While you might never see it on the cover of Yoga Journal, or a "selfie" pose on Instagram, Chair Yoga is a beautiful way to experience asana without needing a mat.
There are some who doubt that using a chair for yoga is “true” yoga, but the truth is, chairs are great props for use while standing or sitting.
Why use a chair?
Using a chair during yoga practice can help anyone with mobility or arthritic issues to find balance and support; assist beginner and intermediate students feel better alignment certain poses such as virabhadrasana (warrior) 2; and can even be a great assist for advanced students developing their skills at arm balances like pincha mayurasana.
Chair Yoga is for all ages.
Chair Yoga classes are becoming popular among the senior population as it allows them to feel comfortable and supported with their balance during the class – whether they’re sitting or standing.
Anyone that may have issues such as a knee or back injury making it difficult to get up and down from a mat, a chair is the best solution that allows the student to modify most poses easily.
Chairs are not always for sitting.
Side stretches, forward bends, twists, standing poses, balance poses – for feet and arms, and even sun salutations are easily done using a chair.
Alignment-based yoga styles such as Iyengar and Anusara styles favor chairs for teaching alignment in many poses.
And, if you are sitting…
Those of us who find ourselves seated in an office throughout the day have a great opportunity to practice chair yoga – no stretchy pants required.
Chair yoga is great for the office to relieve the shoulders and lower back from the stresses of sitting for long hours.
What are the best poses to do with a chair?
Almost any asana can be modified to be done on a chair. Forward folds, twists and even sun salutations can be easily performed anywhere at any time.
10-step Sun Salutation with a chair.
Try this traditional series using a chair – making sure it is secure from sliding by either placing it against a wall or on top of a yoga mat on a flat floor.
1. Standing tall in front of the chair in tadasana, about 3 feet in front of the chair (with the seat or back of the chair in front of you, depending on your preference) with the feet hip distance apart.
2. Inhale, reach the arms towards the sky.
3. Exhale, hinging at the hips with a flat back, bring your hands to the outer sides of the chair (left and right, so that palms are parallel) to a modified standing forward bend (uttanasana).
4. Inhale, look forward and lengthen your spine to half standing forward bend (ardah uttanasana).
5. Exhale, fold forward again with a flat back, step each foot back one step to allow the spine to lengthen, and the head and neck to relax into a modified downward facing dog.
6. Inhale, look forward and slowly bring the hips toward the chair while rolling the shoulders back to open and expand the heart area, coming into a modified cobra.
7. Exhale, and press the hips back to the modified downward facing dog.
8. Inhale, step the feet forward and come to a flat back and extended spine, a modified ardah uttanasana.
9. Exhale, fold forward a little deeper to uttanasana with the hands on the chair, keeping the back straight.
10. Inhale, reach the arms forward and up towards the sky, then exhale bringing the arms to your side, returning to tadasana.
The benefits of chair yoga are the same as those done on a mat and can be done as a simple practice using breath, movement and held postures.
The next time you need some yoga but don’t have a mat, just grab a chair.