Short on Floor Space? Try Chair Yoga
Wellness doesn’t have to mean an expensive membership, early wake-up call, or taking an hour out of your packed schedule. There are practical and simple ways to take care of your body and mind that effortlessly fit into your routine, budget, and environment.
Chair yoga, for example, is a form of yoga that—you guessed it—can be done from a desk, kitchen, or living room chair—no gym, mat, funds, extra space or commute required. (Keep in mind, chairs with wheels aren’t ideal, since they’re less stable.)
While chair yoga is a modified, more supportive, and less intense form of the practice (since the chair bears the majority of your body weight, rather than you), it’s still beneficial for flexibility, strength, and relaxation. For example, one study asked twenty participants to practice chair yoga at their office desks for 15 minutes. Afterwards, the group reported feeling less stressed and the researchers found their psychological and physiological markers of stress, like respiration rate, decreased.
Below, we put together three foundational chair yoga postures to kickstart your practice. Don’t forget: One of the most critical elements of yoga is the breath. As you explore these poses, pay close attention to your inhales and exhales. The more deep and audible, the better.
This pose is helpful for loosening the hip muscles, which are often tighter than other areas of the body. Begin by placing your feet on the floor and separating them to match the width of your hips. Take your left ankle and rest it above your right knee, so it’s comfortably resting on top of your right leg. If you can feel the stretch in your outer left hip, feel free to remain in this position. If you’d like to explore further, slowly lean your upper body forward. As you do this, place your left hand below your left knee and your right hand on your right ankle to gently pull your chest towards your left calf. As you inhale, lengthen your spine. As you exhale, deepen into the fold. After a few rounds of inhales and exhales, carefully come out of the posture the same way you entered it. Repeat on the other side.
Seated twists will release tension in your lower back and spine. First, come to the edge of the chair and place your feet on the ground at a hips-width distance. Place your right hand on the outside of your left knee. With your left hand, reach for the back of the chair behind you. Then, twist towards your left, directing your gaze over your left shoulder. Similar to seated pigeon, lengthen your spine as you inhale—pretend a piece of string is pulling the crown of your head in upward. As you exhale, release further into the twist. Remain in the pose for a few rounds of breath, then repeat on the other side by twisting to your right.
If you have tight shoulders or are craving a stretch in your triceps and chest, this pose is for you. Like the previous postures, keep your feet separated at a hips-width distance on the ground. Take your arms out in front of you—parallel to the ground—and turn your palms to face each other. Interlock your fingers. This will cause your palms to face towards you. Keeping your fingers interlaced, reverse the direction of your palms to face away from you. Slowly raise your interlocked hands and arms over your head, making sure to keep your shoulders relaxed and away from your ears. Complete a few rounds of breath in this position.
If you want, try reaching your grip and arms over to the left. You should experience a nice stretch in your right side body. After inhaling and exhaling a few times, return to center and complete one round of breath. Then, repeat by stretching over to the right.
Next time you need a break from work, are waiting for dinner to cool, or simply have some time to spare, give the above postures a try. There are also plenty online videos and resources to support your chair yoga practice. Who knew that increased physical (and mental) health can happen from the comfort of a chair? Whether you choose to roll out a mat or grab the nearest chair, you’re well on your way to resolution success and enhanced well-being.