This is a very detailed explanation of how to use a simple household item - a chair - to perform a series of yoga postures. Please use a chair with relatively flat seat with a back. The position of the body on the chair will depend on type of chair used. This is a particularly good sequence for those who struggle with balance or of an advanced age.
If you’re feeling it, you’re doing it. Every body is different. Every body will feel things differently. If you’re feeling appropriate sensation in your body, you are doing it correctly. Be inquisitive about what you’re feeling. Stay in the space of curiosity. Indulge in and enjoy self-exploration.
What is appropriate sensation? On a scale of 0-10, 0 being no sensation at all, you are looking for a 3-4. Signs you are going too deep: sharp shooting pain, numbness, tingling, limbs falling asleep, or the breath becoming labored and uncomfortable. STOP. Reposition your body or move on to another exercise. Err on the side of minimal sensation.
Herniated disc of lower back pain. Forward folding or rounding of the spine may not be appropriate for your body. Any time this movement is suggested in the routine, you may keep your spine upright instead.
Disclaimer As with beginning any new form of exercise, it is recommended you check with a physician prior to start. Please feel free to contact me with specific questions about what is written here.
SEATED CHAIR POSES
Centering. Arriving into the present moment. Breath work.
Sit with feet flat into floor, where you can feel your sitting bones on the chair.
Become grounded through the feet and sitting bones. Lift the pit of the abdomen upwards toward the heart. Feel the spine lengthening away from the sitting bones. Feel the head lightly resting above the shoulders.
Notice the breath. Notice the body breathing. Notice the inhalation. Where does it enter the body? Where do you feel it? Does it have sound? Temperature? Is it fast? Slow? Steady? Shaky? Notice without judgment. This is your time for personal inquiry. Be curious. Be kind in your exploration of what is real.
It may be helpful to use a timer to help you relax inside of a set space of time. If you have a Smartphone, Insight Timer is a free and simple app that uses a Tibetan bell sound.
To close, rub hands together briskly in front of your body. Continue until you feel heat between the palms. This is energy. Move hands, palm over palm, to the heart. Feel the heat between your palms and your heart. This is your aliveness. Set your intention. Feel it in your heart. Release your hands to your thighs. Slowly blink your eyes open. You are ready for movement.
Breathe in deeply and squeeze shoulders up into ears. Exhale deeply while dropping shoulders down. Feel tension release from upper back, neck and shoulder region.
Shoulder circles/Wrist circles
Full arm circles
Fullest range of motion without creating tension. Focus on the breath. Inhale begins the circle, exhale completes it. Both directions.
Lower arm and hand stretches
Hold four fingers of one hand together with the opposite hand. Holding palm to ceiling, gently pull fingers downward to stretch palm and fingers.
To bring sensation to the forearm continue holding fingers in downward direction and straighten the arm in front of you. Press out through the heel of the hand.
Flip the palm over and repeat stretches for the back of the hand and back of lower arm. Repeat on second side.
Hands reach behind to back of chair seat. Lift heart open and up. Gently squeeze between shoulder blades. Ok to lift chin to stretch front of throat if neck is ok.
Hands to thighs. Inhale to arc spine and lift heart to sky. There will be an arch in your lower back. Support this opening with a lift of the pit of your abdomen. Exhale to round spine and gently pull shoulder blades away from the spine, stretching into upper back. Repeat until spinal muscles feels more fluid in their movement.
Knee hugs with ankle rolls
Hug one knee to chest. Move it around - across the midline of the body, towards the outer shoulder, etc. Be curious. Roll ankle in both directions. Point and flex the foot. Repeat on the other side.
Bend knee into chest. Bring lower leg across the body and place ankle on top of opposite thigh just above the knee. Gently lean forward, being mindful to hinge from the hip versus overly rounding the spine. If your body allows you may fold completely over the legs and bring hands to the floor. This will bring more stretch to the spine.
Move your body forward on the chair. Straighten one leg forward, heel down on the floor. Lean forward toward straight leg until you feel a stretch at the back of the straight leg. Opposite leg is bent, foot flat. Support your upper body weight with hands on the bent knee leg or chair seat. Pulling toes back towards your body will intensify sensation. Repeat on second side.
Sit sideways on the chair. Stretch outside leg back, toes curled under on the floor. This will stretch back leg. Ok to lift same side arm up to ceiling and side bend toward bent leg. Repeat on second side.
Sit sideways on the chair. Twist torso towards back of chair. Back hand pulls toward you while front hand presses away. This provides leverage to deepen the twist in the spine. Repeat on second side.
Still sitting sideways on the chair, cross the outside leg on top of the inside leg. Turn towards the outside leg twisting the spine. Place inside arm to outside leg and other arm to chair seat for leverage and support. You may feel sensation in the outer thigh and hip.
