In my six years as a yoga instructor, my absolute favorite class to teach is chair yoga. I am so thrilled to see chair yoga growing in popularity as a practice where the benefits of yoga can be accessible to everyone regardless of age, size, or ability.
What is chair yoga?
Chair yoga is yoga practiced while seated in a chair or using a chair for support. Most yoga poses can be adapted using a chair and provide great benefits such as increased flexibility and mobility, improved balance and strength, and decreased stress and anxiety.
Who is chair yoga for?
Everyone can benefit from chair yoga! However, certain groups of people may find it more accessible than a traditional mat-based practice.
- Individuals with chronic conditions and limited mobility: Practicing seated yoga poses or using a chair for support can make a yoga practice more accessible for those who experience difficulty getting up and down off of the floor, or struggle with balance and stability while standing.
- People with injuries: Chair yoga offers the opportunity for those who want to start or continue a yoga practice by adapting yoga poses around their specific injury.
- Office workers: Sitting at a desk all day can create tension in the neck, shoulders, and back. Taking a short yoga break right at your desk can not only help alleviate pain and tension, but also reduce anxiety and work-related stress.
As a reminder, be sure to check with a healthcare professional before starting a movement practice when dealing with chronic conditions or injuries.
What do I need for Chair Yoga?
A sturdy chair without wheels or arms placed on a non-slippery surface is recommended for chair yoga. If the chair is on a hardwood floor, for example, you may want to place the chair on a yoga mat so it does not slide around on you. If your feet don’t quite touch the floor, place a blanket, blocks, or a bolster underneath your feet for support.
You don’t need a lot of room or a dedicated space to practice chair yoga. In fact, you can practice anywhere you can sit: at your desk, waiting in the airport, or on a park bench. With endless options, don’t be afraid to get creative with your practice!
Mary McCallum is a Curvy Yoga, Accessible Yoga, and Yoga for All certified instructor passionate about making yoga accessible to everyone. Mary loves teaching how yoga can work for you and dispelling common yoga myths. Her goal is to create a fun, inclusive, supportive, and non-intimidating environment for all ages, sizes, and abilities. Learn more at www.marymccallum.co.
Try this 5-minute chair yoga practice
1. Seated Mountain Pose
Start with both feet grounded on the floor. Sit tall and relax your shoulders away from your ears. Relax your arms and hands in your lap. Close your eyes or soften your gaze. Take 5 deep breaths.
2. Seated Cat / Cow
On your inhale, arch your back, lift your chest and chin, and look up (cow pose). On the exhale, round the back bringing your chin towards your chest (cat pose). Repeat for 5 breaths.
3. Seated Figure-4 Stretch
Cross your right ankle over your left knee and flex your right foot. Take 5 breaths. Repeat on the opposite side.
4. Downward Facing Dog with Chair
Stand behind your chair with your hands on the back of the chair for support. Start to walk backward and hinge forward at the hips. Extend your arms and relax your head and neck in between your biceps.
Conclude your practice by sitting back in your chair and returning to seated mountain pose. Close your eyes or soften your gaze, noticing the sensations in your body. When ready, slowly blink your eyes open.