Yoga can be incredibly physically demanding at times. Even some of the poses considered beginner-friendly can leave newcomers to the discipline feeling left behind.
It’s a darn shame really, as yoga has a plethora of benefits beyond the purely physical, benefits those of us that aren’t quite able to do yoga would love to take advantage of. But thankfully, chair yoga, i.e. yoga using a chair for support, is making these yogic merits accessible to all — Hooray!
Sounds good, right? Well, if you’re interested, read on to learn more about how chair yoga works and all the ways it can improve your quality of life.
How Does Chair Yoga Work?
The eponymous chair in chair yoga serves one purpose in two ways. Ultimately, it’s there to support you as you stretch and cycle through your poses, during which it can be used for sitting or to give you something to hold onto while executing standing sequences.
This essential prop makes for a much more gentle workout that allows people to capitalize on all the fantastic aspects of yoga that would otherwise be resigned to traditional yoga practitioners.
What Does Chair Yoga Involve?
There are just as many – if not more – poses to be learned and enjoyed in chair yoga, as the chair blows the discipline wide open, allowing for new and exciting ways to move. You can also convert traditional yoga poses to seated poses quite easily.
For instance, a good sequence based on standard moves to get you started goes a little something like this:
- Seated Cat Cow
- Seated Twist
- Seated Chest Opener
- Chair Pigeon/Hip Opener
- Seated Forward Fold
You’ll also engage with the other aspects of yoga whilst executing the aforementioned poses. For instance, despite the presence of a chair, conscious breathing is still of utmost importance, helping you to relax and reach an almost meditative state.
What Are The Benefits Of Chair Yoga?
Obviously, chair yoga is less dynamic and challenging than traditional yoga, so you won’t experience the same physical toning, not as immediately anyway. On the other hand, what you will experience are all the other amazing gifts yoga has to offer.
Chair yoga is a dynamite way to…
- Reduce stress
- Reign in anxiety
- Combat depression
- Lower blood pressure
- Free up your joints
- Improve flexibility
- Ease pain
- Expedite recovery from injury
- Get a better night’s sleep
- Increase your energy levels
- Build confidence
- Reduce body mass index
… All this while being much safer and gentler than standard yoga.
Who Is Chair Yoga For?
Chair yoga is for everyone, but there are certain demographics that will benefit the most from taking a class. Those recovering from injuries get a lot out of this form of yoga, as do seniors who perhaps aren’t quite comfortable on the mat.
It’s also a great way to ease back into exercise post-op, or for anyone with balance issues or chronic illnesses.
Those who experience bouts of lethargy can do a chair yoga session when they’re not feeling up to a traditional class, or novice practitioners can get used to the types of movements required of them in an easier manner before reaching more advanced poses without the chair.
What Kind Of Chair Do I Need For Chair Yoga?
Whatever you do, don’t just pick any old chair for chair yoga. Anything with wheels is obviously out of the question, and armrests will only get in your way.
Ideally, your chair will position your hips ever so slightly above your knees, freeing them up for flowing movement. You should also be able to place your feet flat on the ground, otherwise, your spine is going to be supporting too much weight.
Avoid cushioned chairs too, as they may compromise your grip or impede your movement. A standard, wooden dining room chair is often your best bet.
You should also consider the surface beneath your chair, as stability is absolutely crucial during chair yoga. A wooden floor will likely be slippery, so set up in a carpeted area, on a rug, or on a yoga mat.
If you’re still worried about stability, we’d recommend positioning the rear of the chair against a solid wall for extra safety. Props such as straps, blocks, or resistance bands can be used, but aren’t necessary.
It’s best you start out simple, then add these elements to your practice once you’re more accustomed to the poses.
Are Chair Yoga Classes A Thing?
Chair yoga is a nice, loose form. In fact, “form” seems too rigid a descriptor for it, as it’s completely up to you how you approach it.
You can learn some poses online and create your own sequences at home, but if you’d rather receive some instruction, there are plenty of chair yoga classes going on in community centers, gyms, and of course yoga studios.
Chair yoga is a fantastic way to get involved in yoga when something is preventing you from enrolling in more traditional courses.
It comes with all the same upsides, but doesn’t require anywhere near as much physicality from practitioners, making it an awesome option for those in need of a more gentle, meditative experience.
Frequently Asked Questions
Chair yoga can be incredibly meditative, just as mat yoga can. As you move through the poses, you’ll focus on breathing, channeling energy, and letting go of the external world.
As is the case with all forms of yoga, chair yoga is all about striving for a feeling of oneness, of contentment. The only difference is that the chair makes it more accessible.
There are no hard, fast rules when it comes to chair yoga class duration, but 30 minutes is the most popular option. Half an hour is long enough to feel the benefits of yoga without placing too much strain on your body.
If you feel able, create extended sessions that go on for an hour plus, but don’t over-exert yourself. Remember, chair yoga should be gentle.