Yoga is a form of exercise that is suitable for everyone. However, if you have mobility issues or lack strength in certain areas then it can be quite challenging. This is where chair yoga comes in.
It can help to improve your strength and flexibility, to aid circulation and has a positive impact on your general wellbeing. It is low impact and you can take it at your own pace.
1. Mountain Pose
Mountain pose, also known as Tadasana, can be easily adapted for chair yoga and it is a great way to begin your session. Sit up straight in your chair with your feet flat on the floor in a parallel position and your knees directly over your ankles.
Take a deep breath in. Extend your spine and keep your neck straight. Exhale and feel your body weight sink into the chair through your tailbone and pelvis.
Draw your belly button towards your spine to engage your core and drop your shoulders down away from your ears to release any tension.
Keep your arms loosely at your sides. Inhale and lift your feet so that just your toes are touching the floor, then exhale and release. Repeat this several times to engage your legs.
Return your feet to the ground then inhale, lifting your arms up to the sky. Your palms should be facing each other. Gently look up to the ceiling and hold the stretch for several breaths. Exhale and release your arms.
2. Forward Bend
Once you have completed mountain pose you will be warmed up ready to move on to some more positions. The forward bend is an easy one to try, but be careful if you are prone to dizziness and fainting.
Begin in Mountain pose with your feet in a parallel position, your knees directly over your ankles, and your arms resting on your thighs. Inhale and extend your spine, and engage your abdominal muscles.
Exhale and bend from the waist, folding your upper body over your lower body. Slide your hands along your thighs and over your knees, letting them dangle in front of you or to the side.
Let your head hang heavy to stretch your neck. Take several deep breaths in this folded position. This pose is great for easing your digestive system and stretching your back.
It is also very relaxing. When you are ready, inhale and use your abdominal muscles to bring your torso back into an upright position. Exhale and relax.
3. Eagle Arms
This is an excellent pose for stretching out your shoulders and upper back and increasing flexibility in your upper body. Sit upright in your chair with your feet flat on the ground and your arms loosely at your sides.
Take a deep breath in and raise your arms up to your sides then bring them in front of your chest so that they are parallel with your knees. Your palms should be facing the floor.
Exhale and move your right arm underneath your left arm. Bend your elbows and place your right hand on your left shoulder and your left hand on your right shoulder.
Take a few breaths here to feel the stretch. If your flexibility allows it, release your hands on an exhale and wrap your forearms around each other.
Your palms should be facing in opposite directions. You can rest the backs of your hands against each other, or you can hold your left thumb with your right hand.
Take several deep breaths in this position, rolling your shoulders down away from your ears and lengthening your spine.
Remember to keep your bellybutton drawn into your spine. Exhale and release your arms, bringing them gently to your sides.
4. Cat Cow
The cat and the cow stretches are usually done on all fours, but you can easily do them in a chair. Begin sitting upright with your feet flat on the floor.
Your feet should be about hip width apart and parallel with each other. Rest your hands gently on your knees or on your thighs. Draw your belly button into your spine and keep your head high and straight.
Take a deep breath in and arch your back, rolling your shoulders back and down. This is the cow position and it will stretch your back and shoulders and release any tension.
You can gently tilt your head back and look up to the ceiling if you want to. Exhale and drop your chin to your chest, rounding your shoulders.
This is the cat position. Remember to keep your core engaged. Gently push through your hands to deepen the stretch.
Repeat these stretches on the inhale and exhale as many times you want to before returning to a neutral sitting position.
5. Spinal Twist
This position is very simple but it is great for stretching your back and easing your digestive system. It also improves your circulation. Sit on your chair facing forward. Inhale and lift your arms to your sides.
Exhale and rotate your upper body to the right, keeping your hips facing forward. Your arms will find the back of the chair. Grip it lightly with your right hand to stabilize yourself.
Inhale then push the stretch a little deeper – don’t force it as it should be relaxing rather than uncomfortable. Exhale and gently turn your head to the right so that you are looking over your right shoulder.
Take a few deep breaths in this position and then release on an exhale, gently bringing your body back to the center. Repeat this stretch on the left side.
6. Single Leg Stretch
For this position you need to sit a little closer to the front of your seat. Bring your body forward, but don’t perch on the edge – you don’t want to risk falling off the chair.
Sit up nice and tall, lengthening your spine and drawing in your belly button. Keep your left leg bent and your left foot flat on the floor.
Stretch your right leg out in front of you with your heel resting on the floor and your toes pointing up to the sky. Try to get your leg as straight as possible.
On an exhale, bend forward from the waist and rest your hands on your right leg. How far down your leg your hands rest will depend on your flexibility, but aim for your shin just below your knee.
If you are able to, slide your hands down a little further as you breathe through the stretch. You can hold the back of your calf or ankle if you need to stabilize yourself.
Once you have bent down as far as you can, take a few deep breaths. Alternate your toes from pointing up to the sky to lying flat on the ground. This will engage your calf muscles and will help with ankle mobility.
When you are ready, exhale and release the stretch by bringing your body back to an upright position and bringing your right leg back in line with your left leg. Take a moment to rest then repeat the stretch on the opposite side.
7. Neck Stretch
Sit up straight in your chair with both arms by your side. Lengthen your spine and draw your belly button in. Make sure your legs and feet are in a parallel position and your ribcage is aligned with your hips.
Gently grip the bottom of your chair with your right hand. Lift your left arm up and over your head, placing your left hand on the right side of your head.
Inhale, then as you exhale gently apply pressure with your left hand to push your left ear towards your shoulder. Release and repeat on the opposite side.
Savasana is a great way to end your yoga practice. It is a relaxing and restorative pose that brings peace. It is usually done lying on your back, but you can easily recreate the pose in a chair.
Sit up straight in your chair with your feet flat on the floor in a parallel position and your knees directly over your ankles. Your hands can be clasped in your lap or resting gently on your knees or thighs – whatever feels most comfortable to you.
Draw your belly button into your spine and pull the crown of your head up to lengthen your neck. Close your eyes.
In this position, take some long, deep, slow breaths. Feel the weight of your body sink through your feet into the floor, and through the chair where it comes into contact with your body.
Anchor yourself to the earth and focus on releasing the tension from your muscles.
Keep your shoulders down and away from your ears and let go of any tension in your hips.
You can spend as long as you like in this position, relaxing your body and letting your heart rate slow down.