How to Do Chair Yoga
Social media feeds filled with photos of fitness models twisted into poses that require extreme strength, flexibility, and balance may make you think, “Yoga is not for me.” Nadine Kelly, MD, founder of Yogi MD, wants to change your mind. “We tend to think of yoga as an athletic effort to be done on a mat,” Kelly says. “The practice of yoga is much more than physical [poses]; practice includes skills such as breathing, emotion regulation, and self-care.”
What is a yoga chair?
Kelly thinks Arthur Ash’s quote “Start with what you have, use what you have, do what you can” is perfect for chair yoga.
“You’re here to work and challenge yourself, but it’s about… knowing what’s right for you,” she says. “I think yoga poses adapt to the student’s body, not the other way around.”
Whether yoga is done in a chair or on a mat, the practice is still based on the same basic principles: focus on your breath, pay attention to your thoughts, and stay in the moment.
Benefits of yoga in a chair
Chair yoga is also a good and safe workout for beginners.
“It’s a great way to work your core muscles, explore a joint range of motion, and prioritize movement,” says Minard. “When you’re sitting or using a chair for balance, the safety factor goes up a lot.”
Who Should Try Chair Yoga?
“It’s not about the result. It’s not about getting the perfect pose, says Kelly. “Regardless of whether yoga is taught on a mat or in a chair, the main thing is to be healthy.”
Chair yoga is also perfect for beginners who might be intimidated by traditional yoga mat practice because it offers a safe way to learn poses, Minard adds.
Where to find chair yoga classes
You can find chair yoga classes at community centers, fitness centers, and yoga studios. There are also many options online. In this video, Kelly gives detailed instructions for a short chair yoga practice that is suitable for all levels.
Where to begin
Use a sturdy chair for practicing at home (an office chair with wheels or an easy chair is not suitable for chair yoga). Minard offers a chair where your hips naturally sit slightly above your knees and you can place both feet on the floor.
“If your feet are not flat on the ground, all your weight is on your spine, and if the chair is too low and your knees are higher than your hips, there is more stress on your hips,” says Minard. “You want to be able to make slow, controlled movements without putting extra strain on your back or hips.”
Make sure the chair is on a stable surface, such as a rug or yoga mat, so it doesn’t slip. You can also place the back of the chair against a wall for extra stability, adds Minard.
Yoga props such as pulleys, straps, and elastic bands that are commonly used on mats are not required for chair yoga, unless you want to make it harder for yourself.
“Chair yoga is a good starting point for using muscles you haven’t used in a while without the potential risk of overload. [your muscles and joints] or fall,” says Minard. “If the resistance from your body weight isn’t enough, you can add light dumbbells, ankle weights, or elastic bands to your chair yoga.”