Here’s some good news: Building strength doesn’t require a trip to the gym–or even a trip down to the floor. Instead, get strong and flexible with these five easy-to-learn yoga poses that can be done with just a chair. But don’t be fooled by their simplicity: “These yoga poses are powerful,” says Sadie Nardini, host of “Rock Your Yoga” on Veria Living TV and creator of this chair yoga routine. “As you hold each one of these yoga poses, feel like you’re really working to maintain the quality, and be sure to breathe slowly and deeply through your nose.”
Go through the sequence 1 to 5 times. Can’t find the time to do them all at once? Try these yoga poses at your desk or while watching your favorite show. Do one every time you get up to visit the copier or the restroom, or whenever a commercial comes on. Make it a habit and before you know it, your whole body will start to feel stronger and more flexible.
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1. Chair Dog
What it does: Tones your arms, shoulders and chest while stretching your back and legs to help relieve lower-back tension.
How to do it: Stand facing your chair. Bend your knees and place your hands on the seat of the chair, spreading your fingers wide. Press into the outsides of your hands and your fingertips as you walk your feet back so your upper body forms a straight diagonal line (as shown). Draw your front ribs and low belly in, and bring your shoulders down away from your ears as you stretch through the back of your body. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths, then walk your feet back in.
2. Chair Pose
What it does: Strengthens your legs, buttocks, back and arms.
How to do it: Sit in your chair and bring your feet together; squeeze your knees together. Raise your arms overhead (choose an angle that doesn’t cause your shoulders to tense). Push into your feet, drawing your low belly in and up as you lift your buttocks a few inches off the seat (as shown). Hold for 5 breaths, and lower back down. Repeat 3 times.
3. Twisted Chair
What it does: Improves circulation and digestion while strengthening your side ab muscles.
How to do it: Once again, sit in your chair and bring your feet together, squeezing your knees; press your palms together at the center of your chest. Twist your upper body to the left, bringing either your right hand or elbow to the outside of your left knee (as shown). Roll your left shoulder behind you and look down, to the side, or up (wherever is most comfortable) while breathing into your belly. Hold for 5 breaths, then return to sitting and fold over your legs to stretch your back. Repeat the pose on the other side.
4. Crossed Boat Pose
What it does: Targets your ab muscles, building deep core strength and stability along your spine.
How to do it: Sit on your chair and cross one ankle over the other; hold onto the armrests or sides of the seat. Lift your knees up toward your chest (as shown) as you draw your belly and low back in and up. Hold for 5 breaths, then slowly lower your feet to the floor, keeping your spine and abs engaged. Repeat the pose 5-10 times.
5. Rag Doll
What it does: Increase flexibility by releasing muscles in your legs, hips and back.
How to do it: Sit on your chair with feet hip-distance apart. Engage your ab muscles and lift your buttocks off the seat. Make fists and place them into opposite elbow creases, triggering your body to relax the muscles along your back and spine. Fold over your bent legs and breathe. Slowly begin to straighten your legs (as shown), stopping when you feel a lengthening in the back muscles of your legs. Stay in this pose for 1 minute or more.
Photos by Tyler McCoy