Chair Yoga Flow: A Dynamic Way to Sit and Practice

Need to unwind? This creative flow gets your body moving every which way—with the added convenience of a chair. 

Maybe you’re someone who is accustomed to sitting for long periods of time (as so many of us are!), and you can’t make it to a yoga class. Or perhaps you find it difficult to leave your seat. This sequence offers an interesting and playful way to “sit” and practice. But don’t let that fool you—despite the support of your chair, you can still break a sweat. You will need a bolster or two blocks in addition to your chair. Keep them nearby so you can grab them easily. As you practice the sequence, you’ll figure out which props to use for each pose and can arrange them in a way that makes the sequence flow more easily the next time. 

As you move through the poses, there can also be a meditative aspect to gathering and placing your props, if you move intentionally and with presence. You can use any chair, but make sure it won’t slide. If it does, place it on a mat before you begin.

1. Seated Pigeon

Arms resting on bolster
Foot supported and arms crossed over legs

Sit on the chair with your feet on the floor. If your feet don’t reach the floor, scooch up to the front of the seat or place your feet on support. This is what I will refer to as the initial seated position.

Cross your right ankle over your left thigh (just above the knee so that your foot is not high up on your thigh), and let your right knee open to the side. Hold on to the sides, seat, or front legs of the chair and fold forward—or just fold forward with your arms loose if that feels better. If your hands dangle too much, place them on support such as a bolster (as shown in the top photo above), or cross your arms over your legs and lower your head (shown in the second photo above). Stay here for five to ten breaths, and then switch sides. 

2. Warrior II to Extended Side Angle

From your initial seated position, open your left leg to the side so that, with your knee stacked over your ankle, it’s at 9 o’clock. Open your right leg to 3 o’clock. Make sure your hips are centered over and supported by the chair. (If they hover, you can place a block or bolster under them.) Reach your arms out to the sides at shoulder height.

Stay here for two or three breaths, then lean your torso to the left and take your left hand to the chair seat or leg. Reach your right arm overhead to the left, coming into extended side angle. Root the outer edge of your right foot into the floor as you reach your right hand away from your foot. Stay here for two or three breaths, and then switch sides. You can repeat this sequence, adding more fluid arm and torso movements, coming in and out of extended side angle pose from warrior II.

3. Malasana Variation

Return to your initial seated position. Place your support in front of the chair. Separate your feet slightly wider than the chair and place your feet on the support with your knees bent, knees and toes pointing in the same direction. Adjust your propping as needed: the higher the prop(s) the deeper your squat will be. If using a prop under your feet is too intense for your knees or hips, keep your feet on the floor. 

Bring your elbows to your inner thighs and your palms together in prayer position. Drop your right hand toward your right foot and rotate your chest to the left as you lift your left arm toward the sky. Stay here for three to five breaths. Come back to prayer and switch sides. Then repeat, moving dynamically, one breath per movement alternating sides three to five times.

4. Bakasana (Crane Pose)

From your malasana position, remove the support under your feet and wiggle your feet closer to each other. Keep your knees apart and place your hands on the floor (or blocks or a bolster) so that your knees are either touching the backs of your upper arms or are simply close to them. Press your hands down firmly and lift your feet away from the ground for bakasana (crane pose), keeping your hips on the chair. Stay here for a few breaths. Then place your feet on the ground and return to your initial seated position.

5. Marichyasana III (Seated Twist)

One foot on chair seat, other foot supported with bolster
One foot on bolster, heel of other foot on floor

Stretch your legs out in front of you. Bend your right knee and place your right foot onto the chair seat. If your left leg lifts up, place a support under that foot (shown in the top photo above). Another variation is to place your right foot on the bolster and your left heel on the floor (shown in the second photo above).

Wrap your left arm around your right shin and place your right forearm over the chair back. Press your right forearm down as you turn your torso to the right. Stay here for a few breaths, and then switch sides. 

6. Savasana

Finish your practice with a seated savasana with your feet on the floor and your hands on your thighs. Or, if it’s comfortable for you, you can lie down on the floor and place your lower legs on the chair seat, with the backs of your knees nestled into the edge of the chair seat and your arms alongside your torso. 

Seated savasana
Chair-supported lying savasana

Whether you are at home or on the road, let this be your go-to sequence when you want both a challenge and a support. You can even use this sequence to sneak in some unwinding time at work. It’s there for you anytime you need a boost, so to speak! 

Best of all, you’ll associate your chair with movement and creativity.

Photography: Andrea Killam

About the teacher

Allison Ray Jeraci is an international yoga educator, known for her keen sense of alignment and compendium... Read more

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