Updated: Jan 31
It might surprise you to learn that a chair yoga sequence is one of the most useful type of yoga sequences to have at your fingertips. What are the reasons why to do chair yoga, and how can you go about practicing it?
In this blog you’ll learn about ten benefits of practicing chair yoga. As well as tips and guidance on how you can best practice with short 5 – 15-minute sequences of various chair yoga poses.
Ten Benefits of Chair Yoga: Why Should You Practice?
1. Chair yoga is accessible to everyone, no matter your age or physical ability
Gentle chair yoga sequences are accessible to the majority of people. As T. Krishnamacharya (often described as the great-grandfather of yoga) says, “if you can breathe, you can do yoga”.
Recently there has been popularity on social media of showing photos of beautiful young models and dancers in advanced, pretzel like yoga poses. Unfortunately, this can give those new to yoga the idea that you have to be fit, flexible and strong to do yoga.
Yoga is in fact a practice that can be adapted to suit everyone’s individual needs.
Your ability to practice yoga isn’t dependent on your physical health, fitness level, wealth or location. It’s also not required to own an expensive yoga mat, fashionable clothing and have access to a yoga studio.
Chair yoga is great for all of us. From those of us working in an office or at home behind a computer, to those of us that are suffering from an injury, or are more senior.
If you work regularly behind your desk, it can be easy to integrate chair yoga exercises into your work day. You only need to take a short 5 – 15 min break from your work to practice a short chair yoga sequence.
While if you have an injury, are limited in terms of mobility or are senior, you’ll find that chair yoga poses are much more accessible then the standing and lying yoga poses you come across in a Hatha, Vinyasa or Ashtanga yoga practice.
You will be able to use the chair as a prop and way to modify yoga poses to better suit your body. Practicing yoga in a chair provides the possibility to work in a safe way to open and strengthen the body, as well as relaxing the mind.
2. Improve your overall health by adding more movement into your day
The majority of us have sedentary lifestyles and spend the majority of our life sitting. This can include during our work hours, when reading, using a computer, traveling, and watching TV.
There is increasing evidence that, unless you’re in a wheelchair, sitting down too much can be a risk to your health.
By being more physically active and adding more movement into our day we can improve our overall health. It’s therefore not really a surprise that the UK National Health Service (NHS) recommends that we should do some type of physical activity every day.
Any type of physical activity is good for you and the more you do the better. If you can find a type of movement that you enjoy, you’ll be more likely to do it and therefore in better overall health.
To reduce our risk of ill health from inactivity, we are advised to exercise regularly, at least 150 minutes a week, and reduce sitting time.
The UK Chief Medical Officers' Physical Activity Guidelines report recommends breaking up long periods of sitting time with activity of one to two minutes. Being active every day provides a foundation for a healthier and happier life.
Chair yoga offers the possibility to add more gentle and low impact movement into your day. It can be used to break up long periods of sitting during your day with short chair yoga sequences.
Often people can feel that they need to make large periods of time available in order to do physical exercise. With chair yoga you can easily do a few minutes of practice. Making it more accessible and simpler to add more movement into your day.
3. Relieve tension in your body built up from spending long periods of sitting
So, we’ve concluded that the majority of us spending a lot of time sitting, and that it can be very helpful to add some gentle movement into our day with chair yoga.
After you spend long periods of time sitting, you probably notice physical tension building up in your body. We can start to lose our good posture, slumping in our seat, with our face muscles contracted, neck leaning forward, shoulders high and back rounded.
Not surprising really that we can find these small aches and pains can build up into longer term tension and pain. Resulting in headaches, chronic neck and shoulders pain, and unbearable back ache.
By taking a short break in your day to do chair yoga, you’ll be able to relieve some of this tension and tightness that has built up from spending long periods of time sitting.
You can specifically target with the chair yoga the areas of your face, neck, shoulders and back that have built up tightness.
And find that as you practice regularly you can aid your pains and minimize tension in your body, by bringing more mobility and strength to these areas, and minimize tension.
4. Increase your physical wellbeing, get better sleep and reduce pain
Our physical wellbeing is extremely important to help us get the most out of our life. It includes not only being free from disease, but also how much energy we have throughout the day. Are we able to do everything we want during the day without feeling extremely tired or physically depleted?
There's evidence mentioned by the UK National Health Service (NHS) that a regular yoga practice is beneficial for people with high blood pressure, heart disease, aches and pains—including lower back, shoulder and neck pain.
Also, the UK Chief Medical Officers' Physical Activity Guidelines report recommends practicing light forms of exercise—like chair yoga—can help improve the quality of our sleep, and maintain a healthy weight.
These benefits of feeling better rested, in less pain and at less risk of illness will make it easier be more active and enjoy life.
Chair yoga therefore has the possibility to give us more energy and do more of the things we want to do during our day.
5. Become more flexible and increase your range of mobility
Our bodies become less flexible over time as we age. Stiffness and limited range of mobility can be felt earlier in life if we sit for long periods of time, and/or do repetitive actions like walking, cycling and running.
The stretching aspect of yoga is therefore very important to ensure that we have a wide range of mobility as we reach mid and old age. Allowing us to move with ease and stay independent as we become older.
