When speaking about Yoga, we’ve all heard the following statements:
“I can’t do Yoga until I feel better.”
“I don’t have time to get to a class.”
“I can’t get down on the floor and back up again for a Yoga practice.”
“My workday is too long.”
“I’m too old to do Yoga.”
Injury or illness, age or other so-called “limitations” (including working all day at a desk), may prevent people from getting on the floor do practice poses or even stand on a mat for upright postures as we may know the poses. However, with some creativity and modifications anyone, in any circumstance, can always practice Yoga.
Renowned yogi Sri T. Krishnamacharya famously said, “If you can breathe you can do Yoga.”
Sitting as tall as you can, yet in a relaxed manner is the key to success in many meditation postures and pranayama practices (breathing exercises). Finding a comfortable seat, even in a chair, is a great place to begin to set the stage for the Yoga of breath. One simple, yet powerful practice is to observe the breath as it is. Or you can begin to extend the duration of the breath and slowing count the inhalation and the exhalation. Try starting with something attainable, such as inhaling slowly for three counts, exhaling for three counts and then gently extending the duration first to four counts and then longer as desired. Maintain a sense of ease throughout. Another breathing practice is to recite a mantra (such as “I am”) with each breath.
There are chair Yoga versions of most postures that are designed to increase mobility, vitality and flexibility. These include: sun salutations, forward bends, backbends, spinal twists, sitting mountain pose, eye exercises (which can help reduce eye strain from hours at the computer) and breathing exercises (which can calm the body, increase our energy or heighten concentration).
At your desk, in a wheelchair or wherever you are right sitting now, stop and take a two-minute Yoga break and reenergize. Try this sequence: Inhale and lift both arms overhead. As you exhale, lower both your arms. Repeat this five to ten times and see how you feel.
Look for chair Yoga classes, often held at Yoga studios, community centers, clubs and senior centers. When standing postures are practiced in these classes, the chair is used for support to enhance stability. But you don’t even have to stand up from the chair to do Yoga. I’ve seen great shifts in posture and energy from my senior home chair Yoga classes using poses from this sequence of gentle chair Yoga suggested here. You can stay seated – and still do Yoga.
Stacie Dooreck is a Certified Gentle Integral and Chair Yoga Instructor SunLight Yoga, sunlightchairyoga.com.
Please consult a medical professional for any specific health concerns. Please modify or rest if you need a rest during the practice.
Centering: Sit in a comfortable position with your spine tall but make sure you are not holding tension in your body. Start out with a few deep sighs. Chant Om three times. Then take three counts to inhale and three counts to exhale.
Wrist and Ankle Rotations: Rotate your wrists in gentle circles then roll your feet around your ankles.
Neck Rolls: Slowly circle your nose in the air five times in each direction. As you move, inhale as you lift your head up. Inhale when your head is up, exhale as you bring your head down.
Alternate Leg Lifts: As you inhale, lift one leg up (from your knee down), and as you exhale lower your leg. Switch to the other leg and lift as you inhale and lower as your exhale. Repeat two to five times on each side. (Only lift as high as you are comfortable.)
Alternate Arm Lifts: As you inhale, life your right arm up, and as you exhale lower your right arm. Switch to your left arm and raise and lower. Repeat five times on each side.
Combination Arm and Leg Lifts: As you inhale, simultaneously lift your right arm and left leg, as you exhale lower your right arm and left leg. Switch sides. Repeat five times on each side. For this diagonal movement, keep your spine long and feel your center.
Mountain Pose: Start out by sitting tall in your chair with your feet on the floor. Lift from the base of your spine through the crown of your head. Feel the strength in the muscles along your spine and lift the sides of your body.
Side Stretch (Crescent Moon): As you inhale, sit tall and lengthen spine skywards. As you exhale, lean gently to the right. Place your right hand by the right side of your hip or allow your right hand to hang at side of chair. Extend your left hand up and over the left ear. Inhale, come back up and switch sides.
Cat to Cobra Pose/Spinal Flexion: As you inhale, extend your upper body and lifting your heart into cobra. Slide your hands to your hips or along your thigh. Rotate your elbows towards each other. As you exhale, move your spine into cat pose by drawing your abdominal muscles toward your spine while rounding your back and slide your hands to your knees while stretching out your arms. Repeat this five to ten times.
Spinal Twist: Start out with your feet on floor, hip width apart. As you inhale, sit tall and lengthen spine skywards. As you exhale, gently twist your upper body to the right and place your right hand behind you or on the side of your chair. Place your left hand around the area of your right knee. Inhale and come back to center and then repeat to the left. Only twist as far as comfortable with no strain.
Final Relaxation: Rest your back against your chair with your legs one to two feet apart. Allow your legs to gently roll outwards. Sit with your arms relaxed and your palms facing the sky and resting on your thighs or hanging alongside your chair. Observe your breath and body and relax for five to ten minutes. To come out of your relaxation practice, slowly move your hands and feet. If you’d like, chant or sing to end your relaxation practice.
Alternate Leg Lifts
Cat to Cobra Pose/Spinal Flexion