What is Chair Yoga?

reverse warrior chair
Thanks to ouryogahome.com for the image.

Simply put, chair yoga is doing yoga with a chair. For many people, getting up and down from the ground, like you might do in various yoga classes, is not easy to do. With chair yoga, you use the chair as a prop to help you get into many yoga poses while feeling greatly supported and stabilized.

When new types of yoga are created, they must go through a process to become recognized. Chair yoga is currently working on this process. While chair yoga classes may not be very common, they are definitely worth a try when you can find one.

Let’s talk about 3 misconceptions you might have about chair yoga.

You don’t just sit there.

First, you should know that many chairs for chair yoga are very utilitarian. For example, at the studio where I take class, Zest Yoga & Wellness, the cushioned backs have been removed from the chair so that it’s really just a padded seat on a metal frame. This encourages you to stay lifted and engaged in what you’re doing. If you forget and lean back for a rest, you are quickly reminded by the cold metal bar. No, we don’t do that here.

Even though you use a chair, you do not spend the whole time sitting. The chair can be used as a prop while sitting or standing. It’s very abstract to think of using the chair as a prop while sitting in it. For me, it was a little tricky to understand.

Imagine that you scoot all the way to the front of your chair and a little bit to the left side. Bend your left knee and place your left foot on the floor beside the front part of your chair. Now, reach you right leg the opposite way, sealing the outside edge of your right foot to the floor. Essentially, only your left butt cheek is pressing into the chair as you come into Warrior 2 legs. Raise your arms to shoulder level and gaze over your left fingers, and you’re in a supported Warrior 2.

Now, bring your right arm down on your right thigh and reach your left arm toward the ceiling. Lift your ribs away from your hips and bend to the right. You look just like the picture, don’t you?

You get a great workout.

Anyone who has just followed along with those instructions has had a Wow! moment. Holy cow! With the help of the chair, you access a depth in your Warrior 2 stretch of your legs that you probably don’t get in a traditional mat class.

The wonder of chair yoga is that you get to go into traditional poses from a different perspective. With the lift from the chair, you have a different workout for your body. We all know that variety is the spice of life, and this is a great way to bring some variety into your practice.

Chair yoga is for everyone.

Chair class is appropriate for all individuals. Whether you are wanting to challenge your body in a different way or if you aren’t able to move up and down from the ground, chair yoga is appropriate for you!

Chair yoga classes are an alternative to traditional mat classes. In this case, the chair is simply a prop like a block or a bolster.

Here’s a link to a 10-minute chair yoga routine for stress relief from theblissfulmind.com. This sequence is great for anybody but especially for those who spend much of the day seated in a chair.

There is a YouTube channel called MindfulChairYoga. Here is a 15-minute beginner video from them. They don’t go into some of the more traditional yoga poses here, but the movements are very calming and relaxing.

Have you tried chair yoga before? What do you think of it? Let us know in the comments below.

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Sarah Stockett is STOTT certified in Matwork, Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, & Barrels, Injuries & Special Populations, and CORE; a Yoga Alliance RYT-200; and has studied Active Isolated Stretching. When she is not trying to discover the best exercises to get rid of pain, she likes watching movies and travelling with her family.

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