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?

Chair yoga, a gentle form of yoga done while sitting or using a chair for balance, makes the practice more accessible. In-chair yoga, you can do postures such as cat/cow, warrior, sun salutation, and forward bends, all while sitting.

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

Research shows that yoga is associated with reduced levels of stress, anxiety, and depression, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, increased energy, improved sleep quality, reduced pain, and a lower body mass index. Matt Minard PT, DPT, a physical therapist at Atrium Health in Charlotte, NC, believes these benefits extend to chair yoga.

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?

While chair yoga is often touted as a practice for those who find it difficult to practice on a mat, everyone can benefit from this type of gentle exercise.


Kelly says chair yoga is especially good for people who use wheelchairs, those in rehab after surgery, live with chronic illnesses, or have balance issues that make it hard to get down on a yoga mat. . It’s also perfect for a quick workout during the work day or while traveling.

“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.”


Nadine Kelly, MD, Yogi, MD, Sawyer, MI.

Matt Minard DP, DPT, Atrium Health, Charlotte, NC.

International Journal of Preventive Medicine: “Effects of Yoga on Stress, Anxiety and Depression in Women”.

Complementary therapies in medicine: “Yoga for secondary prevention of coronary heart disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis”.

BMC Geriatrics: “The Possibility of Yoga Intervention for Pain Reduction in Older Women: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Study”.

BMC Psychiatry: “The effect of yoga on sleep quality and insomnia in women with sleep problems: a systematic review and meta-analysis”.

Journal of Osteopathic Medicine: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in the Treatment of Chronic Pain and Associated Depression.

© 2022 WebMD LLC. All rights reserved.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *