Dark haired woman practices Half Lord of the Fishes in a black chair.
(Photo: Andrew Clark. Clothing: Calia )

13 Yoga Poses You Can Do Without Leaving Your Chair

This routine can help you stretch out and stay active even when you're sitting down

Dark haired woman practices Half Lord of the Fishes in a black chair.
Tamara Y. Jeffries

from Yoga Journal

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If you work in an office or, say, drive a bus, there’s no getting around the fact that you’re on your seat more than you’re on your feet. But medical experts say adding plenty of  movement to your day is key to good health. That’s where chair yoga poses come in.

Chair yoga—poses modified for a seated position—have been a boon for people who have injuries, low mobility, or physical disabilities. But even the fittest person can practice asana in a chair to stretch stiff muscles, keep your joints limber, and help improve blood flow.

Almost anything you can do on your mat can be done in a chair. Below is a series of creative chair yoga poses that can help you keep active even when you’re sitting down.

13 Chair Yoga Poses

Chair yoga poses require a stable, sturdy seat. Yoga studios commonly offer a folding chair set up on a sticky mat to prevent slipping. If you are at home, a kitchen chair or any stable, armless chair will work. Find one that allows you to sit with your feet on the floor with your shins and thighs at a 90-degree angle. Putting blocks under your feet may help. For safety’s sake, avoid chairs with wheels when practicing chair yoga unless you can lock them to keep them from rolling.

Most chair yoga poses require you to sit with your back away from the back of the chair so that you are able to move freely. But the chair back can also act as a prop to give you more support and leverage, especially in twisting postures. You may also want to keep straps or blocks nearby to facilitate some of the poses.

South Asian women sitting in a black chair extends her arms up in Urdhva Hastasana. Upward Salute

(Photo: Andrew Clark. Clothing: Calia)

Urdvha Hastasana (Upward Salute)

  1. Sit with your back a few inches from the back of the chair. Lengthen your spine, reaching the crown of your head up and gently releasing your tailbone toward your seat. Lift your chin parallel to the floor.
  2. Place your feet flat on the floor with your big toes touching and a little space between your heels.  (If you experience lower back pain, practice with your feet hip-distance apart. Place your feet on blocks if they don’t reach the floor.) Root down with your big toe mounds, your heels, and the outside edges of your feet.
  3. Inhale, draw your shoulders back, soften your front ribs, and raise your arms overhead with your hands shoulder-distance apart and palms facing each other.
  4. If you’re able to keep your arms straight, reach up and touch your palms, bringing your gaze to your thumbs. If your shoulders are tight, take your arms out wider than your shoulders.
  5. Take several breaths. Release your arms down.
South Asian woman practices Cat Pose in a chair
(Photo: Andrew Clark. Clothing: Calia)

Marjaryasana (Cat Pose)

  1. Sit on your chair with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Let your hands rest on your knees.
  3. On an exhalation round your spine toward the back of your chair. Drop your chin toward your chest and draw your lower belly in and up.
  4. Take several breaths. To release the pose, come back to your original seated position.

Dark-haired woman in rust colored tights and top practices Cow Pose in a chair

(Photo: Andrew Clark. Clothing: Calia) 

Bitilasana (Cow Pose)

  1. Sit on your chair with your feet and knees hip-width apart. Let your hands rest on your knees.
  2. Inhale and arch your back. Lengthen along the back of your neck and your lower back to create a long, even curve.
  3. Lift your chin and sternum, broaden your collarbones, and allow your shoulders to fall back and away from your ears.
  4. Take several breaths. Return to a neutral spine.
Dark-haired woman in rust colored tights and top practices Camel Pose in a chair
(Photo: Andrew Clark. Clothing: Calia)

Ustrasana (Camel Pose)

  1. Sit on your chair with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Inhale and arch your back, allowing your shoulder blades to touch the back of your chair.
  3. Lift your chin and sternum, broaden your collarbones, and allow your shoulders to fall back and away from your ears.
  4. Reach your arms back to grasp the legs of the chair. Rotate your arms externally so that the inside of your elbows face out.
  5. On your next inhalation, press your chest forward and up, allowing your rib cage to expand and creating a long even curve through your mid and upper back.
  6. Take several breaths. To release the pose, release your hands, tuck your chin, and come back to your original seated position.
South Asian women bends from the waist to do a modification of Happy Baby pose.
(Photo: Andrew Clark. Clothing: Calia)

Happy Baby

  1. Sit toward the front edge of the chair with your feet on the floor, a little more than hip-width apart.
  2. Reach the crown of your head up and draw your tailbone down to find length in your back.
  3. As you exhale, fold forward at your hips and bring your belly between your thighs. You may choose to widen your legs to create more space for your torso.
  4. Inhale and reach down between your legs and grasp your outer shins, ankles, or feet.
  5. Gently pull your torso down between your thighs, lowering your body toward the floor.

Take several breaths. To release the pos, let go of your grip and come back to your original seated position.

South Asian woman in burgundy clothes practices King Arthur's Pose in a chair
(Photo: Andrew Clark. Clothing: Calia)

King Arthur’s Pose

  1. Sit in a chair with your sit bones 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.
  2. Keep your right thigh connected to the chair seat as you bend your right knee, lift your foot off the floor, and point your toes toward the back of the chair.
  3. Reach down with your right hand and grasp your ankle. Gently lift it toward your body until you feel a strong stretch in your quadricep and the front of your shin. (If you can’t reach your ankle, loop a strap or towel around your foot.)
  4. Take several breaths. Lower your foot and come back to your original seated position. Repeat on the opposite side.

