How to Reduce Stiffness with Gentle Chair Yoga
Gentle chair yoga can be practiced by almost anyone at any age. The entry-level requirement for practicing yoga in a chair is simply the ability to breathe and to sit upright in a chair while gently moving the torso and limbs. Most of the equipment needed for chair yoga can be adapted from things you already have at home.
The brief chair yoga practice described below will help you get started with gentle stretching. This session can be performed at your desk at work or at home. As always, please check with your doctor before starting any exercise plan, including yoga.
What You Need To Get Started with Gentle Chair Yoga
Choose one that allows you to sit upright with shoulders positioned above your hips rather than a seat which encourages you to lean back and slouch. Ideally, try to select a chair without armrests or a chair wide enough that there are several inches between your body and the armrests.
A strap or belt
Feel free to use a yoga strap if you already own one. If you don’t have one, you can use a long belt such as one from a bathrobe. You can even borrow your dog’s leash if you want.
A block or thick book
This is most important for shorter students. You want to be able to have your feet flat on the floor while you sit upright on your chair. If that is not possible, place a yoga block or a thick book beneath your feet.
Ideally, try to wear comfortable clothing which does not restrict your movement. Remove your shoes. It is up to you if you practice with bare feet or with socks.
Here’s How to Get Started with Gentle Chair Yoga
Notice your posture
Begin by sitting in your chair without slouching or slumping. Posture is important in yoga not for appearance’s sake but because a hunched position prevents deep breathing and can constrict the spine. Sit so that your shoulders are directly above your pelvis. Position your chin parallel to the floor. Permit the top of your head to point toward the ceiling.
Observe your breathing
Most of us breathe in a hurried fashion without even realizing it. The healthiest way to breathe is to take as few as possible slow, deep breaths per minute, using as much of the lungs as possible.
Our lungs are much more spacious than we realize: their surface area is equivalent to the floor of a tennis court. Draw an inhalation into the base of your lungs. Then continue to breathe in, so that you feel your diaphragm expand.
Extend the inhalation further until you experience a sensation of your collar bones rising. Then release the breath as slowly as you can, trying to exhale from the top of the lungs downward.
As far as possible, try to make the inhalation and exhalation equally long. When the rhythm of your breath has slowed down, you are ready to begin stretching. Continue to use your breathing as you perform these movements.
Gentle Chair Yoga Seated Twist
Raise the heels of your feet but permit your toes to remain on the floor (or on your block/book).
Bring your thighs together. Inhale and think of elongating the spine as the lungs fill with air. Exhale and slowly turn your torso toward the right. At the same time that you do this, shift your legs to the left.
Take 3-6 deep breaths in this twisting position, trying to move the upper and lower body further in opposition directions from each other. Then on an inhalation, return to center. Repeat this seated twist to the opposite side.
You will experience a release of tension and tightness in the back as you perform this stretch. You may want to repeat it two times in each direction.
Gentle Chair Yoga Leg Stretch
Reach forward and loop your strap (or belt or leash) around your right foot. Extend your right leg forward, straightening your knee. Let the heel of the right foot rest on the floor but raise your toes. Gently pull on your strap with your arms as you push the sole of your foot against the strap. Feel the stretch up the back of your right leg.
If you want to take this stretch deeper, exhale and fold your torso forward over your legs, permitting your buttocks to remain planted on the chair seat. The left leg remains bent as you stretch the right leg, with the left foot planted flat on the floor. Inhale and come back up very slowly. Switch sides to stretch the left leg.
Gentle Chair Yoga Shoulder Stretch
Take your strap (or belt or leash) in your right hand. First raise your right arm toward the ceiling. Then bend your elbow so your right hand comes behind your head or neck. The strap should now dangle down behind your back.
Draw your left elbow out from the body and slightly backward.
Reach your left hand toward your lower back until you can grasp the lower end of the strap with your left hand. Continue to keep your head and torso upright as you perform this stretch.
Take 3-6 deep breathes in the stretch. Think of your breathing as a massage mechanism to loosen the muscles resisting this stretch. Gradually, without lowering your head or rounding your spine, see if you can walk your hands closer together on the strap. Exhale and release this stretch, bringing both hands back to your lap. Then repeat to the opposite side.
Each stretch can be performed multiple times. Or, if you are at the office, perform each stretch once to keep from getting tight, tense muscles from long periods of sitting. After doing these stretches, sit quietly in your chair for brief period.
Close your eyes. Notice the difference in your body, how your muscles feel more relaxed. Also observe the difference in your mental outlook. Your internal sense of equilibrium will feel re-calibrated back to a sense of greater calm and balance.
Have you ever tried gentle chair yoga? Did you enjoy it? Have you tried our own chair yoga videos yet? Please join the conversation.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. Consult a doctor before doing anything described in this article.