Yoga is meant to be accessible by everyone, yet traditional styles can be challenging for those who have difficulty moving up and down or struggle with pain or balance. Adding the assistance of a chair can help individuals with limited mobility or injury (or anyone who’s just getting started) reap the practice’s benefits — including improved balance, mobility, bone and joint health, and strength. It’s also a way for seasoned yogis to mix up their practice.
At Life Time, the ARORA Chair Yoga class is a great option for those looking for a low-impact, beginner-friendly option. “This class can help members increase strength and mobility and reduce arthritis pain, as well as support whole-body benefits including improved mental health and better sleep,” says Nancy Richter, studio manager at Life Time in White Bear Lake, Minn.
The use of a chair provides added support during movements, making poses that might be out of reach in a traditional practice doable. “I’ve found chair yoga to be a deeply meaningful experience and one that helps members stay strong and connected with their community,” says Mary Weenig, certified yoga teacher at Life Time in White Bear Lake, Minn. “I hadn’t planned on teaching this format, it just happened, but now has become an important part of my life.”
Together, Richter and Weenig (seen here demonstrating the poses) compiled some examples of the movements you can expect to find in an ARORA Chair Yoga class.
- Sit on a chair with your feet planted on the ground and hands at heart center. Take a moment to breathe, completing a few rounds of three- to four-second inhales and exhales, filling up your belly, chest, and shoulders.
- Inhale while you reach your arms up overheard, bringing your palms together. Lengthen your spine and gaze up.
- Exhale while you drop one arm to rest on the seat of the chair. Look down toward that arm as you bend your upper body and elevated arm toward that side. Raise your eyes to gaze at your opposite elbow before looking back down again.
- Inhale to return to center with both arms overhead. Exhale while you complete the side bend on the opposite side.
- Repeat, alternating sides for two or three more rounds on each side. On your final round, exhale and bring your hands to heart center.
Assisted Spinal Twists
- Sit on a chair with your feet planted on the ground and hands at heart center.
- Inhale while you reach both arms straight up toward the ceiling, bringing your palms together.
- Exhale while you twist to one side as you bring your hands down, fingers stretched, resting your hand that’s closest to the back of the chair on the outside of your upper thigh and your other hand on the outside of your knee.
- Inhale as you lengthen your spine, then exhale while you wrap your inside arm around the back of the chair for a deepened spinal twist. Hold for five seconds.
- Return to center and lift both arms overhead.
- Repeat on the opposite side. One round may be enough, or you could do one or two more — listen to your body.
- After your final round, bring your hands back to heart center and exhale.
Assisted Down Dog
- Stand behind a chair with your hands placed on the top of the chair.
- Inhale while you walk your feet away from the chair to find a position where your hips are hinged and your back is parallel to the floor. Keep your feet hip-width distance apart.
- Exhale as you press your hands into the chair and engage your back. Bend your knees to lower your body.
- Inhale as you straighten your legs.
- Repeat three to five times, bending and gently straightening your legs. Find the position where it feels best in your body.
- After your final round, inhale, gaze forward, and walk your feet back to the chair. Roll your shoulders back and down as you exhale.
Assisted Warrior 1
- Stand behind a chair with your fingertips placed on the top of the chair.
- Inhale as you step your left foot back, keeping your leg straight and heel flat.
- Exhale as you bend into your right knee, pressing your fingertips on the chair back.
- Inhale as you bring your hands to heart center, then reach your hands straight up toward the ceiling.
- Take several full breaths in this position.
- Exhale as you bring your hands to heart center and then back to the chair.
- Step your left foot forward to meet your right foot.
- Repeat on the opposite side. Complete one set.
Assisted Chair Pose
- Stand in front of a chair with your arms stretched out in front of you, palms down.
- Inhale as you gaze forward, grounding down through your feet.
- Exhale as you bend at your knees to lower several inches. Hold.
- Inhale as you rise with control.
- Exhale as you lower more deeply, this time hovering just above seat of the chair.
- Repeat three more times, inhaling as you rise with control and exhaling as you lower and hover just above the chair.
- Lower to the chair and sit. For an added challenge on the last round, hold and hover for three breaths before taking a seat.
- Stand about two feet from a chair. Place your hands on either side of the seat to rest, keeping your arms straightened.
- Inhale as you step your feet out wide.
- Exhale as you side lunge into one leg, holding for several breaths and using the chair as a stabilizer.
- Inhale as you rise to center, flatten your back, and straighten your arms.
- Exhale as you side lunge on the opposite side.
- Repeat two to three more times, alternating sides. The number of reps can be determined on how you feel.
- After your final round, exhale as you fold your arms on the seat and rest your head on your arms, keeping your spine long and your legs straight.
Assisted Goddess Pose
- Sit on a chair with your feet planted on the ground. Keep your spine long and tilted slightly forward so it’s away from the seat back.
- Inhale as you lift and move your right leg out wide toward the outside of the chair. Exhale as you ground your foot down.
- Repeat with your left leg.
- Inhale as you bring your right arm up so it forms one side of a goal-post position. Exhale as you bring your thumb and pointer finger to touch.
- Repeat with your left arm, keeping both arms raised in the goal-post position.
- Inhale as you lift your heels, starting with your right then following with your left; stretch your arches.
- Hold for several full breaths. This move only needs to be completed once, but you can hold for five to 10 breaths to fully feel the benefits of this stable pose.