An Unexpected Revelation – Chair Yoga

Gentle Chair Yoga is Not What You Think

Does the idea of doing yoga with a chair sound unappealing? Do you imagine chair yoga is not  “real yoga,” that it’s for others who are less mobile, or maybe more limited than you?  I hear over and over again variations on this sentiment, “I never expected I would feel this good after a chair practice.” Consider that chair yoga is not just an alternative to mat/floor yoga; in many ways chair yoga can be an enhancement. 

Why Our Students Like Chair Yoga

Candace Brennan of New York, feels that it’s easier on the joints than a mat class. Cross legged sitting can stress ankles, knees, hips, the SI joint, the spine and the back muscles. Cross-legged-sitting-on-the-floor is not required in order to practice and experience profound benefits from your yoga practice.

Marisa Rosenfeld of North Carolina, is a big fan of chair yoga. In her experience, “the practice of chair yoga is much more than one may think and I have recommended it to friends who have had injuries. Recently, I started having knee problems and I find that chair yoga is ideal.”

Taking the challenge and discomfort of cross-legged-on-the-floor-sitting out of a yoga practice opens the door to a greater sense of freedom, ease and lightness. 

Lisa Mary DiDonna McGrail of New York, writes, “with limited flexibility, chair yoga makes yoga so available to the body.” 

Edite Kroll of Maine, says she, “never expected to be able to totally relax. Chair yoga makes that possible.”

Gentle Chair Yoga for Injury Recovery

Gentle chair yoga can provide an excellent introduction to yoga, but it can also greatly facilitate re-entry when experiencing injury recovery.

Barbara Powell of Connecticut tells about her experience: “My journey back into yoga practice started with Rudy’s classes over a year ago when he began offering them online. The hour long chair yoga has been a wonderful, accessible practice for a very stiff and tight body. It always amazes me what an incredible energetic shift I get from the 6 movements of the spine, using the breath as an anchor and a guide for pacing the movement and focusing attention. I had limited and painful mobility in my left shoulder which has completely resolved itself with Rudy’s slow and gradual shoulder opening movements.”

Chair Yoga for Freedom in the Joints and Stability

Candace adds that it allows for the changes that may occur from day-to-day in her body. “I’m 74  and walk a lot for my main exercise. I look forward to the chair class.  Yes it is ‘easier’ but you never know how a particular day will affect the body.”  The chair adds stability on days when you may need extra support.  

Joan Brown of Maryland reports, “I find doing foot/ankle/heel/calf stretches more effective when sitting. If I do those while standing, I tend to be a bit more “athletic” and focus on doing things correctly. I’m more relaxed sitting and can feel the muscles loosen. I don’t worry about maintaining my balance or standing up straight.”  Lisa Mary also finds that “… a few asana’s in particular work better in a chair, the achilles tendon stretch works better from a seated position, tadasana in the chair feels strengthening and supportive.”

Susie Brubaker of New York, said, “I am better able to focus on the details of the postures and allow my whirling nervous system to slow down many notches.” As a professional in the field of body therapy, Susie also appreciates that the chair is a fabulous and versatile prop for standing postures which are essential for strengthening balance and stimulating bone growth.

Mary-Margaret Kerns of New York shared with me that chair yoga “provides increased ability to isolate specific muscle groups, as in the twist. With weight evenly distributed on both sitz bones, an elongated spine, and feet firmly pressed into the floor, the firm base supports a twist of the upper body while minimizing engagement of the lower body. This helps isolate and facilitate stretching and strengthening the upper body muscles of the back, shoulders and neck.”

Mary-Margaret continues, “A similar revelation is the seated forward fold in the chair. When folded forward, the angle of the torso allows for exceptional ease of lengthening and a deep release of the low back muscles while in a well-supported posture.” Edite, also reports, “I  experience greater flexibility and less pain in my replaced knees & chronic sciatica.”

Chair Yoga for Variety and Deep Relaxation

Candace also said that, “Yoga in a chair gives me variety and a different perspective on some of the same poses. It keeps my old joints moving. Helps me physically and mentally. I like the comfort of the chair. You can gently hold the chair and go for a deeper stretch or hold onto the chair for support if you need it to do the pose.”

Barbara appreciates most “that after a long day when I don’t have enough in the tank for a mat practice, the chair practice is so accessible and beneficial. I just need to show up, wear comfortable clothing and take a seat in my favorite armless chair.”

The seated relaxation will likely be more restorative than you would expect if you’re used to lying on your back in shavasana. You may be surprised to find it leaves you feeling refreshed, clear and light. Gentle chair yoga can be less complex than floor/mat yoga yet comprehensive, providing stretching, strengthening, awareness, and opening. 

Join us for one of our on-going classes.  The Gentle Yogis 35 minute daily Breath Practice class at 8:00am is chair yoga. And every Tuesday you can experience a 60-minute chair yoga practice from 5 – 6PM.  If you are a dedicated mat yogi, we have Dynamic Gentle Yoga on the mat on Thursdays, 4:30-6:00pm!

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