As more and more young guys are learning in these times of severely limited gym access and getting creative when it comes to working out, one of the most effective home workouts you can do is yoga.
Far from being a ‘chick thing,’ or something that’s essentially a set of stretching exercises as many of us may have been led to believe, when it’s done right yoga actually works your muscles to the point of exhaustion and leaves you a quivering bowl of jelly.
But the latest entrant in the yoga universe may have more than a few guys scratching their heads nonetheless: seated yoga, also known as chair yoga.
What is chair yoga?
First of all, let’s get this out of the way, chair yoga was originally designed as an exercise alternative for people who have limited mobility, elderly folks, and people recovering from an injury.
This concept alone – conjuring images of hospitals and elderly homes – can turn younger people off, but to dismiss chair yoga out of hand would be a mistake.
For starters, seated yoga stems from hatha yoga, which is basically just ‘yoga.’
Hatha yoga encompasses pretty much everything you probably think of when you think about yoga in general: it’s a series of physical techniques that also involve centering breath, body and mind as you go through a progression of poses.
What’s more, chair yoga actually incorporates adaptations of many of the yoga poses that are familiar to anyone who has attended a yoga class.
Benefits of chair yoga: You’re sitting all day anyway, bro
But even though it began as a fringe exercise program for a limited audience, knowledge of chair yoga benefits has quickly spread.
In an age where most of us do our work lashed to a desk and computer, it doesn’t take much imagination to see how a program designed to help wheelchair users and those suffering from osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis and even those with carpal tunnel syndrome can benefit everyone else too.
Chair yoga for lower back pain is quite popular, as both preventative and relief.
Some of the first practitioners of chair yoga outside of physical therapists’ offices used it on long-haul flights to avoid cramping, soreness, and even more serious issues like deep vein thrombosis.
And desk jockeys of course have long been told about the importance of moving around periodically.
Chair yoga is a fantastic way to challenge your body and prevent atrophy throughout the day.
Chair yoga for beginners
So let’s get down to the nitty gritty: how does chair yoga work?
According to the online repository of all things yoga Yogapedia, pretty much any yoga pose can be adapted for use in chair yoga.
Along with using seated yoga poses to increase your range of mobility, many practitioners of chair yoga swear by pranayamas – aka breathing techniques – they incorporate during a session.
While holding poses can offer an office drone a great deal in the way of stretching, shifting your blood flow, and reducing fatigue, incorporating pranayamas and shifting your focus onto your breathing as you do the poses has distinct benefits too.
Just breathe: Chair yoga and breathing consciously
First of all, simply being aware of your breathing and concentrating on taking deeper breaths can instantly reduce anxiety.
This simple exercise is also a great gateway to meditation practice and is wonderful for shaking off stress, reorienting our focus and shifting our outlook in a more positive way.
After all, we are living in an age where businesses are becoming increasingly aware of the strain modern office life puts on workers.
HR encourages us to try using an exercise ball instead of a chair, or to try out a standing desk, or even in some more enlightened workplaces, to step away from work and walk around for a few minutes every hour.
Why not chair yoga too?
What is chair yoga good for?
And of course this isn’t just about work either. As much as we all loooove our jobs – insert massive eye-roll – there’s much more to life than work.
You’re in it for the long haul, and your body is the only one you’ve got.
The standard trope is that young people don’t think ahead by realizing that the uses and abuses we put our bodies through when we’re young are going to have an impact on us down the road.
But the fact of the matter is, we’re living in an age that is more health-conscious, diet-conscious and exercise conscious than at any other time in the history of humankind.
The things we know about how the human body atrophies through disuse are important to remember when it comes to chair yoga. Sitting locked down at a desk for 8 or 10 hours a day for 30 or 40 years of your life is not going to go unnoticed by your body.
Chair yoga can help. Here are a couple of basic poses you can try to get you started, but for many more, check out this article. [link to chair yoga poses piece – pending]
Modified cat-cow stretch for chair yoga
Sit with your feet planted on the ground and put your hands on your knees. Arch your spine while inhaling and roll your shoulders back and down toward your butt. That’s the cat stretch.
For the cow position, exhale, then drop your chin toward your chest while slowly rounding your spine, head and shoulders dropping forward. This is a great starter stretch for chair yoga.
Chair extended side angle
Plant your feet on the floor, then bend down over your knees. Put one hand on the floor or firmly grasp your calf. Take your other hand and reach for the sky, inhaling as you open up your chest.
Hold this pose for 2-3 counts, exhaling as you lower your arm. Repeat using your opposite hand.
Blitz yourself better!
This article contains general nutritional tips and advice. However, no diet or exercise program should be started without consulting your physician or other industry professional first. For more information read our full disclaimer here.