Scientific studies—referenced by the UK National Health Service (NHS)—suggest that yoga is a safe and effective way to increase flexibility, strength, and balance.
Chair yoga introduces gentle movements that work on stretching the body. This helps the body become more flexible, and can help counteract the loss of flexibility we experience as we age.
Building flexibility takes time and consistency. So, try practicing a little bit of chair yoga on a regular basis to achieve an increased range of mobility.
6. Become stronger, with higher muscle mass and bone density
Having physical strength in our muscles and bones is important at all ages in life. From the need to building muscle and bone density earlier in life, maintaining strength throughout adulthood, to delaying the natural reduction in muscle strength and bone density in older age.
To ensure we are literally strong enough to face life, the Health Council of the Netherlands’ physical activity guidelines recommends for all adults to work on building strength at least two days a week to keep muscles, bones and joints strong.
Targeted chair yoga exercises that use your bodyweight can be used to increase or maintain muscle and bone strength.
Through chair yoga you can learn how to engage your muscles and activate them, while at the same time creating additional length and space through stretching.
You get the opportunity in chair yoga to use a wide variety of muscles within the body—many of which are not used on a regular basis in other activities.
7. Increase balance, and reduce your chance of falling over
Increased balance—along with flexibility and strength—is something useful at all stages of life. It can help us move more safely in unpredictable ways, as well as help prevent accidents. This becomes increasingly important in later life, where an improved balance can reduce the possibility of frailty and falls.
It’s therefore recommended by the Health Council of the Netherlands’ physical activity guidelines to use tools—such as yoga—at least twice a week to work on your balance.
Balancing in a chair yoga pose is of course a bit simpler than some of the classical standing yoga poses like standing on one leg for Vrksasana (the tree pose). But there are still ways that you can challenge your balance when doing chair yoga.
Try out what happens when you change your centre of balance and gravity. Play around with leaning forward, back or to the side while you’re sitting in your chair.
Did you feel that different areas of the body had to engage to hold you in balance? Perhaps in your feet, legs and belly?
You probably noticed that even though you remain sitting, the rest of the body has to adapt with balance so that you stay steady on the chair.
By repeating these movements regularly you can help train your body to react to unpredictable movements and have a better balance.
8. Reduce stress and give you peace of mind
In addition to your physical health and wellbeing, chair yoga can be beneficial to your mental wellbeing.
Mental wellbeing is about how you generally feel in life. How easy do you find it to cope with daily stresses and challenges?
If we feel a greater sense of mental wellbeing, it is likely that—most of the time—we have a high self-esteem, and low levels of anxiety, depression and stress.
But what can we do to impact these factors?
As found by Sport England in a recent review, physical activities—like chair yoga—can be a source of enjoyment and happiness. They can improve our self-esteem and cognitive functions. As well as reduce anxiety, depression and stress.
During yoga we take time to sit quietly. We start to tune into how our body feels and watch our breath. We do our best to focus our mind on observing our breath and body are in the present moment.
As we start to slowly make gentle movements with the body, we keep our attention—as much as we can—on the experience of moving.
By keeping the body and breath as a focal point, it helps our thinking process slow down. The mind starts to calm down, and we find our stress levels are reduced.
This can result in us feeling more peaceful, relaxed and have an overall effect on our quality of life.
9. Take short energising breaks throughout a busy day
Over the course of a busy day, you might notice that you start to lose energy. After working for a few hours nonstop on the same thing you become less productive. Leading us to feel less energised and focused in our work.
By building in very short breaks into your busy day, you can help regulate your energy levels and be more efficient in your work.
Chair yoga allows you to break up long periods of inactivity with some gentle movement. This helps us feel an increase in energy levels, and have more focus afterwards for our work.
The great thing with chair yoga is that there is no extra time needed set up equipment or change your clothes. Taking away some of the physical and mental barriers involved in finding enough time to practice yoga.
All you need to do is find a short break in your day to practice a chair yoga pose or sequence in your own chair!
Resulting in it being easier to practice more frequently—even when you feel pressed for time.
10. Learn a new skill for self-development
Like with learning any new skill, starting to practice chair yoga as a beginner can be a great opportunity for individual development.
You will discover how to tune into your body, breath and mind. Making different physical movements with your body can make you feel more confident and have greater self-esteem.
In Sport England’s recent review, they provide scientific evidence that learning and practicing exercises—like chair yoga—can help develop soft and social skills. As well as have a positive impact on your employment opportunities.
If you practice chair yoga with other people—either in a private class with a teacher, or with a group of colleagues at work—it can help you form new social bonds and connections with people.
How-to Best Practice Chair Yoga
After hearing these ten benefits of practicing chair yoga, you might now be wondering how can you get started?
If you’re looking for a guided short chair yoga sequence to do at home, you can create your own chair yoga break at home with Irene’s 15-minute chair yoga sequence video.
Do you have less than 15 minutes to practice? Why not start at the beginning of the video and just practice along for the first 5 or 10 minutes.
Remembering that any time that you take to invest in your health and wellbeing will have a long-term positive impact.
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