Top Chair Yoga Poses for Seniors

Featured Article, Fitness, Senior Health, Workout Plans
on April 1, 2013
Yoga poses for seniors to do with a chair.
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With age comes wisdom — plus a few other things your body might not appreciate quite so much. Happily, this series of chair yoga poses, designed especially for seniors, provides a simple way to ease many of those aches and pains. “The chair helps eliminate strain on your joints while increasing stability and balance,” explains Valerie Rogers, yoga instructor and creator of Chogaflow, who put together this body-pampering sequence. “As you move and breathe through the yoga poses, circulation improves, joints become more flexible, and range of motion increases.” The result? You’ll feel better and more energetic from head to toe.

As you go through each step below, imagine lifting your pubic bone toward your navel, as if zipping into a tight pair of pants. Also, be sure to keep your shoulders relaxed throughout. Go through the yoga poses once each day, or simply sneak in a pose or two during a free moment. Either way, though, don’t forget to listen to your body — if you feel pain, stop!

A modified version of the cresent lunge yoga pose using a chair.

1. Crescent Lunge

How it helps: Stretches hip flexor muscles; strengthens low back and legs; creates stability and balance; relieves low back pain; opens chest and shoulders. In short, it’s just the thing for seniors who sit a lot.
How to do it: Stand tall facing the back of the chair. Inhale, bringing arms wide and overhead, then exhale, arms wide, bringing hands down to the chair back. Step your left foot back, lengthening through the heel; bend your right knee, keeping it directly above the ankle. Hipbones should be facing front. Draw inner thighs toward each other like magnets, and lift your chest as you extend your right arm overhead (as shown). Hold for three full breaths, then step forward, inhale as you raise your arms wide and overhead, and repeat on the opposite side.

A modified version of the extended side angle yoga pose using a chair.

2. Extended Side Angle

How it helps: Improves strength and stamina; increases oxygen flow; strengthens legs, knees and ankles; stretches shoulders, spine and waist.
How to do it: Stand facing the front of the chair. Inhale, bringing arms wide and overhead, then exhale, arms wide, bringing hands down to the chair seat. Step your right foot back, angling it outward. Bend your left knee, keeping it directly over the ankle and aimed toward your baby toe. Draw your left sitting bone inward and extend your right arm behind you, palm up, rotating your torso to the right. Reach the arm overhead, extending from heel to fingertips (as shown). Draw your left forearm back lightly on the chair to lift your chest while you press down through both feet, lifting up through your side waist. Hold for three full breaths, then windmill your right arm back to the chair, spin on the ball of your right foot, and bring your hips square to the front. Step forward, inhaling as you raise arms wide and overhead, then repeat on the opposite side.

A modified version of the Revolved Side Angle yoga pose using a chair.

3. Revolved Side Angle

How it helps: Improves digestion and helps maintain regularity; increases energy; improves balance.

How to do it: Stand tall in front of the chair. Inhale, bringing arms wide and overhead, then exhale, arms wide, bringing hands to the chair seat. Step your left foot back, extending strongly through your heel. Bend your right knee so it is directly above your ankle and draw your inner thighs toward each other. Your body should form a straight, diagonal line from head to back heel. (If that’s not possible for your body, stop here.) Place your left forearm on the chair seat, pressing through your right big toe to keep your knee aligned. Lift your chest as you extend your right arm behind you (as shown). Press gently through the left forearm to rotate your torso a bit further. Hold for three full breaths, then release hands back to the chair. Step forward, inhaling as you raise arms wide and overhead, then repeat on the opposite side.

modified wide legged downward dog yoga pose using a chair.

4. Wide-Legged Downward-Facing Dog
How it helps: Relieves back tension; stretches shoulders, back, hips and hamstrings; stimulates circulation; helps relieve anxiety.

How to do it: Stand tall in front of the chair. Inhale, bringing arms wide and overhead, then exhale, arms wide, bringing hands to the chair seat. Step both feet back and bring them wide; your second toes should be facing forward. Press through your feet and bend your knees (don’t let them go past your toes), fully extending your spine (A). Keeping your spine long, slowly straighten your legs and gaze between your feet (B). Hold for six full breaths, then step your feet in and walk forward. Inhale, rising slowly and bringing arms wide, ending with palms together overhead. Exhale, bringing hands to your heart in prayer position.

Modified Seated Spinal Twist yoga pose using a chair.

5. Seated Spinal Twist

How it helps: Helps relieve sciatic pain; stimulates internal organs; releases tension around spine.

How to do it: Sit toward the front of the chair with knees bent and directly above ankles. Press through the feet and feel your spine lengthen. Inhale, bringing arms wide and overhead, then exhale and twist to the right, placing your left hand on your outer right thigh and your right hand on the seat (as shown). Lift your chest and widen your collarbones. Hold for three full breaths, then return to center. Inhale, bringing arms wide and overhead, then exhale and switch sides.

Chair modified wide legged camel yoga pose.

6. Wide-Legged Camel to Forward Fold

How it helps: Improves posture and range of motion in shoulders; stretches whole body; builds stability in legs; creates a feeling of calm energy.

How to do it: Sit toward the front of the chair with feet wide (knees directly above ankles) and toes pointed slightly outward. Inhale, bringing arms wide and overhead, then exhale and bring hands to the bottom of the chair back (A). Press strongly through your feet and draw upward with your fingers, keeping collarbones wide. Hold for three full breaths, then clasp your hands together behind you and roll your shoulders back and down. Inhale, pressing through your feet, then exhale and fold forward, gently lifting your hands (B). Hold for six full breaths, then inhale, bringing arms wide, ending with palms together overhead. Exhale, bringing hands to your heart in prayer position as you walk your feet in.

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