Chair Yoga for Relief and Fitness

Yoga in the Park at Pringle Nature Center in the Bristol Woods begins July 6th.  Please visit the calendar and Yoga Classes and Events section of the website for more information.  No need to RSVP.  You are welcome to drop in.

This past week has found me living the life of a newly minted yoga teacher.  Catching up on grocery shopping, trying to help our nervous dog find her calm, driving around the state for a 12U softball tournament, planning a 10th birthday celebration, and sequencing several new yoga classes to begin after July 4th (!!).  You know.  Glamorous.  

You might notice that several of the above activities require a fair amount of sitting.  I don't know about  you, but too much sitting hits me harder than too much moving.  Yesterday, after driving for almost two hours, I was struggling.  My right knee gets sore from being still, and then my hamstrings start to protest.  I was very glad to get out of the car and move for some relief.  

Because I've had several requests for chair yoga, I thought it would make a good post topic for many of you.  Lots of people have to sit for extended periods of time, and that is one thing that is hard on our overall health.  I have friends who have become sitters who use an alarm on their watches or Fitbits to remind them to take a 5 or 10 minute walk every hour.  Some have begun to pedal while they sit (Check out my friend on YouTube @ Cycling with Suzie.)  

When you have to sit for extended periods of time, finding time to move is best, but chair yoga in addition to moving every hour......well, that's just wonderful.

Below are some chair yoga poses to help you feel fit while you sit.  

Before we begin, though, let's review:  Alignment is important!  Feet on the floor a little less than hip's width apart, sits bones making contact with the chair seat (that means to move over the fleshy part of your buttocks, so that your sits bones are solid on the chair), spine in neutral (neither hunched nor arched), neck long, chin parallel to the floor.

It's nice to start with gentle neck circles and an even breath.  Continue by rolling your shoulders up to your ears on an inhale and rolling them back and down the back on the exhale.  Start with a few of these at nice and easy pace to let your body know that you are going to start moving now.  Before you begin with the rest, be mindful of any back problems you might have, and please talk with your doctor first. 

Shoulder Girdle Stretch:  Inhale arm straight up.  Exhale and bend at the elbow (upper arm next to your ear, fingers reaching down your back).  Don't puff out your chest.  Keep your back straight without arching.  Breathe.  Inhale arm straight up.  Exhale it out to the side and down against your body.  Inhale, bend at the elbow and reach your fingers up against your back.  Same advice about the posture of your back as just mentioned.  Breathe.  Exhale out of the bend.  Repeat on the other side.  The middle photo shows a pose you can try too.  If your hands don't meet, use a yoga strap or a belt.

Seated Twist:  Inhale spine long.  Exhale, beginning twist at the naval to the left.  Think of your spine as a spiral staircase.  Keep your neck safe by not twisting it.  Aim to look over your left shoulder with your right eye, keeping the twist within a pain-free range.  Place your left arm where it feels good:  down at your side, behind your back and reaching for the right hip, or over the back of your chair.  On each inhale, lengthen your spine.  Exhale, deepen your twist, if that feels good.  Breathe fully in and out.  When you are ready to come out of the twist, inhale your head back to center,  and come out of the twist mindfully.  Take it to the other side.  More of a twist?  Do the same while in the Seated Number 4 pose (June 5th blog post).

Seated Cat/Cow:  Just like Aidan showed us from Table Pose (May 29 blog post), except this variation is done while sitting.  Hands are resting on thighs toward the knees.  Remember to inhale to cow (chin lifted, arch in back, tailbone out).  Exhale to cat (push hands into thighs, round shoulders, tuck tailbone, chin drops).  Slowly breathe through these two poses several times to open up your chest, stretch your shoulders, and to put some movement into your back.

Seated Half Surya Namaskar:  That's sanskrit for Half Sun Salutation.  I love that sun salutes can be done sitting too.  They are both energizing and calming.  I try to start my day with a few of them to just gently get me started.  The seated ones can be done just about anywhere.  What's great about this little sequence is that it gets your whole body in on things.  Good stretches throughout.  To begin, inhale arms up to upward facing salute (shoulders relaxed and arms straight).  Exhale arms down to your legs, hinging forward with a flat back.  Take your fingers to the floor, to your toes, your ankles, or your shins.  Do what feels good for your back.  Inhale and rise halfway, looking ahead.  Exhale back to the forward fold.  Inhale and unfold with a flat back, arms all the way up into upward facing salute, looking toward your hands.  Exhale arms to sides, bringing your chin level to the ground.  Your breath is important here.  Moving with the breath empowers the flow of movement.  


Give them a shot and let me know what you think with a comment below.  See you next week with some lovely heart openers.  <3

I sincerely hope you all have a week of peace, calm, and some fun.