As we age, we need to adjust our habits and lifestyles to thrive. Joint pain, achy muscles, fatigue, and other common age-related ailments can make exercise more difficult. These concerns often drive seniors to an inactive or sedentary lifestyle, which only makes things worse. Fortunately, chair yoga is an accessible and affordable style of exercise with incredible benefits for older adults.
Is Chair Yoga Good for You?
For seniors, regular exercise is one of the best ways to achieve a healthy lifestyle. Unlike high-impact exercise like running, lifting weights, and plyometrics, chair yoga is easy on your joints, and may serve as a gateway to other forms of exercise. Chair yoga is a beneficial form of yoga for any fitness level, from active seniors to those recovering from an injury.
Chair yoga has the following benefits for older adults:
- Low impact on joints
- Improves flexibility
- Stress reduction
- Improves pain management
- Improves circulation
- Combats depression and anxiety
- Improves balance
- Promotes independence and wellbeing
What Do I Need for Chair Yoga?
Though chair yoga is a low-risk and low-impact form of exercise, you should make sure you have the right equipment to prevent injuries and to get the most out of your workout. Some essential chair yoga equipment includes:
- An armless, stable chair (no wobbling!)
- A flat, level surface for your chair
- Flexible, comfortable clothing that isn’t too tight or baggy
- Space to fully extend your limbs
- An experienced instructor or friend for safety
View our infographic below for some fun, easy, and healthy chair yoga positions. If you are new to chair yoga or concerned about your readiness for exercise, please consult with a physician or chair yoga expert before jumping right in. Try these positions with a friend or expert if you’re new, or alone if you’re confident in your abilities.
A Closer Look at These Chair Yoga Exercises:
Unless you have some experience with chair yoga, you probably need more than a graphic to perform the exercises above. Proper technique is important for your personal safety, and to make sure you’re getting the most out of these exercises. Read more about the exercises below for a closer look at these essential chair yoga poses.
1. Overhead Stretch
Begin in a seated position, facing forward with your arms down by your sides. Take a long, deep breath in and slowly stretch your arms upward to the ceiling. Hold this position for a moment, and bring your arms back downward with a long exhale. Throughout this exercise, make sure your core is engaged and your back is as straight as possible.
2. Neck Stretch
Sit up straight in your chair, and do not let your back touch the back of your chair. Extend your neck slowly upward so you feel the crown of your head rising towards the ceiling. While holding the base of your chair with your right hand, slowly reach upwards with your left hand to hold your left temple. Take a deep breath, and upon exhalation, gently dip your left ear towards your left shoulder without bending your back or raising your right shoulder. Take several slow breaths in and out in this position, before alternating this stretch to the opposite side.
3. Reverse arm hold
Begin this pose in a seated position with your back straight and apart from the back of the chair. While you inhale deeply, reach your arms straight out to your sides at a low and wide angle. Exhale slowly and reach your hands behind your back, bending your elbows slightly. Arch your back slightly to feel the stretch in your shoulders, and take several breaths in and out.
4. Chair pigeon
Sit upright with your back away from the back of the chair and facing forward. Gently raise your left ankle to rest on top of your right knee or thigh. If you have trouble bringing your ankle to your knee, feel free to use your hand to assist. Inhale deeply, flex your left foot slightly, and bend forward upon exhale. After several deep breaths in the forward position, return to sitting up straight. Gently switch sides, so your right ankle is resting upon your left thigh or knee, and repeat the above steps.
5. Seated forward bend
Begin this exercise sitting up straight with your knees touching and your feet on the floor. Take a deep breath in. Upon exhaling, slowly bend forward, feeling your back extend one vertebrae at a time. Lean forward as far as you can without feeling strain or discomfort. Hold this position for several deep breaths before returning to an upright position.
6. Eagle arms
Sit upright in your chair and stretch your arms straight out in front of you. Cross your left arm over your right arm, and bend your elbows to bring your forearms together. Interlace your fingers and raise your elbows slightly, arching your back a bit. Hold this position for several deep breaths. Upon completion, switch to your right arm over your left arm.
7. Chair warrior
Begin this pose facing forward with your arms down by your side at a wide and low angle, or with one leg across the chair with your torso turned forward (if you’re flexible enough for this position). Take a deep breath and slowly raise your arms straight above your head. Hold this pose for several breaths before lowering your arms back down to your sides. If you began this pose with your leg across the chair, switch to the opposite leg across the chair and perform this pose again.
8. Cat-cow stretch
Sit at the edge of your chair with your back as straight as it can be and your core muscles engaged. Inhale and gently arch your back as far as is comfortable for the “cow” portion of the stretch, holding the position for three to five breaths. Then bring your back to its original position, and invert the stretch for the “cat” position. Your shoulders will be directly above your hips, but your back will curve into a forward arch. Hold this position for several breaths before returning to your original seated position.
9. Chair spinal twist
Begin this pose sitting sideways in your chair, with your knees over the right side of the chair and the back of the chair next to your right arm. Make sure your back is straight, and your body is apart from the back of the chair. Hold the back of the chair with both hands, inhale deeply, and slowly turn your body toward the back of the chair while exhaling. Hold this position for several breaths before returning to the original position. After this pose is complete, switch to the other side of the chair, so your knees are over the left side of the chair and the back of the chair is next to your left arm.
10. Seated mountain
Start this pose sitting on the front half of your chair with a straight back and an engaged core. Bend your knees at 90-degree angles with your knees above your ankles and a small space between your knees. Inhale slowly and roll your shoulders downward upon exhaling. Activate your abdominal muscles and hold your arms down at your sides. Hold the pose for several deep breaths.