Chair yoga may sound like an oxymoron to those accustomed to doing advanced yoga poses such as Scorpion or Feathered Peacock. But if you're stuck at the office or temporarily have to restrict your activities due to surgery or injury, this type of yoga offers a great way to keep your muscles from becoming tense and tight. Chair yoga provides a deeper stretch than you might expect, yet it's easy enough to practice that you may want to teach it to your couch potato friend, or even your grandmother.
Preparing for Chair Yoga
Sit in your chair, finding the balance between sitting upright yet feeling relaxed. Try to align your shoulders over your hips rather than learning forward or slouching. If you are short and the chair seat is too high for you to rest your feet on the floor, place a yoga block beneath them so they sit flat rather than dangling in the air. (If the chair is wide enough and you can comfortably sit cross-legged, you can also come to this position.)
Close your eyes and or lower your eyelids to half mast and soften your gaze as you listen to your breathing. Without straining, try to slow down your breath rhythm, permitting each inhalation to lengthen and trying to extend the exhalation to match the inhalation.
Turn your upper body to the right as you exhale and simultaneously move both legs toward the opposite side. Breathe into the twist, permitting your inhalation to elongate the spine from your tailbone through the top of your neck and letting each exhalation move you slightly deeper into the twist. Think of your breath as an opportunity to massage your body from the inside, softening and relaxing tense muscles. On an inhalation, slowly return your legs and upper body to face forward. Then on an exhalation, repeat the twist to the opposite side.
Extend your right leg, straightening the knee and keeping the heel on the floor but pointing the toes gently upward and forward. Loop your yoga strap over the right foot, holding the ends of the strap in your hands. Exhale and fold your upper body forward as you pull gently on the strap. Relax your neck so the weight of your head carries you closer to your legs. Inhale and slowly uncurl your spine one vertebra at a time, trying to let your head rise only after you have positioned your shoulders over your hips. Switch sides to stretch your left leg.
Slide slightly forward from the back of your chair so there is room behind you for your arms to do Seated Eagle pose. Hold one end of your yoga strap in your right hand as you reach the hand toward the ceiling. Then bend your right arm so the hand comes behind your head. Bend your left elbow and reach for the lower end of the strap. Keep your head upright rather than tilting it downward as you try to move your hands closer to each other behind your back. When you feel ready, release the pose, then repeat to the opposite side.