This is a beginning chair yoga routine that is perfect for people who want to stretch, relax and strengthen, but are unable to stand for a practice. You can flow from one pose to the next, using the breath to guide you in a steady pace. Or you can do each pose separately holding for 10 seconds or longer. As you become comfortable with this practice feel free to repeat poses and hold for longer. You can also look up other poses to add. There are full-length chair yoga practices that offer all the benefits of standard yoga classes. Breathe, smile and relax.
Mountain Pose – Find a firm chair, where your feet can rest flat on the floor, and your knees are directly above your ankles.Take some time to position yourself. If the chair is too high, place a folded blanket or towel under your feet to raise them up. Sit upright, rather than leaning back. Feel your sitting bones grounding you into the seat as your back lengthens. Sitting tall, with head positioned so neck is long and ears are in line with your shoulders. Try not to jut the head forward or tilt the chin up. Place hands palms up on your thighs. Lightly engage your abs and feel the strength in this position. Breathe in through the nose and out through the nose. Eyes can be closed or gazing softly down. Relax the face, jaw and shoulders. Stay here for a full minute feeling how strong you are just sitting. Pay attention to your breathing, but don’t try to change anything about it.
Arm Raises and Side bend – Slowly open your eyes from Mountain Pose, staying tall. Bring arms down to the side of the chair and on an inhale raise them overhead slowly. As you exhale lower arms to the side. Repeat this with your breath 3 times. Then inhale one arm up and bend slightly to the opposite side. Exhale arm down and repeat on the other side. Do this side bend 3 times on each side. If at any point you become dizzy or tired, stop and reset.
Knees to Chest – Wrapping arms around one shin, pull that bent knee into chest. Remain sitting tall and breathing. If you can’t pull the foot onto the seat of the chair, wrap your arms under the thigh and pull the bent leg toward you. Hold for 15 seconds and release with control. Repeat with the other leg. Be sure not to pull on the knee with your hands.
Staff Pose – Straighten one leg out parallel to the floor. With a flexed foot, hold that leg out while sitting tall. Relax your shoulders, jaw, and face. Use arms to help brace you by holding onto sides of the chair, but without letting tension creep into your neck/shoulders. To help you sit erect, use your abs to help support you and ground down into chair with your sitting bones. Hold for 15-30 seconds and then repeat with other leg.
Cat/Cow – On your inhale sit up, dropping hands to the side, letting your belly and chest expand, filling with your breath. As you exhale begin to round your back, hands on your thighs, pulling your belly in and gently letting your head fall a bit forward.
Cat/Cow cont’d – This second part is the “cat” and should look and feel like a cat stretching out the back. Flow from one to the other, opening and closing, letting your breath guide you. Do as many as feel good – work up to 10. Let your head/neck just follow your upper body – no tension. The abs are doing most of the work, with a nice upper back stretch.
Forward fold – At the end of the practice try a forward fold – relaxing the whole upper body forward, allowing arms, head and chest to relax down around the legs. If this causes any dizziness, try a modified fold; coming forward halfway, supporting your weight with arms on the legs. Relax the belly and breathe gently through the nose. After 10 seconds or whatever is comfortable, slowly come up and remain seated.
Relaxation – Close your eyes or have a gentle gaze. Pay attention to your breath and how you feel. Notice any tension or discomfort in your body and try to relax that area. If you have a guided relaxation you enjoy this would be a good time to listen to that. Or simply sit with yourself, enjoying the feeling of calm for a few moments.
By: Karen R. Mizrach
Model: Annette Hull