Chair Yoga for Seniors

Chair yoga for seniors is a variation of traditional yoga. It is meant to be performed from a chair and is intended for seniors and other individuals who may be unable to sit on a floor mat or twist and bend in the way traditional yoga poses demand.

Like traditional yoga, however, chair yoga provides many benefits to practitioners, including improved strength and flexibility, reduced stress and better mental clarity, pain management, and enhanced concentration, among others.

Why Do Chair Yoga?

Traditional yoga (performed in varied standing, seated, or supine positions) can provide numerous benefits to individuals of all ages including seniors, yet not all seniors are able to maneuver into and sustain classic yoga poses.

Chair yoga offers the same benefits as traditional yoga, but poses and movements are adapted for easy completion from a chair. Anyone who is able to sit in a chair can participate in chair yoga, and nearly all traditional poses can be modified and replicated for the seated position.

Who is Chair Yoga For?

In addition to senior citizens, others who will particularly benefit from this practice include those with physical disabilities, those who are recovering from an injury, overweight or obese individuals, and those with neurological challenges. If you spend much of your day in a chair for work or school, you can also benefit from chair yoga poses performed intermittently throughout the day.

What Kind of Chair Do I Need?

You don’t need a special chair to begin practicing chair yoga. Most any chair will do. Still, avoid chairs with wheels, rocking chairs, and large cushioned chairs that won’t allow you to easily sit up straight.

When you find a chair, you should be able to sit up in the chair with your feet fat on the floor in front of you. If your feet don’t reach the floor, put a folded towel, yoga mat, or yoga block beneath your feet.

Below are 10 chair yoga poses to get you started with this practice. All poses start from the seated position.

1. Chair Cow-Cat Stretch

With palms on your thighs or knees, inhale while circling/rolling your shoulders back and down. Arch your back slightly. This is cow.
Now, exhale as you circle your shoulders forward, dropping your chin and head forward. This is cat. Do this for five breaths.

2. Chair Raised Hands Pose (Urdhva Hastasana)

Sit up straight, and inhale while raising your outstretched arms and hands slowly over your head. When they are straight up and down, anchor your seat in the chair and let your shoulder blades relax and slide down your back. At the same time, continue reaching with your fingertips. Do this five times.

3. Chair Forward Bend (Uttanasana)

Inhale slowly, and as you exhale, bend forward over the chair and try to put your hands on the floor if they’ll reach. Allow your head to hang relaxed. Inhale again and slowly raise yourself up. Repeat and move with the breath for five complete breaths.

4. Chair Extended Side Angle (Utthita Parsvakonasana)

In the last downward position of Chair Forward Bend, move your right hand toward the outside of your left foot and twist your body toward the left, bringing your left arm up toward the sky. Look up toward your left hand. Hold for a few moments, then switch to the other side.

5. Chair Pigeon (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)

Bring your left ankle up to your right thigh and rest it there to stretch the thigh muscles. To add to the stretch, slightly bend forward and hold. Repeat three times on each side.

6. Chair Eagle (Garudasana)

Start by wrapping/crossing your left thigh over your right thigh, bringing your left foot around the right ankle if possible. In front of you, at the elbow, cross your right arm over your left arm. Drop your shoulders and keep your arms at a right angle in front of you (forearms pointed up in front of your face). Hold for three full breaths, then repeat once on the other side.

7. Chair Spinal Twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana)

Begin this pose seated sideways on your chair, then slowly turn toward whatever side of you is near the back of the chair, until you are able to grasp the back of the chair. Keep your feet and legs in their original position as much as possible so that only your spine gently twists. Inhale and exhale for three breaths before switching sides and doing the same thing.

8. Chair Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana 1)

Straddle the chair so that you are facing the back of the chair. Now, swivel to the right so that your bottom is still on the chair and your right foot is planted (with knee at a right angle) on one side of the chair. With the left leg, outstretch it on the other side of the chair, and anchor the foot perpendicularly. Slowly raise your arms up to the ceiling and hold for two breaths.

9. Chair Warrior 2 (Virabhadrasana 2)

Still in Chair Warrior 1, slowly bring down your arms so that they are parallel with the floor outstretched. At the same time, adjust your upper body to the left so that you are facing the back of the chair. Move your left hip back slightly to accommodate the adjustment. Hold for two breaths. Repeat Chair Warrior 1 and Chair Warrior 2 on the other side.

10. Relaxation (Chair Savasana)

Seated in your starting chair position, rest your hands in your lap, and close your eyes. Take five to 10 full, deep breaths, focusing on your breathing and relaxing and clearing your mind

Many individuals who find other physical activities to be a challenge (walking, biking, swimming, traditional yoga) make the mistake of giving up on exercise altogether. It’s important to remember that nearly everyone, no matter their physical or mental challenges, can participate in some form of physical activity, and chair yoga is a great choice.