I did a chair yoga demonstration at the event, which you can watch at this link. Look for the video labeled “Part 2,” starting at about the 2:22:30 mark. I talk a little about yoga in general and chair yoga specifically, and then we dive right into a demonstration. If you’ve always wondered what my seated chair yoga classes at the UAMS Institute on Aging are like, this is a good little taste. Enjoy!
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I love using goddess pose at the chair as the foundation for exploring all kinds of movement in the body. I think people feel open when in goddess, with their legs spread a little wider than the chair legs, but not so wide that they feel unstable. Lunging poses like warrior I and II and high lunge are also fun at the chair, but are more challenging and can distract some students as they strain to contort themselves. If I really want to hone in on sidebody stretching or explorations of movements or muscles, chair goddess is my go-to.
First, let’s talk about how to get into chair goddess, then we’ll see what goodies we can add:
From mountain at the chair, spread the legs a little wider than the chair legs.
Check your alignment: knees and toes should point in the same direction.
Tighten your abs and sit up tall.
That’s it. Pretty simple.
From there, we can add things in, depending on your goals. The options are almost limitless, but here are a few of my favorites.
Sidebody stretching: My No. 1 favorite chair goddess variation is combining it with arms that mimic something between extended side angle and triangle, as pictured above. With the right elbow bent, bring the right forearm to rest on the right thigh. Slightly rotate the chest and reach the left arm toward the sky. The gaze can follow if that feels good on your neck. You can stay here, or take the side stretch deeper by moving the left arm so the bicep is closer to the ear, as in extended side angle. You can also make the pose a little more like triangle by allowing the right arm to drift lower, maybe anchoring on the inside of the right knee, or reaching the right fingertips all the way down to the floor. The left arm will reach toward the sky. Try static holds or flowing from side to side with an engaged core.
Understanding core engagement: I also like to use chair goddess to teach about core engagement. From the basic posture, see if you can feel your abs zip up tight, feeling taught across the low belly and protecting the low back. Then see if you can maintain this slight engagement while doing another task: spine circles. Start to slowly move the back in clockwise circles, as if the base of your spine were the center. After a few rotations, let the movement get bigger, maybe even involving a little cat/cow action or movement in the shoulders. Check back in, are your abs still engaged? Try it again with counterclockwise circles.
Warming up shoulders: From goddess at the chair, move the arms from a bent-elbow cactus or “goalpost” formation to a rounded spine with the arms arcing forward. In cactus arms, you’re squeezing the shoulder blades together on the backside of the body. And when you’re rounded forward, it’s as if you’re hugging a big ball to your chest. Flow back and forth several times to loosen up the shoulders or prepare for other shoulder stretches.
Stretching lats and across the back: This feels great to me. From chair goddess, simply tuck the right shoulder across the midline of the body, like you could press it down toward your left knee. It doesn’t need to actually go there, we’re just looking for stretch sensation across the back. Found it? Ah! Hold for 5-10 breaths and try it on the other side.
Challenge the legs: From the basic pose, engage through the feet to try to lift the bottom from the chair (or get close!) Try it, hold till tired, rest, try again. Try to work up to longer holds to build leg strength.
That’s it for today! Thanks for exploring chair goddess with me, and as always, I would love to hear your ideas and variations in the comments. Chair yoga is such a creative form of yoga and nothing makes me happier than seeing what new things people come up with. Namaste!
Pigeon is a great way to stretch the outside of the hip. However, traditional pigeon pose on the mat puts a lot of your body weight on your hip and knee. It can be hard to get into the pose if you’re not very flexible and challenging to stay there because of discomfort for a variety of anatomical reasons.
Chair pigeon provides an excellent alternative.
Popular activities like yoga, running and cycling really challenge our glutes, and that’s great, but we don’t always take the time to stretch them. Stretching using poses like pigeon and reclined twisting can really help us ensure this vital part of our bodies stays flexible and mobile – as well as strong. Plus, my students with hip replacements tell me that chair pigeon helps them stretch areas that are often tight and uncomfortable.
To set up:
1. Start in mountain pose at the chair. Come toward the edge of your seat so that your feet are making good contact with the floor, but you still feel supported by the chair under your sitz bones. Extend the spine.
2. Bend and stack the right leg. Lift the right leg and rotate the foot so that the right ankle bone rests on top of your left thigh. Keep your right foot flexed throughout the pose.
3. Bring movement to the hip socket. If you have had little or no movement in your hip joint so far during your practice today, go ahead and warm it up a bit. I like to do this by placing my right hand on my knee and my left hand on my foot. Then I “rock the baby,” by lifting my foot a little off the thigh and rocking the leg back and forth or in circles. You can extend your left leg a little if it gets in the way. This gentle motion activates the synovial fluid in your hip joint. Perform this move for 5-10 breaths.
4. Move into the stretch. Place the right ankle back on the left thigh and then decide if you need more or less sensation in your stretch, which you should feel on the outside of your right hip. If you need to back off, do so by extending the left leg. If you need more, lengthen through your spine and then hinge at the hips to fold forward with the chest lifted. You’re brining your belly toward your thigh more so than rounding the nose toward knee. Stop when you feel good stretch sensation. Hold for 5-10 breaths, moving a little deeper if you lose the stretch sensation.