8 Chair Yoga Poses Anyone Can Do For a Low-Impact Workout

The only equipment you need is a chair.

If you've been feeling distracted lately, are in need of low-impact exercise ideas, or are looking to try yoga out for the first time, chair yoga poses might be the answer you've been looking for. While chair yoga was originally created as a modified version of yoga for those who are elderly, have mobility issues, or struggle with balance, anyone can do chair yoga (and it's especially great for beginners). All you need to perform this workout is a chair and all of the moves can be done easily at home.

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DoctorOz.com spoke with registered yoga teacher Barbara Bell (500 hour RYT) to walk through a manageable chair yoga class. If you're older or have mobility issues, Bell recommends performing these poses while someone else is at home for safety reasons. “Chair yoga is beneficial because you can improve your flexibility, balance, and help focus your mind," says Bell. Make a point to silence your cell phone beforehand so you can fully focus on the moves. Here is Bell's step-by-step guide for beginners:

What Type of Chair Should I Use?

While you may think any type of chair can be used for chair yoga, this is not the case. “You can't do chair yoga in a La-Z-Boy," advises Bell. Use a more structured chair like a kitchen or dining room chair. While the chair can be padded, you don't want it to be too soft. If possible, use a chair without arms so you can have more free range of motion.

When practicing chair yoga, there is a right way to sit: with the soles of your feet flat on the floor and not resting your back on the chair. Good, upright posture is important to maintain throughout all the exercises.

Start With Seated Breath Practice & a Warm Up

The first thing you'll want to do is sit up straight in your chair and do breath practice for about a minute. “The reason we start with seated breath practice is to get you to focus on being present and ready to practice yoga," says Bell. “It releases tension and stress and gets your nervous system and brain ready to cooperate." When you are ready to begin, use this guided video to engage in three-part breath.

You'll want to refer back to the idea of breath practice throughout your chair yoga experience. “If your mind starts to wander during poses, take a minute to become conscious of your breathing and do some breath practice to refocus," says Bell.

After breath practice, move into a warm up. Bell recommends a seated sun salutation for an easy, low-impact way to get your body ready for yoga.

5 Seated Poses to Try

You'll want to begin chair yoga with seated poses. While sitting up straight, you can perform a series of these moves:

3 Standing Poses to Try

If you are feeling up to it, you can continue on with standing poses. These poses will use your chair as a prop for balance support:

Finish With a 1-Minute Meditation or Savasana

Once you have performed all of your poses, wind down your body with a quick meditation. Bell says to continue to sit up straight, as slouching and relaxing in your chair will block your energy channels. “A lot of people think meditation is challenging because they can't empty their minds. Instead of emptying your mind, approach meditation by focusing on one thing to calm your mind and body," says Bell. She recommends to close your eyes half way and gaze through your eyelashes to look a few feet in front of you, focusing on the floor. “As you inhale, imagine the energy going up the soles to your feet into your thighs, your belly, your heart, and the crown of your head." As you exhale, imagine the reverse energy flow. Try meditating for six to eight breaths.

Savasana is defined as a pose of complete relaxation. “You will empty everything out of your body and relax." For this, you can sit comfortably in your chair or, if you're feeling up to it, you can lay on the floor (as long as you can get up without assistance). “Take in a deep breath, make fists with your hands and cross your arms, drop your chin to your chest and curl your toes, then exahale and let everything go [relax and breathe normally]," says Bell. You can stay in this position as long as you like, but one to two minutes is sufficient. “[When in savasana], your eyes should be closed. The darkness will indicate to your body that you can relax," explains Bell.

You can do both meditation and savasana (in that order) if you have the time. But if not, just pick one to help your body unwind and help you feel rejuvenated to continue on with your day.


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Q: I want to get back into exercising, but I need some help. What's the best way to get started?

Everyone has struggled lately with getting enough exercise; a 2021 report from the American Psychological Association found 53% of U.S. adults say they've been less physically active than they wanted to be since the pandemic started. So let's not dwell on what you haven't been doing, and look forward to what you're going to do.

Restarting or starting to exercise doesn't mean you have to walk 5 miles the first day. In fact, that's a formula for defeat — and sore feet. Instead, you want to take time to establish what your goals are and what you can realistically start doing.

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