Yoga can be practiced by people of all abilities. There are plenty of sitting yoga poses for stretching and strengthening if you can’t get on the floor.
Yoga is a great way to start or continue to improve your health and well-being, but it can be a daunting activity to start. Chair or seated yoga is an excellent way to do soft, gentle yoga. People with limited mobility or who have trouble standing or moving from different positions will benefit from this type of yoga. It will mean they can still improve their strength and flexibility without feeling uncomfortable.
People with arthritis or similar conditions favor sitting yoga poses because they put less pressure on the joints and reduce pain in the long run. Many poses can be adapted to suit any age or level of fitness. Yoga is all about you and what your body can do. As you practice, your body will become more supple and loose.
Choosing poses that work for you and that you enjoy will make you more likely to continue the practice. Yoga is a powerful form of relaxation and can help reduce stress. Some of these poses can be done anywhere, at lunch break at work, on a park bench relaxing in the park. Harvard Medical School says yoga is very effective for your mental health as it relaxes the body and clears the mind and can have long-lasting effects.
To get the most out of the following sitting yoga poses, we recommend a plain stool or chair with no arms so you have more space.
1. Upward Salute
This pose stretches the spine, shoulders, armpits, and belly. It is a great seated yoga pose for stretching and strengthening. It loosens and strengthens the shoulders and arm muscles. Sitting yoga poses such as this can also alleviate tension and stress.
- Sit straight with your back a few inches from the back of the chair.
- Place your feet flat on the floor with your toes touching but a little space between your heels. If your feet don’t reach the floor, use a block or books to help. Root down with your feet, like you are growing roots into the ground.
- Inhale, draw your shoulders back and raise your arms overhead with your hands shoulder-distance apart and palms facing each other.
- While keeping your arms straight, look up towards your hands. If you struggle with your shoulders, try dropping your arms out wider than your shoulders.
- Hold the pose, Take several breaths, then release your arms down.
2. Sitting Yoga Poses: Seated Cow and Cat Pose
This combo of sitting yoga poses is best for stretching is easy and relaxing. It’s an adaption of a popular pose sequence but without the need to rely on or put pressure on the knees. It relieves tension in the neck, shoulders, and back.
Starting with the seated cow, you can go straight to the cat pose. When doing this pose, only bend to a comfortable position. It is essential to follow what your body allows. Your flexibility will likely increase with time and practice.
- Sit on your chair with your feet hip-width apart, resting your hands on your knees.
- As you inhale, round your spine toward the back of your chair, creating an even curve.
- Raise your chest and draw your lower belly in and up.
- Lift your chin, and allow your shoulders to drop back away from your ears.
- Take breaths. To release the pose, return to your original seated position or continue to the cat pose. Repeat if desired.
- If you want to continue to cat pose, bend forward, curling your back, head towards your knees, and drop your hands by your sides.
3. King Arthur’s Pose
The King Arthur sitting yoga pose for stretching and strength works the muscles in your hips and thighs. However, this pose does put some pressure on the knees. Therefore, we don’t recommend this seated yoga pose for anybody with knee injuries.
- Sit in a chair with your bottom about midway on the seat. Shift yourself toward the right side of the seat and place your feet flat on the floor with your knees hip-width apart.
- Shift your body to the right side of the chair and keep your hips firmly connected to the chair seat. Bend your right knee, lift your foot off the floor, and point your toes toward the back of the chair.
- Reach down with your right hand and grasp your ankle. Gently lift it toward your body until you feel an intense stretch in the front muscles. (If you can’t reach your ankle, loop a strap or towel around your foot.)
- Take several breaths. Lower your foot and come back to your original seated position. Repeat on the opposite side.
4. Extended Side Angle Pose
This pose strengthens and stretches your core, including your abdominal, shoulder joints, and back muscles. Many people will know this as a standing pose, but it can be tweaked to become a seated yoga pose.
- Sit up straight with your back to the back of the chair, feet flat on the floor. You may need to move toward the edge of the chair, but don’t go too far as to feel unbalanced.
- Plant your feet on either side of the chair.
- While keeping one leg in the same position, slowly extend the other leg.
- Gently shift your weight toward your bent leg.
- If you want to go a step further, you can rest one hand on your bent leg as you lean towards your side.
- Raise the other hand upwards and gently bring your hand over your head as comfortably as possible.
- Keep your bottom firmly on the seat.
- Hold the position, return to the starting position, and do the other side.
5. Sitting Yoga Poses: Happy Baby Pose
The happy baby pose strengthens and tones your muscles while improving balance and flexibility. It stretches the back and hamstrings and realigns and stretches the spine. It also lowers the heart rate, easing stress and anxiety. Here we’ll cover how to do the mat, and sitting yoga poses for this stretch.
On a chair:
- Sit a couple of inches from the edge of your chair with your feet on the floor, slightly wider than hip-width apart.
- With your back and head straight, fold forward at your hips and bring your belly between your thighs while exhaling. You may choose to widen your legs to create more space for your torso.
- You can either – Inhale, reach down between your legs, and grasp your outer shins, ankles, or feet. Then, gently pull your body between your thighs, lowering your body toward the floor.
- Or, fold your arms and lean toward the space between your legs, using your thighs to steady you.
- Take several deep breaths. Let go of your grip to release the pose and return to your original seated position.
On a mat or floor:
- Lie flat on your back on the floor or on a mat.
- Keeping your head flat on the mat, bend your knees toward your chest at a 90-degree angle. Face the soles of your feet up toward the ceiling.
- Grab and hold the inside or outside of your feet and bend your knees. Remember to keep your shoulders on the mat.
- Flex your heels into your hand and gently rock from side to side (like a happy baby). Remain in this position for several breaths, inhaling and exhaling deeply.
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