Chair yoga is a general term for practices that modify yoga poses so that they can be done while seated in a chair. These modifications make yoga accessible to people who cannot stand or lack the mobility to move easily from standing to seated to supine positions.
Many of the basic body mechanics of the individual postures are retained, no matter the stance of the practitioner. While seated on chairs, students can do versions of twists, hip stretches, forward bends, and mild back bends. In addition to a good stretch, chair yoga participants can also enjoy other health benefits of yoga, including improved muscle tone, better breathing habits, stress reduction, better sleep, and a sense of well-being.
Seated Spinal Twist
Sit in your chair with your feet flat and parallel to each other. Keep your knees directly above your ankles. Lift your chin parallel to the floor, inhale and lengthen your spine — as you exhale, draw your navel toward your spine and twist to your right. Hold onto the arm or back of your chair. Lengthen your spine with each inhalation. Draw your navel towards your spine and deepen your twist as you exhale. Hold for three to five breaths. Maintain the length of your spine, gently unwind and repeat to the left side.
Bring your feet elbow-width apart, right leg to the right side 90 degrees and left leg 45 degrees inward. Square the hips and align the heels. Now slowly twist towards your right side and let the left elbow come on the chair. Raise your right hand up to the sky with the palm facing forward. Look up to the palm.
Place the right leg in position over the side of the chair while you swing the left leg behind you. Plant the sole of the left foot on the floor roughly parallel to the seat of the chair and straighten the left leg. Draw the left hip back and turn the torso to the left, so that it is aligned with the front of the chair. Let the left arm come down the left leg and lift the right arm up to the ceiling on an inhale for the reverse warrior. Hold for three breaths. Bring both legs to the front of the chair before coming to sit sideways on the chair facing left and going through the series of three warrior poses on the left side.
Stand with feet hip-width apart, inhale and bring both hands up, shoulder-width apart. Bending from the waist, extend your arms and slowly bend forward. Try not to bend your knees. If there is too much tension in your hamstring, you may slightly bend your knees and grab the back of the chair. Try and keep your arms by the sides of your ears. Breathe normally (three to five breaths). Those with back issues must avoid forward bends.
Hip opener/Chair pigeon
Sit on the front edge of your chair. Keep your shoulders down and back and stomach relaxed. Bring your left foot across on your right thigh. Gently push down on your left knee to feel a stretch in your hip flexor. For balance, hold your foot with your other hand so you can increase your flexibility as you push on your knee. Repeat switching legs. Each time you do this, practice increasing your flexibility and bringing your foot up higher on your thigh.