Wide Knee Squat
Sit forward on chair, feet flat on floor, knees bent. Move legs wide apart from each other. Toes and knees are aligned and pointing outward at an angle. Gently use hands to press thighs away from each other for inner groin stretch. Ok to bend forward to add spinal stretch.
STANDING CHAIR POSES
Half Downward Dog
Using either chair seat or back of chair, from standing place hands on the surface and walk legs back until you feel a stretch for your spine and shoulders. If hips are aligned over heels and spine is straight you will intensify the stretch on the back of the legs. Ok to do this with hands to a wall if the chair is too low.
Standing Lunge Front
Step one foot on chair seat, knee bent but not forward of toes. Scoot back leg back until you feel a stretch. Sensation could be in either leg. Ok to lift back leg side arm up and side bend toward bent leg.
Standing Lunge Twist
From Standing Lunge, place outside hand to outside of bent knee for stability. The arm on the bent knee reaches forward straight out from shoulder, thumb up. Watch thumb as you move that arm along the horizon to the back of the room, providing a twist for your spine including your neck if appropriate.
Straight Leg Stretch Front
Step back a bit and straighten the leg that is on the chair seat. Keep heel down. Back leg foot is directly under the hip, toes pointing forward. Hands to hips or on elevated leg for support. Gently lean forward and pull toes back towards you to intensify.
Standing Lunge Side
Keep leg bent on chair. Turn to face sideways away from that leg. The leg that is on the chair, sit into that sit bone as if it were on a chair. Keep standing on outside leg and lifting up out of that hip.
From Standing Lunge Side, place bent knee foot to inner thigh keeping knee bent to side and hips open. Palms to heart or more challenging over the head. Ok to keep foot at edge of chair, ball of foot down and heel lifted for more support.
Straight Leg Stretch Side
Similar to Straight Leg Stretch Front. Step out to the side a bit more. Straighten the leg that is on the chair seat. Keep heel down. Supporting leg foot is directly under the hip, toes pointing forward. Hands to hips or on elevated leg for support. Gently side bend towards elevated leg and pull toes back towards you to intensify. Do drop elevated leg hip down. One thought is to pull that sits bone toward the opposite heel. Keep inside waist long. Ok to lift outside arm to ear in the side stretch.
Standing Straight Leg Stretch Front
Stand in front of chair seat feet parallel and pointing forward. Step one foot back a comfortable distance keeping hips relatively square to chair. Hands to hips or chair seat for support. Gently lean forward.
To add a spine and shoulder stretch this pose could be done facing the back of the chair. Rest hands on top of chair back, arms and spine long and parallel to the floor. Head is between arms. Armpits will gently lengthen or yawn open.
Standing Straight Leg Stretch Twist
From Standing Straight Leg Stretch Front, whichever leg is in front, take the opposite hand to the chair seat. Same side hand moves the hip. Twist the torso towards the front leg. Ok to keep spine upright in the twist to lessen sensation.
This could be done at any point through the practice, particularly while seated at the beginning or end.
Place one hand on chest just below collarbones and gently pull the tissue of the chest downward. The opposite hand is on the throat just below the chin and gently presses upward. A stretch may be felt along the front of the neck and throat. Ok to tilt head back and jut chin upward toward ceiling for deeper sensation.
Move hands to jaw bone. With a pincher grasp, both hands move along jawbone from center of chin to ears gently pressing fingers into tissue along the bone.
Move hands to bottom of eye socket just inside nose. Place index and middle fingers together at the bone itself. Starting at the inside of the eye and moving towards temples, gently apply pressure to the tissue along the bone. Continue applying pressure all around the eye paying particular attention to the top inside corner where you may experience sinus relief.
Rub fingers into temples and along tissue of the forehead.
Ears. Gently pull the lobes of the ear downward and outward while opening and closing the mouth and opening the eyes wide. Continue doing this while moving the fingers upward along the ear. Lastly, place fingers inside the ear and gently press forward on the ear flap. You may experience more clarity in your thinking along with release of neck, upper back and shoulder tension.
Return to Opening Meditation position seated on the chair, eyes closed or resting softly open. Focus your awareness of you breath, on sensations in your body. Notice what has changed since you began. Notice your state of mind, the state of your nervous system. Recall your intention. Breathe it into your heart.
Bring palms together at your heart and gently bow to your heart center. Bring forth feelings of gratitude for your willingness to participate in your health and well-being. Honor your efforts in whatever way makes sense to you. Ok to remain in a closing meditation for any length of time.
Remember this is a practice of mindfulness, focus, and deepened awareness through a combination of movement and stillness. Any amount of time your practice will bring you closer to your true and highest Self.