While getting all the traditional benefits that yoga can offer for mindfulness, stress relief, and mental clarity, chair yoga offers additional benefits!
These benefits include (but are not limited to!):
1. Accessibility – Chair yoga is often a preferred style for those who have difficulty getting down on the mat to practice asana (physical postures).
Yoga can be intimidating. Practicing in a chair lowers the barrier to entry if you’re interested but unsure of your body’s capabilities for physical asana (movement postures).
2. Convenience – Most people have access to a chair and/or spend the majority of the day sitting in one. Almost any chair works well for chair yoga (taking caution to lock wheels and avoid slippery surfaces).
The convenience of starting with a few postures right where you sit often encourages you to practice more frequently than you would if you were traveling to a studio or getting down on your mat at home.
3. Body Awareness – Chair yoga can help increase body awareness as you can feel the parts of your body that are making contact with the chair. You can feel more supported and trusting of your practice.
Using a chair as support for balance postures and inversions can increase body awareness and help prevent injury if you feel unstable or unsure of your capabilities to practice on the mat alone.
4. Versatility – You can use the chair as a prop for standing postures, stay seated for the entire practice, come down onto the mat and use the chair for forward folding, a combination of all of the above, etc.
You can practice yoga in a chair whenever you’d like, but there are some ideal times and situations when chair yoga might be the better option:
- When you’re short on time – If you only have a few minutes and don’t want to fuss with rolling out a mat, you can enjoy yoga postures right from your seat.
- When you’re at work – Need to take a mental break and unravel your neck and shoulders between meetings? Chair yoga can be practiced right from your desk chair.
- When you’re limited on props and space – The chair can offer the support you need in the absence of blocks, straps and bolsters. You can practice while sitting in the chair or stand and use the seat, back or sides of the chair for help with balance and to bring the floor closer to you.
- When you need support for balance or inversions – Not quite ready to get down on the floor for advanced poses? Many poses can be adapted by using the chair.
- If getting down onto the floor is not accessible.
Try the following 3 poses if you’re new to chair yoga or could use a refresher.
1. Spinal twist – Come to the edge of your seat and sit up tall, as if someone is using a string to pull you up from the crown of your head.
Take a deep breath in through your nose; exhale through your mouth. On your next inhale, sweep your arms forward and up, pause, and on the exhale begin to twist at your torso to the right and bring your arms down: right arms drapes behind you or can grab the back of the chair, left arm can gently grab your outer right knee.
You can take your gaze over your right shoulder. Raising the arms is optional. Twist to both sides.
2. Figure 4 – Come to the edge of your seat and sit up tall, as if someone is using a string to pull you up from the crown of your head.
Take a deep breath in through your nose; exhale through your mouth. Reach down and take hold of your left ankle and sit up to cross it over your right thigh. Pause.
This might be the depth of stretch your outer left hip needs or, you can begin to rock side or side or even fold forward over your shin. Do both sides.
3. Open Twist – Come to the edge of your seat and sit up tall, as if someone is using a string to pull you up from the crown of your head.
Take a deep breath in through your nose; exhale through your mouth. Open your feet wide and turn your toes slightly outward.
Hinge forward at your waist and place your right arm inside your right thigh – press your arm to your thigh and your thigh back into your arm to stabilize your hips.
On your next inhale, sweep your left arm up and follow your left thumb with your gaze. Pause.
You can alternate sides, do several twists on the same side then switch or hold either side for as long as you’d like. The upward gaze is optional and should be based on whatever feels best for the neck.
You can enjoy all the benefits of yoga right from your seat or by using the chair for support. When we begin to view props as part of our asana experience, we open ourselves up to unlimited possibilities for mindful movement.