I was recently asked to teach a chair yoga class to a group of office employees. Having never taught chair yoga before, I started to research different poses and soon realized that without knowing it at the time, I had been doing chair yoga during my previous career when I had to sit for 10-12 hours a day.
Chair yoga is a great for office workers to bring movement into their day even when they are required to be at their desks for extended periods of time. There are several poses you can do while seated or standing beside your desk that targets most parts of your body. Regular movement throughout the day, even if for just a minute or two at a time, will help release tension, stiffness and pain that is often associated with sitting for prolonged periods of time. Chair yoga is also a wonderful alternative for those who are less mobile such as the elderly or someone recovering from an injury.
Below are a few of my favourite poses I like to practice whenever confined to a seated position. Tip: Some of these poses are great for longer flights when you cannot get out of your seat.
Seated Neck Release – sit tall, bow your head forward and allow your chin to fall towards your chest. Place your hands on your lap, at your sides, across your chest or anywhere it is comfortable. Let your head hang and take several deep breaths to help release the tension at the back of the neck and top of the spine. To come out of your seated neck release, raise your head slowly and re-stack your head at the top of your spine.
Seated spinal twist – sit tall, inhale to lengthen your spine and crown of your head towards the ceiling. As you exhale, twist to the right or left side and turn your gaze behind you. Place the fingertips of your back hand on to the seat of the chair behind you. Place your front hand on to your thighs or to the outside of the opposite thigh. Take several deep breaths here and with each inhale lengthen your spine and with each exhale, try to twist a little further. To come out of the twist, inhale and slowly untwist and repeat on the opposite side.
Seated Pigeon – Sit tall and place your outer ankle on top of the thigh of your opposite leg. Flex your foot back towards your shin and hold your foot in place with your hand. With your opposite hand, gently press down on the inner knee of your lifted leg to help open your hips further and stretch your glute and lower back. For a deeper stretch, fold forward and lower your chest towards your legs. To exit this pose, slowly uncross your foot and place it back on to the floor and repeat on the opposite side.
Seated Eagle – Sit tall, lengthen your spine and reach the crown of your head towards the ceiling. Cross one knee over the other. Cross the same side elbow over the other, wrap your forearms around one another and place your palms together. Lift both elbows towards the ceiling and take several deep breaths into the back of your body to help release the shoulders and upper back. To come out of the pose, slowly uncross your legs and arms and repeat on the opposite side.
For a more complete mind-body practice, try pairing a short meditation with each pose. Your meditation can be as simple as closing your eyes and focusing on your inhales and exhales or repeating your favourite mantra.
For other chair yoga pose ideas, please click here.
Co-Founder, Movement Travel