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!