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Yoga at Work: 10 Great Chair Yoga Exercises

You can do yoga anywhere, including your chair!
You can do yoga anywhere, including your chair!
iStockphoto/thinkstock

Not all yoga has to be practiced on a mat! Whether you're injured, lack mobility or are just stuck in your seat, there may be times you are not willing or able to practice yoga in its most traditional sense -- on a mat, in various postures that involve standing or lying down.

That's where chair yoga comes in. "Chair yoga is simply traditional mat poses, or asanas, adapted to a chair," says Lakshmi Voelker, creator of the Lakshmi Voelker Chair Yoga DVDs and audio CDs. "This way, one can receive all of the health benefits of yoga -- muscle mass, bone mass, balance, self-esteem, and confidence -- without having to get down on the mat."

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Chair yoga does not follow one specific school of yoga; rather, it borrows and modifies postures from all different branches. You can practice yoga in any type of chair, says Voelker, although you may have best results if you find one that is solid and sturdy, with a straight back. Give it a try with the following sequence, courtesy of Lakshmi Voelker Chair Yoga.

Sit near the front edge of chair with your feet parallel, hip width apart, with your hips, knees, and ankles at right angles. Press the soles of your feet down into the floor. Anchor your sit bones on the chair, and lift your head toward the ceiling to lengthen your neck and spine. Engage your inner thighs and abdominal muscles while rolling your shoulders up, back, and then relaxing down. Lift your sternum and keep your chin parallel to the floor. Bring your palms together at your heart, touching your thumbs to your sternum.

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From Sitting Mountain Pose, inhale as you reach your arms overhead about shoulder-width apart, with palms facing each other. Relax your shoulders and lengthen your neck and spine. Arch your back slightly while you continue to gaze forward and reach toward the sun.

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From Full Sitting Mountain Pose, exhale as you lean forward from the hips, keeping a straight, long neck and spine. Reach your hands toward your knees, shins, or the floor. If you have hypertension, keep your arms near your knees and keep your head slightly lifted.

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Place your hands on your knees. Inhale as you lift your sternum and draw your shoulders back, lengthening your spine and expanding your chest. Slide your right foot back about six inches, resting it on its ball. Lift your chin slightly and gaze forward.

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From Lunge pose, slide your left foot back about six inches so that it is in line with your right foot. Press the balls of both feet down onto the floor and engage your thigh and abdominal muscles. Lift your sternum and lengthen your arms straight out in front of your chest, flexing your hands at the wrists. Exhale as you hinge forward from your hips, and press your hands against an imaginary wall in front of you.

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From Plank pose, inhale as you bend your elbows and bring the backs of your hands to the front of your shoulders, keeping your arms close to your sides. Stay on the balls of your feet and jut your chin forward, imagining that you are lowering your chin, palms, chest, knees, and toes into the imaginary wall in front of you. Exhale in this position.

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From Eight Point pose, stretch your arms halfway out in front of you. Bring your forearms, still bent at the elbows, against the imaginary wall in front of you. Inhale as you imagine pushing against the wall, and sweep your chest and chin up, arching your shoulders back slightly and gazing upward.

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Lengthen your legs, one at a time, out in front of you and parallel to each other. Flex your feet at the ankles, if it's comfortable. Reach your arms upward, keeping them beside your ears, while you lift and lengthen your torso. Flex your hands at the wrists. Hinge forward slightly at the hips, and press your hands and toes against the imaginary wall in front of you, engaging your thigh and abdominal muscles. Exhale as you gaze at your toes, creating the letter V with your body. Hold for a few breaths, and return to Sitting Mountain Pose.

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From Sitting Mountain Pose, with your palms face down on your knees, exhale while you begin to curve your spine backward, tucking your chin toward your chest (Cat Pose). Then inhale while you lift the sternum and arch your spine, reaching your shoulders slightly back and your head toward the sky (Cow Pose). Repeat this Cat and Cow sequence several times.

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From Sitting Mountain Pose, exhale while you place your left hand on your right knee and twist to the right. Inhale back to center, then repeat the twist on the other side. For a deeper stretch, hold each side for four breaths, lengthening your spine on each inhale and deepening your twist on each exhale.

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Sources

  • Voelker, Lakshmi. Yoga instructor; founder of GetFitWhileYouSit.com. Personal interview. April 29, 2013.
  • Lakshmi Voelker Chair Yoga Ten Minute FItness Routines: Sun Salutations.
  • Copyright 2009
  • Get Fit Where You Sit. "About Chair Yoga." (April 29, 2013) http://www.getfitwhereyousit.com/about_chair_yoga_fitness_exercise.html

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