How to Do Chair Yoga at Work

by Farzana Rahman

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Yoga in a chair ? Err, you don’t really see that on Instagram if we’re being honest.

The first time I learnt about Chair Yoga was in yoga teacher training.

For one thing, I had never seen an actual chair in yoga studio.  Maybe in the reception area when you checked in, but never in the actual studio itself.  Studios had plenty of mats, sweaty towels and incense but chairs themselves seemed to be in short supply. In my experience, yogi types seem to sit on mats, cushions or the floor.

So can you actually do yoga in chair ? The short answer is yes.  I recently taught a class at the fantastic Fresh and Savoury Program at MedStar Health in Washington DC and really enjoyed it.

 

What is Chair Yoga ?

Chair yoga is a general term for practices that modify yoga poses (also known as asanas) so that they can be done while seated in a chair. These changes make yoga accessible to people who may not be mobile.  It’s also useful when you might be limited on time and space such as when you’re at work.

The essences of many of the postures are preserved so that even though you’re in chair, you still feel some of the benefits of the pose. Chairs still allow you to do twists, hip stretches, forward bends, and mild backbends.

As well as helping to stretch and strengthen, chair yoga helps people get other health benefits of yoga, as well as a reduction of stress and better sleep.

 

Who Can Practice Chair Yoga ?

The short answer is everyone.

Traditionally, chair yoga has been practiced by those who are elderly or with disabilities, but it can be beneficial for everyone. It’s a great practice as it helps flexibility and strengthens personal body awareness.

 

Benefits of Chair Yoga

1.     Strength

It’s actually possible to build up additional strength doing chair yoga poses. Poses such as squats and arm raises help to build up strength.

2.     Flexibility

Most of us spend our days sat in a desk, incorporating some of these exercises helps us to avoid stiffness.

3.     Stress Relief

Chair yoga includes breath work, which can help people not only with stress management but also for coping and managing pain. Through meditation and paying attention to your breath, you can help your body and mind to cope with pain, stress or anxiety.



Many of us spend our days sitting at a desk and hunched over a computer. Lower back pain, shoulder stiffness and brain drain are occupational hazards. Try some of these exercises next time you’re at work.

 

A Chair Yoga Sequence To Use at Work 

  • These incorporate breath work, meditation and poses. You can pick and choose how much or how little you would like to do.

  • If you spend the day sitting at a desk, try to take regular breaks where you perform some simple stretches.

  • They say that if you can breathe you can do yoga. So even if you’ve never been to a class (or have been and hated it) give these exercises a go.

     

  1. Let Go Meditation

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·      Sit comfortably and close your eyes

·      Gently become aware of your breath

·      Follow the inflow and outflow of the breath through your nostrils

·      Scan your whole body, from the top of the head to your toes.

·      Become aware of any tension, pain or stress

·      Gently bring the phrase ‘let go’ into your mind

·      Repeat the phrase silently to yourself

·      You do not need to force the phrase or thought. Just gently focus on the phrase.

·      If thoughts come into your mind, acknowledge them and go back to focusing on the phrase.

·      Practice for at least 5 minutes.

 

2. Breath Work – Conqueror’s Breath

This type of breathing is known as Ujjayi breathing.

If you’ve been to a yoga class you may have heard the teacher explain what it is and then been a little alarmed when you hear the rest of the class sound like Darth Vader. Here’s how to do it:

·       Inhale through your nose, then exhale slowly through a wide-open mouth.

·       Direct the out-going breath slowly across the back of your throat with a drawn-out HA sound.

·       Repeat several times, you should hear the sound (Darth Vader is a pretty good description to be honest)

·       Now close your mouth and continue breathing through your nose. You should still hear the sound which should sound like waves (or a jedi lured to the dark side depending on your mood)

·       Repeat for a few minutes

 

3. Poses To Try

There are lots of poses to try in chair yoga and lots of sequences. You can pick and choose which ones you like.

I particularly like this sequence from the blog the 9 inch plate. Here’s the sequence below:



 Carl Dawson’s Chair Yoga Sequence

Carl Dawson’s Chair Yoga Sequence

Other Resources

There are also some great sequences on YouTube. Here are the ones that have nice clear instructions.

Yoga with Adriene (15 minute sequence)

Yoga with Candace (10 minute sequence)

Yoga at Your Desk (10 minute sequence)

So next time you have a few minutes give some of these a go and see if you notice a difference. Let us know the results!