5 chair yoga poses for all levels

5 chair yoga poses for all levels

By Kelley Voegelin, RYT

I am a firm believer that yoga can be for anyone who is willing to try. Anyone. Your size, flexibility or age doesn’t matter. You by no means have to be young, trendy and bendy.

In fact, you can even do yoga with limited mobility with this simple chair yoga sequence.

1. Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar)

The Sun Salute at the top of this page gets your blood, breath and energy moving in a motivating, warming, energy-giving and devotional way that gives these gentle movements more meaning and purpose.

You will raise your arms, ground the feet, open the chest and fold forward in this sequence:

  • Sit with feet in line with knees, pressing them firmly into the ground. If your feet dangle, add something under them — blanket, bolster, blocks or books.
  • Inhale and lift your arms up by your ears, reaching your waist to the tip of each finger.
  • Exhale and bring your palms on top of your thighs. Inhale, lift your heart forward and arch slightly in your lower back.
  • Exhale, fold your upper body forward over your legs. Your fingertips might graze the ground or your shins. You are welcome to linger here for an extra breath cycle.
  • Then, as you breathe in, sweep your arms all the way back up above you to the sky. Exhale, bring the palms together in front of your heart.

That completes one round. Try doing a handful and notice how your energy might shift as a result of this energizing practice.

2. Warrior 2 (Virabhadrasana 2)

woman doing warrior 2 yoga pose modification in chair

Standing poses, sitting down? That’s right! You still receive much of the physical and energetic benefits of these asana with the support of a chair under your pelvis. Set an energetic intention to feel strong and stable in your legs and feet with the spacious flow of your breath swirling into the torso, out the arms and up through the top of the head.

  • Sit facing forward on your chair, step your feet and legs to a wide stance, and rotate your torso a bit toward the right. Now, send your right foot to the right side of the chair with your knee bent and your toes pointing in the same direction as your kneecap.
  • Then, step your left foot out to a long stance off the left side of the chair, grounding the sole and outer edge of the foot. Turn your toes turn inward slightly with your left leg straight. Press down through your feet — edges, heels, toe mounds — and lift and engage the muscles of your legs.
  • Balance your head over your heart and hips. Lift your belly gently and raise the crown of your head.
  • From your heart, extend your arms out to a wide T-shape, with your palms face down and your fingers straight to their tips.
  • Gaze just beyond the right hand. If your arms get tired, place the hands on your thighs or the front of your body.

Take 5-10 deep breaths. Release and come back to center, pause, and when ready, repeat on the left side.

3. Camel (Ustrasana)

woman doing camel yoga pose modification in chair

When we sit a lot, we tend to lose the natural curvature of the lumbar spine so it’s important to restore and strengthen it. Backbends that target this region can be done in your chair.

  • Sit with the feet grounded and in line with your knees. Place hands on the low back, or hold of the back of the chair.
  • Lift your chest forward and up as you create a gentle arch through your entire spine.
  • Squeeze your elbows toward one another. You may open the throat slightly and look up if it feels okay on your neck or keep your chin parallel to the floor.
  • Stay for 5 or more breaths and release. Let hands land in your lap and return your spine to neutral.

You are welcome to a few more rounds.

4. Bound Angle (Baddha Konasana)

woman doing bound angle yoga pose modification in chair

Sitting a lot makes hips tight. This seated hip opener needs some support to get the legs and feet into position to stretch the hips and inner groin. You’ll probably need to use a few props— grab another chair or a few bolsters.

  • Place your prop (chair or bolster) right in front of you. Lift your legs up so that the soles of your feet join together and the outer ankles rest on the prop.
  • Let your knees slowly open out to the sides.
  • Tilt your upper body forward, up and over your pelvis instead of rotating backwards.
  • Rest your hands on your legs or feet. You can lean forward, or bow your head.

Stay for several rounds of breath, taking your time to breathe. Do not force the opening of the hips. Over time and with practice, your hips will open more and more.

5. Seated Spinal Twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana)

woman doing seated spinal twist yoga pose modification in chair

Twists cleanse and flush the spinal column, while offering strength and flexibility to the entire back.

  • Ground your feet and anchor your buttocks to the chair, then rotate your body to the right.
  • Bring your right hand to the back of the chair and the left hand to your right thigh.
  • As you twist, keep your spine lifted, your chest open and your head above your heart.
  • Take 5 gentle breaths through the nose, then switch sides. Easy does it.

Closing your chair yoga practice

At the end of your chair yoga session, take a moment to sit quietly and honor your efforts. Place the soles of the feet on the floor, settle your hands in your lap or in prayer position (Anjali Mudra) at the heart, sit tall, close your eyes, and breathe well.

Keep it simple and observe the environment and air around you as it meets your skin. Notice the subtle movements of your physical body that result from your breathing. Study the quality of your mind. Notice how you feel.

In these final moments, rest into the feeling that you have cultivated in your chair. That feeling is yoga and it can be achieved anywhere, by anybody who is willing to give it a go.

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