8 Yoga Poses You Can Do in a Chair
With the amount of time that we sit at our desks, it’s no wonder that chair yoga has gained popularity. On a mat or in a chair, yoga can help improve your quality of life. Beyond boosting flexibility, it can loosen up muscles and improve circulation, among its countless (or at least 19) benefits. The practice may even improve concentration!
Chair yoga “is good for the mind, body, and spirit,” says Openfit Live Trainer Jennifer Fuller, a certified yoga instructor. “It is a great way to practice introspection, decrease stress, and feel more open in your body and at peace.”
Whether you want to squeeze in some movement during a Zoom call or have physical limitations that prohibit a full practice, try our chair yoga poses to loosen up your mind and body.
What Is Chair Yoga?
“Chair yoga is traditional yoga but adds the support of having the prop of a chair,” says Fuller. “It is an adaptation of conventional asana, making the majority of poses accessible to all people.”
Chair yoga is simply yoga that can be done sitting down, and it can also involve standing poses that use a chair for support. One of the great things about chair yoga is that it is adaptable — you can do it anywhere you find a seat.
Who Should Do Chair Yoga?
Anyone can do chair yoga. It’s gentle and designed to feel good. Fuller recommends chair yoga for anyone with:
- Mobility issues
- Physical limitations
- Balance issues
- Anyone who struggles with traditional forms of yoga
- People who work desk jobs
- Travelers on long flights
- Anyone who wants to move their body and reap the benefits of yoga while sitting
Fuller says, and studies support, that chair yoga is great for older adults. Our risk of falling increases as we age, but chair yoga can improve “balance, strength, flexibility, and mobility with the support of the chair, thus reducing any risk of injury,” she explains.
8 Chair Yoga Poses to Try
Fuller believes it is good to build a little heat in the body to warm up for chair yoga. She suggests doing a few arm circles forwards and back to get your shoulders warm. Then, do a few leg swings while standing if you are able — hold onto the chair. Or, you can march in place while seated. Lastly, circle your hips 5 times in each direction to improve joint mobility (do this standing with a hand on the chair or while seated).
1. Seated cow and cat pose (bitilasana and marjaryasana)
- Sit tall in a chair (preferably one without arms) with a straight spine. Plant your feet on the floor, hip-width apart. Rest your hands on your knees (palms face down). Look straight ahead.
- For cow, take a deep breath in and pinch your shoulders together to draw them down your back. This motion will open your chest. Shift your gaze to the ceiling if you can, and drop your head back.
- On your exhale, move into cat. Round your shoulders forward, hollow out your chest, and pin your chin to your chest. Keep your hands on your knees.
- Flow through these two postures five or more times.
2. Seated mountain pose (tadasana)
- Remain seated with a tall spine, your feet on the floor, and your hands on your knees. Keep your gaze straight ahead.
- Inhale, raise both your arms above your head, aligning your biceps with your ears. Rotate your pinkies inward to relax your shoulders. Unclench your jaw, and keep your gaze forward.
- Draw in your belly to engage your core muscles. Press into the floor with your feet to fire the muscles in your legs and buttocks.
- Hold for five breaths before moving on to the next pose.
3. Seated forward fold (uttanasana)
- Start in seated mountain pose, and take a deep breath in. Exhale and fold your torso in half. Hinge forward from your hip bones, melting your chest onto your thighs. (If you prefer, place a pillow on your thighs).
- Let your hands rest by your sides toward the floor. (It is fine if your fingertips hover a few inches above the floor). Allow your head to hang heavy between your legs.
- On an inhale, roll back up to seated mountain pose slowly. Exhale, and repeat this flow a few more times.
- If you want more of a shoulder stretch, take a bound seated forward fold. Clasp your hands behind your back. Squeeze the palms of your hands together to open your chest further, then fold at your hips. Send your bound hands toward the ceiling.
4. Seated twist
- Remain in your seated forward fold position with your feet hip-distance apart, your head between your legs, and your arms dangling toward the floor.
- Place your hands on the floor (or on a block or sturdy object). Press into the ground, spreading your fingers wide.
- Inhale and lift your right arm straight to the ceiling, twist your torso from your middle-to-low back, and rotate your head to look at the ceiling (or look to the left or the floor, if that feels better). Leave your left hand on the floor or block.
- Hold the twist for a few breaths. Then, take another deep breath in, and exhale back into seated forward fold. Switch sides.
5. Seated goddess pose (utkata konasana)
- Start seated with a tall spine and your hands on your thighs.
- Step your feet wider than your chair. Turn your heels in and your toes out. Keep your knees over your ankles.
- Place your hands in prayer in front of your chest.
- Hold for five breaths before stepping your feet back to parallel.
6. Seated reverse warrior (viparita virabhadrasana)
- Stay in your seated goddess pose. Straighten your right leg, and bend your left knee to 90 degrees. Rotate your left foot until your knee is over your ankle.
- Stretch your arms out into a “T.” Inhale, and drop your left hand to your left thigh. Reach your right hand toward the ceiling to stretch your right side.
- Look toward your lifted hand or down toward the floor. Keep your feet pressed into the floor to engage your leg muscles. Extend your right fingertips a bit farther behind you to get a deeper side-body stretch.
- Inhale, then rise back up. Exhale as you switch sides.
7. Seated half pigeon (eka pada rajakapotasana)
- Come back to a neutral seated position with your arms resting by your sides.
- Inhale, and place your right outer ankle on your left thigh, just above the knee, forming a 90 degree angle with your ankle, knee, and hip.
- Press your left foot down. Lean slightly forward at your hips until you feel a stretch in your right hip and thigh. Keep your hips level with each other.
- Hold for five breaths, then release. Switch sides.
- If this is too much on your knees, cross your right ankle over your left. Then, hinge slightly forward at your hips until you feel a stretch.
8. Seated corpse pose (savasana)
- Start by sitting up tall with your feet flat on the ground. Roll out your head, neck, and shoulders so that you can fully relax.
- Rest your hands on top of your thighs. Place your palms up to receive energy or down to ground your energy.
- Close your eyes. Unclench your teeth. Release the tension in your brow. Relax into your seat.
- Remain here for at least three minutes.