the gentle stretch on your sides while you do deep breathing.
Seated Forward Bend
Start by sitting on the chair with your feet flat, hip-width apart. Gently pivot your hips and exhale as you reach forward toward your toes. Keep your back straight, and you can rest your hands on your thighs, ankles, or on the floor.
Tip: To help protect and support your lower back, slightly bend your knees. If it is still difficult for you, hold the sides of the chair as you reach forward.
Chair Cat-Cow Stretch
Sit forward on the chair with your hands on your knees. Inhale, arch your back and lift your chest. Exhale, round your spine, and bring your chin to your chest.
Tip: Move slowly for a soothing flow. Try to sync your breathing with the movements. This pose releases tension, so it is better to have a slow pace.
Sit sideways on the chair, holding the backrest with both hands. Inhale to lengthen your spine, and exhale as you twist your torso to one side. Keep your back straight, and gaze over your shoulder.
Tip: To feel a gentle stretch in your spine, engage your core and twist from the waist. Do not force the twist. If you can just do a micro-twist, that is enough. Work your way into bigger twists in the next yoga session.
Sit tall on the chair with feet flat on the ground. Inhale as you lift one leg at a time, extending it straight in front of you. Exhale as you lower your leg back down.
Tip: For you to build strength in your legs using this pose, engage your thigh muscles and keep your back straight.
Chair Warrior I
Sit on the chair’s edge and extend one leg back with toes pointing down. Inhale, slowly raise your arms overhead, palms facing each other. Square your hips to the front and hold the pose.
Tip: If you lean slightly on the extended leg, you can feel a stretch along your hips.
Chair Warrior II
Begin Chair Warrior I by sitting on the chair’s edge, extending one leg back. Extend your arms in opposite directions. Gaze over your front hand. Make sure your back is straight.
Tip: You can sink deeper into this pose by engaging your core. This opens your hips and strengthens your legs.
Seated Side Stretch
Sit tall on the chair, feet flat on the ground. Gently raise one arm overhead. Inhale, lengthen your spine and exhale as you bend to the side. Make sure that your hips are grounded on the chair for stability.
Tip: This stretch may feel good, especially along your sides. But avoid collapsing into the stretch, as you might feel a strain on your lower back.
While seated on the chair, lift your feet slightly off the ground. Then, roll your ankles in both directions. The movement should be gentle and controlled. If you want to make this pose more difficult, raise your arms overhead and gaze upwards while doing the ankle rolls.
Tip: For enhanced stability, you can hold the sides of the chair when you do the ankle rolls.
Visualization with Deep Breathing
When done on a chair, this yoga pose enables you to get deep into meditation. Start by sitting comfortably on the chair and close your eyes. Take slow and deep breaths. Imagine that you are inhaling positivity and exhaling stress. Visualize the tension leaving your body.
Tip: Focus on the rise and fall of your abdomen and chest. This improves mindful breathing and promotes relaxation.
Chair Pigeon Pose
Sit on the edge of the chair and cross one ankle over the opposite knee. Then, gently press on the crossed knee. You should feel the stretch on your hip.
Tip: This is a good leg workout if you engage your other thigh muscles.
Seated Butterfly Stretch
Sit tall and bring the soles of your feet together. Then, hold your feet and gently press your knees toward the floor.
Tip: You should be able to feel a stretch on your groin and your inner thighs. If you want to relieve tension on your back, gently bow your head towards your feet. You might even feel a pop on your back!
Chair Boat Pose
Sit toward the front of the chair and lift your legs while slightly leaning back. Then, extend your arms forward. Your arms should be parallel to the ground.
Tip: This can be a good abdominal workout if you engage your core when you lean back.
Seated Eagle Arms
Sit tall and cross one arm over the other. Your palms should be together. Lift your elbows and feel the stretch between your shoulder blades. This enhances shoulder mobility and relieves tension in your upper back.
Tip: Make sure that you do a slow flow so you can actually feel the stretch.
Seated Tree Pose
Sit comfortably and place one foot on the inner thigh of your opposite leg. Then, bring your palms together in front of your chest.
Tip: Focus on a point to enhance balance and to also feel the stretch on your inner thigh.
Seated Side Plank
Sit on the edge of the chair and place one hand on the seat. Gently lift your hips—your aim is to create a straight line from your head to your heels. Try to keep your back straight to feel the stretch.
Tip: Do not force yourself to do a straight line. If you feel a bit of pain, this can be relieved by slightly bending your knees.
Chair yoga offers a gentle practice for both your body and mind, making yoga accessible to everyone, regardless of age or physical condition. It’s especially helpful for those not accustomed to regular exercise, offering a way to enhance balance and strength.
Additionally, it can reduce some people’s fear of falling.
It may not have fancy poses or contortions, but chair yoga provides the same benefits as traditional yoga. So, take a seat and let the soothing flow improve your health and well-being.
To experience the full range of benefits, aim for at least two to three sessions per week. Based on how your body responded to the first few sessions, adjust the frequency accordingly.
The length of the sessions varies. However, if you have mobility issues or other health concerns, it is better to start with 15-30 minutes per session. If you just want to give it a try and you do not have existing health conditions, then you can try one-hour sessions.
If you have a chronic condition like hypertension or cystic fibrosis, it is best to check with your doctor first. In many cases, chair yoga can be adapted to accommodate various health conditions, but professional advice is important.