Chair Yoga and Certified Sivananda Yoga Instructor Stacie Dooreck is a Yoga Unify Honorary Qualified Professional, and serving on the Governing Council of Qualification and Education. This piece is an excerpt from her book, SunLightChair Yoga: Yoga for Everyone! Reprinted with permission.
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Chair Yoga is yoga, using a chair (standing and seated, or both), as a prop for support. Chair Yoga can be useful to adapt yoga poses when injured, ill, pre/post surgery at your desk (‘office yoga’), if in a wheelchair or if you have limited mobility. It also can be useful when traveling (practice on planes, park benches or anywhere). Chair Yoga can help make yoga accessible for everyone and is a well needed prop for many so that they can practice yoga poses (asanas) safely. Yoga teaches will benefit greatly by learning Chair Yoga as well so that all of their students can have safe and effective options to practice yoga).
Chair Yoga: Please Remain Seated
Chair yoga increases the accessibility of the practice. When speaking about Yoga, we’ve all heard the following statements: “I can’t do Yoga until I feel better.” “I don’t have time to get to a class.” “I can’t get down on the floor and back up again for a Yoga practice.” “My workday is too long.” “I’m too old to do Yoga.”
Injury or illness, age or other so-called “limitations” (including working all day at a desk), may prevent people from getting on the floor do practice poses or even stand on a mat for upright postures as we may know the poses. However, with some creativity and modifications anyone, in any circumstance, can always practice Yoga.
Renowned yogi Sri T. Krishnamacharya famously said, “If you can breathe you can do Yoga.”
Sitting as tall as you can, yet in a relaxed manner is the key to success in many meditation postures and pranayama practices (breathing exercises). Finding a comfortable seat, even in a chair, is a great place to begin to set the stage for the Yoga of breath.
A Simple Practice to do Anytime
One simple, yet powerful practice is to observe the breath as it is. Or you can begin to extend the duration of the breath and slowing count the inhalation and the exhalation. Try starting with something attainable, such as inhaling slowly for three counts, exhaling for three counts and then gently extending the duration first to four counts and then longer as desired. Maintain a sense of ease throughout. Another breathing practice is to recite a mantra (such as “I am”) with each breath.
There are chair Yoga versions of most postures that are designed to increase mobility, vitality and flexibility. These include: sun salutations, forward bends, backbends, spinal twists, sitting mountain pose, eye exercises (which can help reduce eye strain from hours at the computer) and breathing exercises (which can calm the body, increase our energy or heighten concentration).
At your desk, in a wheelchair or wherever you are right sitting now, stop and take a two- minute Yoga break and reenergize. Try this sequence: Inhale and lift both arms overhead. As you exhale, lower both your arms. Repeat this five to ten times and see how you feel. Look for chair Yoga classes, often held at Yoga studios, community centers, clubs and senior centers.
When standing postures are practiced in these classes, the chair is used for support to enhance stability. But you don’t even have to stand up from the chair to do Yoga. I’ve seen great shifts in posture and energy from my senior home chair Yoga classes using poses from this sequence of gentle chair Yoga suggested here. You can stay seated – and still do Yoga.
Stacie Dooreck is the founder of SunLightYoga, as well as a Kundalini, Gentle Integral, and Sivananda instructor. She’s also a Yoga instructor for online Chair Yoga teacher certifications and yoga courses. To join Stacie as a Founding Yoga Unify member, click here!