In this strange era when more and more people are stuck working from home, getting in enough exercise can be a big challenge.
We forget how many calories we burn simply being out and about: moving from car to office to restaurant to shops and back home again while navigating streets and stairs and so forth can really add up the calories you’re burning.
Not so much sitting at home all day in front of your computer.
Luckily, there is a new exercise trend that’s growing in popularity among groups of people that are far from the original audience for which it was designed, and that’s chair yoga.
Chair yoga [[LINK]], aka seated yoga is a set of poses, stretches and exercises combined with breathing techniques that you can do while seated in a chair.
It was originally designed as a way for people who have limited mobility due to injury, age or other issues to get some exercise.
But just because chair yoga exercises are popular in retirement communities doesn’t mean young, fit people can’t take it up as well. In fact, if you think about it, as workers, younger people are as likely to be trapped in a chair all day as pensioners.
And as countless young office workers have found, when you’re struck sitting and staring at a screen for eight or ten hours a day, taking time out to perform some chair yoga can really help with your focus, your breathing, your mental well-being, and your physical health.
Here we’ll outline a few of the basic chair yoga poses that you can do from the comfort of your home or office.
While we can’t guarantee that every one of these chair yoga postures will leave you feeling as physically crushed as you do after hitting the weights, we do absolutely guarantee that any exercise is better than none.
1. Chair yoga poses: Cat-cow stretch
This exercise is pretty much the universal starting point for both regular yoga and chair yoga, and all on its own is a nice way to reorient your focus, stretch your back, and get your breathing centered during a long day sitting at a desk.
Start with your feet planted firmly on the floor and your spine erect, hands placed on your thighs. Inhale, rolling your shoulders down and back toward your butt while arching your spine.
On the exhale roll your shoulders forward and down, rounding your spine and dropping your head. You can also drop your hands alongside your legs. Alternate between the cat and the cow for 5 sets of breaths.
2. Chair yoga poses: Raised hands pose
This pose is pretty much just what it sounds like, but it’s surprisingly effective for stretching and lengthening your spine when you’ve been planted on your ass all day.
Sit with your feet again firmly on the ground in front of you, with your arms hanging at your sides and your spine erect.
On the inhale, keep your arms straight and slowly raise your hands in front of you until they’re pointed at the ceiling. Keep your posture throughout, and exhale as you lower your arms. Repeat 5 times.
Keep in mind too that breathing in a deliberate, conscious way is a big part of getting the full effectiveness of chair yoga as well as standard yoga.
3. Chair yoga poses: Seated fold
Once again from a starting position with good posture, feet planted and hands on thighs, inhale and think about lengthening your spine and sitting erect.
On the exhale, fold your body down (try not to round your back) and drop your hands to the floor if they reach.
Let your body hang loosely and relax your head and neck. On the next inhale, lift your body slowly back up to a seated position, using your hands on your thighs for leverage if you wish. Repeat this cycle 5 times.
4. Chair yoga poses: Extended side angle
On your last repetition of the seated fold above, keep one hand resting on the floor outside your foot. If your hand doesn’t comfortably reach the floor, place a book or other item there to make it easier for you, or just lock your hand under your knee.
On the inhale, open your chest and with your other hand reach for the ceiling. Imagine your hands are the hands of a clock if it was 6:00. On the exhale, bring your arm back down and repeat using your opposite hand. This constitutes one set, and you should perform 5 sets total.
Always remember to take your time and ease into these motions without jerkiness or suddenness to ensure that you don’t pull anything.
5. Chair yoga poses: Pigeon
This is a great stretch for runners as well as people who are stuck sitting for long periods of time. Bring your leg up to rest your ankle on the opposite thigh, trying to maintain as much of a straight line between your knee and your ankle as possible.
Hold this pose for 5 breaths. To add some intensity to the stretch, lean forward over your thighs. This one is great for opening up the hip flexors, helping with your posture, and reducing anterior pelvic tilt. Switch legs and repeat 3 to 5 times on each.
6. Chair yoga poses: Spinal twist
Sit yourself on a chair sideways, in a good posture with your back lengthened keeping with the back of the chair to one side of your body. Now twist your torso toward the chair back, grasping it with your hands for leverage.
Stretch your spine and inhale as you begin, exhaling on completion the twist. Switch sides and repeat, doing 5 sets on each side.
7. Chair yoga eagle pose (or Garudasana)
This is a classic yoga pose that translates easily to a chair yoga pose. The chair twist above will help warm you up for it, too. Chair yoga eagle pose also gives you a great stretch for both upper and lower body.
Sit erect in your chair, then cross one leg over the opposite thigh, curling your foot around your calf if possible.
Then, holding your arms in front of you with your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle and palms toward your face, cross one arm over the other at the elbow, twisting your hands so that your palms are touching.
Now lift your elbows while dropping your shoulders down and breathe deeply 3 to 5 times. Do 5 sets on each side.
8. Chair yoga poses: Warrior
Now that we’re getting into some more advanced chair yoga exercises, it’s important to take special care to note your posture and ensure that you’re using the correct form.
For the chair warrior you’re going to first put your right leg over the chair seat with the seat back to your right side, while stretching your left leg behind you at an angle.
You’ll want to plant your left foot as close as possible to parallel the seat of the chair, while keeping your right leg at a 90-degree angle over the chair seat.
Keep your hips square, facing the same direction as your right leg while raising your arms to end up palm together pointing toward the ceiling on a big inhale.
Hold that for 3 breaths, and repeat 5 times.
9. Chair yoga poses: Warrior part II
Repeat as above, only after you hold your hand high for 3 breaths, drop your hands so that your arms are extended parallel to the floor, with your right arm pointed directly in front of you and your left arm directly behind.
You’ll also rotate your hips slightly as you change your arm position so that your left hip opens up to your left.
Hold this pose for 3 breaths. Repeat for 5 sets.
If you’re doing this one correctly, you’ll really feel your spine lengthen, and you’ll also notice you’re working your lower back muscles perhaps more than you expected.
10. Chair yoga poses: Reverse warrior
Get to the chair yoga warrior II pose as above with your arms outstretched, then slowly lean back until your left arm reaches your left leg while simultaneously reaching your right arm above you. Inhale on the move, and hold for 3 to 5 breaths, repeating 5 times.
Always be sure to take a few minutes after you do any chair yoga routines to sit in a neutral position with a good posture and feet on the floor, and do some conscious, deep breathing as a cool-down.
It’s a great way to de-stress and to let your body adjust to the twists and turns you’ve just put it through.
Blitz yourself better!
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