Chair yoga makes yoga accessible to those with balance and mobility problems. Although it is often considered a gentler form of yoga, it can also benefit those with neurological issues, pregnant women, and anyone who wants to do it more gently.
Chair yoga is good for seniors.
Research has shown chair yoga can have significant health benefits, including improved balance stability, lower pain symptoms for older adults with osteoarthritis and a decreased number of falls in psychiatric patients, and improved mental well-being.
A sturdy chair should have back support and ideally be without arms. You should ensure that the chair has a non-slip surface and that your feet are flat on the ground.
Chair yoga for the lower back
Many poses can be practiced in a chair, either standing or sitting. These poses are primarily for the lower body. Lyn Core offers a complete video on chair yoga for seniors.
Take a moment to center yourself in Mountain Pose before you begin the sequence.
- Standing tall in your chair, extend your neck and reach your crown. You can place your arms by your sides or your hands on your knees.
- Let your shoulders drop towards your ears, then relax.
- Take a few deep, calming breaths and close your eyes.
- Do a quick mental scan of your body. Notice how your body and your breath feel right now.
Single leg forward bend-chair Janu Sirsasana
Janu Sirsasana is good for stretching the hamstrings. The forward bend element stimulates the nerves in the parasympathetic nervous systems and can be calming. It’s an asymmetrical position that can help us be more aware of the differences between our right and left sides, which can benefit balance.
- For support, sit at the front of the seat and place your left foot on the ground.
- Keep your right leg extended in front of yourself. As you inhale, draw your lower belly towards the spine and lengthen through the crown of the head.
- Inhale and gently fold your leg forward.
- For a few moments, hold this position and inhale. Next, sit straight up.
- Take a few deep breaths and feel the changes in your body. Then, go back to the beginning.
Hamstring stretch – Utthita Hasta Padangustasana
Similar to the Utthita Padangusthasa standing version, this pose will stretch the calves, hamstrings and core muscles and help improve balance.
- Attach your right foot to the loop by making a loop using a belt or strap. You can hold the strap with your right hand.
- Keep your back straight, and straighten your right leg. If you find it more comfortable, you can bend your knee.
- You can also point your foot and flex your foot while in the pose to help circulate blood.
- To make it even more challenging, loosen your strap so you can use your hip flexor muscles for a leg lift.
- After taking a few deep breaths, bring your right foot back to the ground. Take a moment to notice your body’s sensations before moving on to the next side.
Chair Pigeon pose – Glute stretch
The chair yoga version of Pigeon Pose, or ankle-to-knee pose, targets the glutes and Piriformis muscles.
- Start by elevating your right foot off the ground. Next, grab your knee and circle with it. Repeat this process three times per direction.
- Gently move your knees up and down several times by crossing your ankle over your left leg. If you cannot bring your ankle up to your knee, you can cross your ankle in front of your shin.
- Inhale and lengthen your spine. Exhale, then fold forwards. Keep within your comfort zone.
Virasana – Seated Hero’s Pose
Hero’s pose, Virasana, targets the quadriceps muscles at the front of your thigh. It also targets the hip flexors and psoas. This pose is great for people who sit a lot.
- Your right leg should be off the chair. Your left hand should be holding the chair’s edge.
- As you learn to the left, bend your right knee. Then grab your right hand with your foot and hold it with your right hand. You can also loop a strap around your foot for an easier grip.
- Your heel should be towards your buttock. The stretch should be felt in the front of your thigh. Feeling more sensations in your knee? Let go of your foot.
Chair yoga lunge pose
This variation is useful if your knees are strained, or you cannot bend your toes in high-lance poses.
- Standing about an arm’s distance from the chair, place your elbows in front.
- Balance can be a problem if the chair is turned 90 degrees.
- Place your weight on your left foot, and then step up onto the chair using your right foot.
- Your front leg should be in front of you. The back of your calves and front of your right hip might feel stretched.
- Keep your knee high above your ankle, but not forward.
To make a seated lunge, place your left leg on the chair and lift your right leg behind you to a lunge position. You can either go straight to the next pose or return to standing. After a few minutes in the Mountain pose, you can move on to the next.
Half-split poses with a chair.
Standing half-split poses, like the one before, can help you balance. Balance is essential to Proprioception, our ability to detect our body and movements in space. It can often be affected by neurological diseases such as stroke, Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s.
- Start in the lunge position and straighten your front leg. Then, rest your heel on the chair.
- You can stay there and improve balance and stability with your standing leg. You can also walk your hands along your leg, extending your arms outwards and hinge your hips.
- You can extend your leg by flexing your foot and bringing your toes toward you for extra stretch.
- After taking a few deep breaths, raise your torso. Now, take a deep breath and lower your foot to the ground. Repeat the process on the opposite side.