My goal for yoga practitioners is that they are pain free. In movement, in yoga and hopefully in life. One way we can work around pain and limited mobility issues is by using props. There are so many props to choose from but one I want to focus on today is a chair. Specifically seven ways to use a chair in your yoga practice.
Using a chair in your yoga practice is a fantastic way to support your body, your practice and encourage mindfulness. The best thing is, that most of us have a chair we can use in one way or another in our practice. While I use a specific folding chair in my practice, I’ve also used dining chairs, stools, and patio furniture. While it’s true that a folding chair, like the one in the video, is a good multi-use chair. Start with what you have!
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7 ways to use a chair in your yoga practice
First, I want to mention that safety is paramount when using a chair. Make sure your chair has four legs, and is stable. Place it on a non-slip surface. So if you have a tile or wood floor place a non-slip yoga mat underneath to prevent it sliding away when it bears your weight. Here are seven ways to use a chair in your yoga practice.
Seated “traditional” chair yoga
When we think of chair yoga, for many, seniors will immediately come to mind. Honestly, while chair yoga can be for seniors it can be for others too. Seated chair yoga is a great way to take a break while sitting at a desk. Pre or Post dinner. Or simply as a different way to play in your practice.
If you’re interested in seated chair yoga then you’re in luck! I have follow-along videos for a 10-minute beginners chair yoga, and a 15-minute chair yoga flow for all levels. Seated chair yoga is a great way to beat the mid-afternoon energy slump.
Traditionally, restorative yoga involves LOTS and LOTS of yoga props. Every nook and cranny between you and the floor gets filled, leaving you supported, so you can fully relax. At home we may not have access to all the bolsters, sand bags, and blankets so use what you do have, a chair!
Using a chair in your yoga practice for restorative poses like the one above can really elevate the parasympathetic nervous system and leave you in a puddle of goo. Personally, I love this variation of savasana with legs up a chair after a hard flow. But also if I’ve been on my feet all day (once at DisneyWorld I walked over 40K steps in a day!). This is perfect for aching or tired feet.
Standing Yoga With a Chair
Yoga typically involves getting up and down off the floor. However, for many that’s just not possible. The reasons are wide and varied, from mobility issues, to wrist problems, to just wanting quick standing at your desk yoga. This version of chair yoga is also good for those with bigger bodies, or pregnancy.
A yoga practice needs to serve YOUR purpose. If you want yoga with less wrist or shoulder strength, or just want to avoid the floor to standing then using a chair is a great way to do the class without interrupting the flow. If you’re interested, try my 5-minute standing chair yoga flow.
One of the most obvious ways to use a chair in your practice is for balance poses like tree. Sometimes there isn’t a wall for support so grab a chair. This is especially important for all the zoom yoga, sometimes a wall isn’t near our screens so grab a chair instead!
Using a chair for balance is sometimes a necessity due to illness or injury. I suffer occasionally with vertigo and during this time my balance understandably goes to pot. Rather than struggle and risk falling over, I’ll use a chair for support.
Pose modification, progression or accessibility
While this touches on the above points it’s important to note that a chair can help modify a pose to make it easier. It can assist in a progression towards a more challenging variation. But, it can also make a pose that is too challenging more accessible. For example, in Warrior 3 even with blocks many people will round the back resulting in dropping the back leg. Sometimes blocks aren’t enough. If this is the case for you, modify by supporting yourself with a chair!
So you’ve mastered warrior 3 alignment is good and now you want to progress. A chair can further help in poses like this as we begin to work on balance. Find the same alignment with the arms resting on the back of the chair and practice lifting one arm away at a time. The chair acts like a security blanket.
Does anyone feel that wheel or camel is too deep a backbend for them to try? Or they can’t support on the shoulders or wrists? You can still do the pose, just think about supporting with a chair. Using a chair for support in backbends, like wheel below, feels so good!
Honestly, the sky is the limit when using a chair in your yoga practice as a support. Think outside the box. From headstands to butterfly pose, all can be made more accessible with a chair.
This is perhaps a tip more for teachers than students, but using a chair is a great way to bring body awareness. In a previous post I noted that in Uttanasana most people will try and fold from the spine not the hips. Honestly, this isn’t lack of communication but just that many people don’t know where their hips are!
Instead educate using a prop like this folded chair and feel the difference. If you haven’t tried this variation of Uttanasana I highly recommend it. It really helps students learn the difference between spinal flexion and hip flexion. Plus it pushes the femurs back into the hip socket, allowing movement of the pelvis over the legs, and provides support for the torso.
The final thing I want to add as a use for a chair in your yoga practice is in meditation. If you think you have to sit cross-legged to meditate then you’re wrong! Sit comfortably. Whatever that looks like for you. Quite often I sit in hero’s pose as that’s comfortable for me. For others it’s sukhasana, siddhasana or lotus. But sitting in a chair is perfectly fine!
Honestly, the more used we get to sitting upright in a chair the better. So many of us have terrible posture when sitting now that sitting is hailed as detrimental to our health as smoking. But practicing seated yoga and meditation can help us with the other time we have to spend sitting. Interested in meditation? Try my free 5-minute meditation.
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- Do you use a chair in your yoga practice?
- What ways do you use a chair in yoga?
- How could using a chair support your health & wellness journey?