South Asian woman practices Bound Angle pose in a chair

(Photo: Andrew Clark. Clothing: Calia)

Vrksasana (Tree Pose)

  1. Sit toward the front edge of the chair. Inhale deeply, lifting your chest, and exhale as you draw your shoulder blades down your back. Look straight ahead at a steady gazing spot.
  2. Extend your left leg straight out in front of you. Flex your foot or point your toes toward the floor.
  3. Open your right leg out to the side, keeping your knee bent and your foot or toes on the floor.
  4. Place your hands in Anjali Mudra at your heart or stretch your arms overhead.
  5. Take several breaths. To release the pose, come back to your original seated position. Repeat the pose on the other side.

Asian American woman in bright pink top and tights practices Triangle pose in a chair

(Photo: Andrew Clark. Clothing: Calia)

Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

  1. Sit so that your body is on the left side of the chair and your left thigh clears the seat.
  2. Extend your left leg straight out to the side. Firm your thigh and straighten your leg as much as possible.
  3. Inhale and raise your arms straight out from your shoulders and parallel to the floor. Keep your shoulder blades wide and your palms down.
  4. Exhale and lean your torso to the left, bending from your hip joint. Reach your left arm out and down toward your extended leg, resting your left hand on your shin or thigh. Reach your right arm toward the ceiling.
  5. Keep your head in a neutral position or turn to look either at your right hand or down at the ground.
  6. Take several breaths. Inhale and reach up with your right hand as you bring your torso up. Then bring your left leg back to center. Shift your body to the right side of your chair and repeat the posture on the other side.
(Photo: Andrew Clark. Clothing: Calia)

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)

  1. Sit toward the front edge of your chair so that your buttocks are supported but your knees clear the seat.
  2. Open your legs wide, so that your knees point away from each other.
  3. Sit tall, pressing your shoulder blades against your upper back to lift through your sternum. Reach the crown of your head toward the ceiling.
  4. Keep your knees wide as you bring your feet together. Open your feet as if you were opening the pages of a book, keeping the outer edges of your feet together.
  5. Place your hands on your thighs and gently press your thighs away from each other.
  6. Take several breaths. Slowly release and come back to your original seated position.
South Asian woman practices High Lunge in a chair. Her arms are extended overhead.
(Photo: Andrew Clark. Clothing: Calia)

High Lunge

  1. Sit facing the left side of your chair so that your thighs are fully supported. Shift toward the front of the chair so that your right thigh clears the seat.
  2. Keeping both hips facing forward, extend your right leg straight back. with the ball of your foot on the floor. Firm your thigh and push it up toward the ceiling to straighten your leg as much as possible.
  3. Inhale and reach your arms toward the ceiling, keeping your shoulders wide and your arms aligned with your ears.
  4. Take several breaths. To release the pose, release your arms and bring your right leg forward.
  5. Turn to face the right side of your chair and repeat the posture on the other side.
Dark-haired woman in rust colored tights and top practices Extended Side Angle in a chair
(Photo: Andrew Clark. Clothing: Calia)

Uttita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

  1. Sit facing the left side of your chair so that your thighs are fully supported on the seat. Shift yourself to the right, near the front side of the chair, so that your right thigh clears the seat.
  2. Extend your right leg back. Open your hips toward the front of the chair. Straighten your right leg and place the bottom of your right foot on the floor with your toes facing forward.
  3. Lean your torso toward your left knee, hinging at your hips to bring your left arm toward the floor. Place your left fingertips on the ground or on a block, so your arm and shin are parallel.
  4. Reach your right arm toward the ceiling. Extend it alongside your right ear, palm facing the floor, or bend your right elbow and reach back to grasp the back of the chair.
  5. Rotate your torso to turn your chest toward your top arm. Turn your head to look toward the ceiling.
  6. Take several breaths. To release the pose, press yourself up with your left hand and bring your right leg in to return to your seated position.
  7. Turn to face the right side of your chair and repeat the posture on the other side.
Dark haired woman practices Half Lord of the Fishes in a black chair.
(Photo: Andrew Clark. Clothing: Calia )

Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes)

  1. Sit facing the right side of your chair so that your thighs are fully supported on the seat.
  2. Cross your right leg over your left.
  3. Inhale as you lengthen your spine and lift both arms toward the ceiling.
  4. Exhale and twist to the right as you bring your hands down to grasp the back of the chair.
  5. Turn your head to the right, looking past your right shoulder. Make sure you don’t strain your neck.
  6. Take several breaths. To release the pos, inhale and reach your arms up and then exhale and unwind your body. Place both feet on the floor.
  7. Turn to the left side of your chair and repeat the posture on that side.
South Asian woman in burgundy clothes practices Marichyasana
(Photo: Andrew Clark. Clothing: Calia)

Marichyasana 3

  1. Sit with your spine supported by the back of the chair. Lengthen your spine and gently release your tailbone toward the seat.
  2. Place your feet on the floor hip-width apart.
  3. Lift your right knee and draw it in toward your chest. Pace your right foot on the seat of the chair as close to your right sitting bone as possible.
  4. Inhale and lengthen your spine. Exhale and twist to the right. Grasp your right knee with your left hand or wrap your left elbow around your right knee.
  5. Drape your right arm over the back of your chair  and either grasp the chair back or clasp your hands together.
  6. Take several breaths. Lengthen on each inhalation and gently twist a bit more with each exhalation.
  7. To release the pose, lower your arms, unwind your body, and place your right foot back on the floor. Repeat on the other side.

For in-depth descriptions, variations, and tips for practicing the yoga poses you see here, visit the Yoga Journal Pose Library.

Lead Photo: Andrew Clark. Clothing: Calia

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