Chair yoga offers a great way to stretch your legs when you are confined to a chair in your office. Chair yoga can also function as a form of physical therapy for those recovering from severe injury or illness as well as post-surgery. This style of movement offers many benefits including alleviating muscle tightness, pain and tension, and helping restore a sense of energy and alertness after long periods of sitting.
Choosing the Right Chair
Ideally you want to practice chair yoga using a chair with a flat rather than a bucket seat. If possible, select a metal or wooden chair with minimal seat padding rather than an upholstered armchair. A chair without arm rests provides more scope for movement and stretching than one that has armrests.
Try to sit upright without feeling tense and rigid. Instead of slouching into the chair, permit your abdominal muscles to hold your shoulders above your hips. Place your legs so your ankles stack up beneath your knees and your feet rest flat on the floor. If the chair seems to be designed for people taller than you so your feet cannot rest comfortably on the floor, find a low stool or thick book so your feet sit flat. Take some time to observe your breathing, getting a sense of slowly filling and then slowly emptying your lungs rather than breathing rapidly.
Straight Leg Stretch
Extend one leg forward so you straighten the knee without locking the joint. Your heel should rest on the floor with your toes pointing upward. Exhale and slowly fold your upper body forward. Let your head and chest move downward as far as you comfortably can so you feel a stretch along the back of your right leg. Inhale and slowly return to an upright seated position. Bring your right leg back to its original position, then extend your left leg and repeat the movement to this side.
Bent Leg Stretch
Knee and lower-back pain often come from tightness in the pelvic region. This stretch helps you regain lower-body flexibility by recovering a sense of limberness in your hips. If you already have knee or lower-back pain, start with the beginner version of this pose and gradually work toward a more advanced stretch. If you normally practice yoga with a mat and are only doing chair yoga due to temporary limitations, go ahead and do the more advanced version.
Keep your left foot flat on the floor and point your right knee slightly outward. Beginners may wish to rest the side of the right foot on a yoga block, book or stool. If you comfortably can, place your right ankle on your left thigh. Then exhale and bend forward slowly, bringing your head toward your legs. Inhale and return to your original seated position, then switch your legs to repeat the stretch on the left side.