Improve your health at the office!
When most of us think of yoga, we think about laying out a mat and contorting our limbs in different ways. But, while mat yoga is certainly beneficial, there’s a different kind of yoga that’s gaining popularity- chair yoga.
Chair yoga is exactly what it sounds like- yoga incorporating a chair. Whether you’re an advanced yogi or completely new to the practice, this type of yoga can be beneficial to you.
But, what exactly is chair yoga? What are the benefits of chair yoga? Check out this guide to learn everything you need to know about chair yoga and mindful movement.
First things first, what exactly is chair yoga?
Chair yoga is a type of yoga therapy that was originally created by Lakshmi Voelker-Binder in 1982. Typically, the poses are adaptations of modern yoga poses, and they either involve sitting on the chair or standing up and using the chair for support.
Voelker-Binder originally developed this type of yoga after noticing that one of his pupils in her 30s was unable to perform traditional floor poses due to arthritis.
Mindful movement in an umbrella term for any type of movement, practiced with focused attention on the body and physical sensations.
Certain movements or sports (ex. Qigong, Tai Chi) may lend themselves more to this category but it truly could be any movement at all!
We use the term mindful movement to describe any of our onsite mindfulness classes that include movement. Even something as simple as stretching the arms over your head.
These small movements, when practiced with care and attention to the sensations of the body have a ton of physiological and mental benefits.
YES! In the corporate wellness world, chair yoga is the perfect example of mindful movement brought to life.
We use very simple postures and stretches from the chair yoga playbook to introduce mindful movement to the workplace.
In comparison to mat yoga, chair yoga is much more accessible in an office setting and ensures no one is left out because their flexibility or disability.
So, why should you practice chair yoga? Chair yoga provides the body and mind with many benefits. Here are the top benefits of chair yoga:
One of the main benefits of practicing chair yoga is that it’s a great alternative for those who struggle with traditional yoga. As we mentioned, the practice of chair yoga was originally developed with an arthritic yogi in mind.
But, this form of yoga isn’t just great for those suffering from arthritis. It can also help sufferers of carpal tunnel, chronic pain, osteoporosis, and multiple sclerosis. It can also benefit those who are over a certain age and have trouble working through the up and down motions of traditional yoga.
In case you haven’t yet heard, sitting is the new smoking. That is, many researchers believe that spending your days tied to a desk is as harmful to our health is smoking cigarettes.
But, if you work a desk job, what can you really do?
While there are plenty of ways you can get moving at a desk job, a lot of them involve getting out of your desk. This is why chair yoga is so beneficial, as it doesn’t require you to step away from your work. According to a study by the University of Pennslyvania, chair yoga can help relieve the tension and stress that come with sitting at a desk all day.
In addition to practicing chair yoga at the office, the practice can also benefit you on long-haul flights. During long-haul flights, you’re at the risk of developing blood clots due to being immobile for long periods of time. By practicing yoga in your seat, you’ll get your blood moving and reduce the risk of blood clots.
If you’re trying to do yoga in a small area, you may not have the space to lay out a mat. This is why chair yoga can be so handy, as you only need a small amount of space to practice.
Chair yoga also allows participants to stay in their normal work clothes, avoiding the time needed to change and, perhaps even more importantly, avoiding seeing your boss in lulu lemons.
Additionally, chairs are very easy to come by. Most participants have their own chair they can roll in or companies may choose to use their onsite boardrooms or auditoriums.
Not at the office? You can do chair yoga during a flight, on a bench in the park, on a low concrete wall, or while sitting at your home and watching TV.
If you’re looking to increase your flexibility, chair yoga is a great option. Even if you’re not an athlete, flexibility is important, as it can help you with everyday tasks like tying your shoes, picking up items off the ground, and reaching up high in your cupboards.
One study conducted over a 10-week period found that biweekly yoga sessions can increase your flexibility as well as improve your balance.
When most of us think about improving our strength, we think about heavy lifting. However, not everyone can participate in heavy lifting due to injuries or chronic pain.
Chair yoga is a way to improve your strength while being gentle enough on your body. In fact, a growing number of studies show that yoga can improve muscle strength as well as build endurance.
Chair yoga is also a great practice for those looking to reduce stress and pain.
One study had participants practice yoga for 2 months. Researchers found that compared to the control group, the group that practiced yoga had lower cortisol levels. Cortisol is the stress hormone, and if your cortisol levels are too high, it can wreak havoc on your health.
Additionally, the breathwork involved in chair yoga helps you cope and manage pain. In fact, one meta-analysis of 17 studies found that yoga is particularly helpful for those suffering from fibromyalgia osteoporosis-related curvature of the spine.
“Chair yoga also allows participants to stay in their normal work clothes, avoiding the time needed to change and, perhaps even more importantly, avoiding seeing your boss in lulu lemons.”
If you’re wondering if chair yoga is for you, all you need to do is grab a chair and try some of these poses:
For this pose, you’ll sit on the chair with your spine elongated and both feet planted firmly on the floor.
Then, place your hands on the top of your thighs or on your knees. As you inhale, arch your spine and roll your shoulders back. This is the cow part of the pose. Then, as you exhale, drop your chin to your chest and roll your shoulders forward, allowing your head to come forward at the same time. This is the cat position.
Move back and forth between the cow and cat position five times before moving onto the next pose.
The seated twist is a great pose for those looking to strengthen and heal their back. For this pose, place your right hand on your left knee and your left arm over the back of your chair. Then, turn and look over your left shoulder and hold the pose for four breaths.
As you inhale, feel your spine lengthen and feel a deeper twist as you exhale. Then, exhale back to center and repeat on the other side.
For this pose, raise your hands toward the ceiling as you inhale. As you reach upwards with your fingertips towards the ceiling, let your shoulder blades slide down your back.
Then, slowly lower your arms back toward your sides and repeat.
For this pose, sit on the edge of your chair and interlace your hands behind your back. When you inhale, lift your hands up and away from your back. At the same time, gently lift your chin away from your chest. Then, as you lower your hands, exhale slowly.
Switch the grip of your hands and then repeat the sequence on the other side.
If you’re experiencing shoulder pain, this is an excellent move to try out. For this pose, hold your arms in front of you at shoulder height in front of you. Then, bring one arm under the other. While bending your arms at your elbows, twist your arms so your elbows come together.
Hold this pose for five breaths, then untwist your arms and repeat on the other side.
Due to the fact that our necks hold up our heads, they experience a great amount of stress on a daily basis. To help alleviate the stress on your neck, take your left arm and drag it over your head until your palm reaches your right ear. Then, allow your head to fall to your left shoulder and hold the pose for five breaths. Repeat on the opposite side.
If you’d like greater instruction on these poses and if you’d like to lower the stress levels in your office, then we suggest hiring a mindful movement instructor!
Here are some tips you can employ to find the right chair teacher for your team:
Here are 15 questions to ask a potential chair yoga instructor.
These questions are designed to learn more about the instructor’s training, corporate experience, and passion for chair yoga.
We do that! Peak’s facilitators are trained specifically for the workplace.