woman doing chair yoga showing one of the chair yoga poses

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Five benefits of chair yoga and six poses to get started

  • Chair yoga is a gentle form of yoga that can be done while sitting. Some poses can also be done standing using a chair for support.
  • You can do chair yoga nearly anywhere you can find a place to sit.
  • Chair yoga can improve your flexibility, concentration and strength, while boosting your mood, and reducing stress and joint strain.

Yoga has been shown to improve overall health when practiced regularly. As with many forms of exercise, it can be modified for people of varying abilities. Chair yoga is a gentle form of yoga that can be done sitting on a chair or standing on the ground while using the chair for support. It is beneficial if you have limited mobility or if you want to practice yoga while at work. Here are some basic chair yoga poses (called asanas) to get you started.

Cat Cow-infographic

Cat/cow
Start with your hands on your thighs and sit up tall. As you exhale, round your back, pulling your abdominals into your spine, tucking your tailbone under and tucking your chin into your chest. Be as round in the upper back as you can, pushing your mid-back toward the chair. This is cat pose.  

As you inhale, allow your belly to move forward, arch your back, send your sternum forward and look up toward the ceiling (if your neck is comfortable) or keep your head parallel to the floor. This is cow pose.  

Repeat this motion several times, inhaling into cat and exhaling into cow.

Seated twist-infographic

Seated twist
Place your left hand on your right knee and your right arm over the back of your chair. Turn to look over your right shoulder and hold for four breaths.  

On the inhale, feel your spine lengthen and, on the exhale, feel a deeper twist. Exhale back to center and repeat on the other side.

Chest opener-infographic

Chest opener
Sit on the front edge of your chair and interlace your hands behind your back. As you inhale, lift your hands up and away from your back, while gently lifting your chin away from your chest. As you exhale, lower your hands.  

Repeat this motion on your breaths at least two times. Switch the grip of your hands and repeat.

Chair pigeon-infographic

Chair pigeon/hip opener
Place your right ankle on top of your left knee. Let your right knee relax out to the side while keeping your foot flexed. As you inhale, sit up tall and, as you exhale, enjoy the stretch. You can increase the stretch by placing your right hand on the right knee and applying gentle pressure. To increase the stretch even more, keep your back flat and spin lengthened and start to tip forward from the hips.

Stay for three-to-five breaths and repeat on the other side.

Forward fold-infographic

Forward fold
Start with your hands on top of your thighs and take a deep inhale. As you exhale, fold forward at your hips (rather than rounding the upper back) draping your body over your legs. Slide your hands down toward the floor. You can either hold each elbow with the opposite hand or let your arms dangle to the floor. Let your body hang heavy over your legs and your head and neck relax. On an inhale, let your hands rest on your thighs and slowly roll back up to seated.

Repeat this sequence several times. 

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