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What is Chair Yoga? Consider These Benefits and Poses

What is Chair Yoga? Consider These Benefits and Poses

Reading Time: 5 minutes


DATE: 2024-05-20

Yoga truly is for everyone. Poses can be adapted for just about every ability level. No one should avoid yoga because of limitations. Everyone should be able to use this practice to get its many benefits. 

One example of adapting yoga for limitations is chair yoga, designed for people who want to do yoga but cannot do poses on a mat. Some people practice chair yoga through in-person classes, online, or with the assistance of a physical therapist. 

About Chair Yoga

Chair yoga is an adapted type of yoga practice. It uses a chair and allows the practitioner to stay seated while doing poses or practicing meditation and breathing exercises. The chair makes difficult poses easier and more accessible by providing stability and support. 

Anyone who wants to do yoga but has physical limitations or lacks adequate mobility can typically do chair yoga. Many poses from standard yoga practice can be adapted to a chair. The movements done in chair yoga include stretching, moving, and holding poses while seated. The chair can also serve as a balance aid for standing poses. 

Who Can Benefit from Chair Yoga? 

Most people can do chair yoga, even those with significant physical limitations. It’s popular with older adults with mobility issues, but many more people can benefit: 

  • People at any age with mobility issues and other physical limitations that prevent them from doing full mat poses

  • People with balance issues

  • Anyone recovering from an injury or surgery with temporary limitations

  • Physical therapy patients who need support for stretching and building strength

  • Anyone who wants to ease into yoga safely and with additional support before trying standing poses

  • Anyone who sits all day for work and wants to use chair poses for breaks throughout the day

What Are the Benefits of Chair Yoga? 

It’s easy to assume that sitting while doing poses can’t bring all the benefits of traditional yoga practice. This isn’t true, though. Chair yoga provides many benefits to people of all ability levels.

Build Strength and Stability

As with traditional yoga poses, chair poses can help practitioners build strength. Stronger muscles, especially in the core, also boost stability and balance. These benefits are particularly useful for older adults. They help reduce the risk of falls and counteract the natural loss of muscle mass that occurs with aging. 

Improve Flexibility

Yoga is also great for improving flexibility in muscles, connective tissue, and joints. Even in a chair, yoga poses require stretching, twisting, and movements that improve range of motion and flexibility. For older adults in particular, this is important for improving overall mobility. 

Learn more about using yoga to improve flexibility and range of motion

Manage Chronic Pain

A study of older adults with arthritis found that eight weeks of chair yoga helped reduce pain. The effect persisted even a few months after the conclusion of the exercise program. Yoga movements directly reduce pain, but other aspects of the practice are good for chronic pain management. These include meditation and focused breathing. (1)

Mental Health Benefits

Yoga in any form has numerous benefits for mental health. It is a mindful practice that can reduce stress and anxiety. It may even alleviate some of the symptoms of depression. Yoga can also improve sleep, which in turn benefits mental health. 

These yoga poses will ground you and help you manage stress

How to Get Started with Chair Yoga

Many older adults and others with physical limitations believe they are too impaired or that it’s too late to try yoga and benefit from the practice. Chair yoga makes it possible to begin a practice no matter your limitations or age. 

First, start by talking to your doctor. It’s important to do this before trying any new type of exercise or physical activity. Your doctor can tell you if a new exercise is appropriate for you and any precautions you should take. 

If you get the go ahead to begin chair yoga, you have a few options. The safest and best is to take a class with a trained and certified instructor. They should have experience working with older adults or students with mobility issues. You can also try an online class or a video that goes through chair poses step by step. 

Basic Chair Poses to Try

Start with some of these simple chair yoga poses to get a feel for the practice and to decide if you want to continue with more challenging poses or classes. Use a sturdy chair with a back but without arms. 

Raised Hands Pose

This is a simple pose to begin with and to use to elongate and stretch the spine. Sit in a chair with a straight back, feet flat on the floor and about hip-width apart. Inhale while raising both arms up toward the ceiling. Elongate the spine as you do this but keep it neutral and not arched. Shoulders should be relaxed. Exhale while lowering the arms down. 

Cat-Cow Pose

Cat-cow stretches the back and strengthens the spine. Sitting in the chair with your feet on the floor and back straight, place your hands on your knees or thighs. Inhale, arch the back and roll the shoulders down (cow). Exhale and round your spine and shoulders while dropping your chin toward your chest (cat). 

Forward Bend

Forward bend in a chair is a restorative pose that can relieve pain in the hips, neck, and shoulders. While inhaling, bend forward over the legs. Press the palms into the floor if you can reach that far. Let the head and neck relax and hang over the feet. 

Pigeon Pose

This is a great seated stretch for the hips and glutes. While sitting, bring your right foot up and rest the ankle on your left thigh. Deepen the stretch by bending forward. Repeat with the left foot on the right leg. 

Extended Side Angle

Strengthen the back, neck and shoulders while stretching the chest and hips with this pose. Start in the seated forward bend position. Extend your left arm down toward your left foot, letting your fingertips touch the floor on the outside of the foot. You can use a block here if your fingers don’t reach the floor. 

Twist your chest to the right as you inhale and raise the right arm up. Extend your fingertips toward the ceiling and gaze up along the right arm. Bring the right arm down as you exhale and repeat on the other side. 

Warrior I

Warrior I in a chair provides a stretch of the hips, chest and back, while strengthening the legs, shoulders, glutes, and core. Sit sideways on your chair with your left leg toward the front edge of the chair.

Gently swing the left leg to the other side of the chair behind you. Fully extend the left leg and place your left foot on the floor. Inhale and reach your arms over your head. Hold the pose for a few breaths. Repeat on the other side. 

Advance Your Yoga Training

These poses move from easiest and most basic to more challenging and are just a few examples of what you can do with chair yoga. For the best experience, take a chair yoga class with an experienced and certified instructor. 

Have you thought about becoming a yoga teacher? It can be so rewarding to work with clients and students of all ability levels. The ISSA’s Yoga Alliance-approved 200-hour teacher training program is a great way to get started on this exciting career change. 

Featured Course

Yoga | Yoga 200 Product Page


  1. Park, J., McCaffrey, R., Newman, D. H., Liehr, P., & Ouslander, J. G. (2016). A pilot randomized controlled trial of the effects of chair yoga on pain and physical function among Community-Dwelling older adults with lower extremity osteoarthritis. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 65(3), 592–597. https://doi.org/10.1111/jgs.14717

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