Originally introduced to the fitness world as a modified version of hatha yoga for individuals with health implications and the elderly, chair yoga has gained many new fans. With the amount of time people sit at their desks or travel on long flights, there is a movement to bring increased circulation and exercise into our daily routines. Improving flexibility, relieving cramps and stiffness, and creating a happy mental state are a few benefits that chair yoga can provide for our bodies. Read on as we discuss the basics, advantages, where to practice chair yoga, and a few beginner poses to get you started.
Chair Yoga 101
In the same way that the body moves through flows of motion and increased flexibility during cycles of traditional yoga, chair yoga implements this practice as well. According to Yogapedia, almost any traditional yoga pose or move can be replicated and altered to accommodate chair yoga. Along with increased ranges of motion through holding poses on a chair, pranayamas (also known as breathing techniques) are a popular practice within chair yoga and can assist in reducing anxiety, introducing or practicing meditation, and creating spatial awareness.
The Perfect Modification for Individuals Who Have Trouble Practicing Traditional Yoga
Chair yoga is an ideal exercise for those suffering from conditions, such as chronic pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, osteoporosis, and multiple sclerosis. It may also benefit people over a certain age who have trouble moving through the up and down motions of traditional yoga. Chair yoga allows them to stay stabilized. Yoga offers a myriad of benefits with increased flexibility, weight loss, and an improved mental state. It’s particularly important for elderly people to implement practices such as chair yoga into their routines.
According to Jimmy McKay, a physical therapist at FOX Rehabilitation, “There are four phases of degeneration that progress naturally as we age. Exercise is a major intervention to slow this process down. If a joint cannot move through its normal range, it will limit the amount of activity that can be done.” By doing daily or even biweekly chair yoga to promote stretching, activities or chores such as cleaning the house or grocery shopping will not become burdening tasks as we age.
Ideal for Long Flights or Desk Jobs
For many individuals, a gym membership doesn’t suffice for eight hours of sitting at a desk. Many people are trying to introduce levels of physical activity to their office or desk space. These include standing desks, stability balls, and taking quick walks around the office every 15-30 minutes. On top of these daily practices, why not try chair yoga? Along with supplying a ton of physical benefits, chair yoga can relieve workplace stress and tension, according to a study performed at the University of Pennsylvania. It revealed that the mindful practice of chair yoga helped elevate self-care and prevented burnout in the workplace.
In addition to practicing at the office, chair yoga exercises during a long flight can ease discomfort and alleviate the potential risk of blood clots. As stated by the American Society of Hematology for flights longer than eight hours, “Blood clots can sometimes form in your legs during air travel because you are immobile for long periods of time.” Stretches and movements such as chair yoga or walking around every couple of hours can help travelers reduce their risk of blood clots.
Perfect for Beginners: Chair Yoga Pose Examples
Chair Modified Cat-Cow Stretch
While sitting with your legs firmly planted on the ground, place your hands on your knees. For the cat position, arch your spine as you inhale while rolling your shoulders back and down toward your back. For the cow position, while exhaling, drop your chin. Begin to round your spine, leading your head and shoulders forward. This is a perfect yoga stretch before starting additional poses.
Chair Extended Side Angle
Starting with either your left or right side, plant both feet on the floor. Bend your upper body over your knees, and place your hand on the floor. If you can’t reach the floor, place your hand firmly on your calf. With the opposite hand, extend toward the sky, opening up your chest as you inhale. Hold for 2-3 counts, and exhale as you bring your arm back down to the center.
For more chair yoga ideas, check out this story on airplane yoga.