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Use chair yoga to gain strength and mobility

There are times throughout our lives when we are sidelined by injury, disease or other conditions that prevent us from moving the way we're accustomed to. Or perhaps you work behind a desk or are a frequent traveler and need relief from rigid or tensed posture.

Turn your chair into a tool so you can begin to rehabilitate, increase activity or reduce tension. The simple practices described here, adapted from traditional yoga postures, will get you started on regaining agility and strength. And look for chair yoga classes at your local studio — they offer an ideal transition back to full mobility, or a great alternative when getting on the floor isn't practical.

Initial relaxation

• Sit comfortably, neither slumping nor holding yourself too rigidly.

• Keep your feet on the floor and reach the crown of the head toward the ceiling.

• Roll the shoulders back and down away from the ears, opening your heart. Feel your hips and pelvis evenly aligned, allowing the low back to rest in its natural arch.

• Rest your hands on your thighs and take a few deep breaths. Mentally scan the body for any tension, doing your best to release it. Check in with your shoulders, hips and legs, breathing into each area to allow rigidity to loosen.

Seated Pigeon pose

This pose opens up the hips, a place we tend to store emotional and physical tension.

• Sit upright, both feet on the floor. Bend the left knee at a right angle, bringing the left ankle to rest slightly above the right knee

• Hold the left knee and ankle steady with your hands.

• Lean forward with your back flat, feeling a gentle stretch in the left hip.

• Hold for 4 or 5 breaths, then repeat on the other side.

Seated Twist

This pose keeps the spine supple and pliable. It also aids digestion.

• Sit at a midway point between the front and back of the chair.

• Keep the spine tall by reaching the crown of the head toward the ceiling; hold the shoulders even with each other.

• Stretch your arms up until they are next to your ears.

• Twisting from the navel, turn your body to the right as far as you can go comfortably. Let the twist progress up to the chest, shoulders and then very gently turn your head to the right.

• Bring arms down, resting hands on the right leg, or if your back is strong and you can go farther, drape your right arm over the back of the chair.

• Hold for 4 or 5 breaths, then slowly untwist and repeat on other side.

Caution: Pregnant women and those with osteoporosis or serious disc or back injury should avoid twisting the spine.

Supported Tree pose

This pose builds strength, improves focus and restores physical and mental balance.

• Stand with the back of the chair at the left hip. Hold the chair with the left hand or prop the hip against the chair.

• Keeping the spine tall, settle the weight into the left leg and evenly across the left foot, spreading the toes.

• Lift the right leg off the floor, gently placing the right heel against the left ankle.

• Open the right knee away from the left leg.

• Lift the heart slightly, gently tucking the tailbone under to avoid over-arching the back.

• If you feel steady enough to let go of the chair, bring the hands together in front of the heart or raise the arms overhead.

• Hold for 4 or 5 breaths, then repeat on other side.

Note: As strength builds, lift the foot higher on the opposite leg, eventually placing the sole of the foot against the upper thigh. But never place the foot directly against the inside of the knee; this can injure the joint.

Diana Reed is a yoga teacher and writer who is co-owner of Gaya Jyoti Yoga in Hernando County. She can be reached at or (352) 610-1083.

Use chair yoga to gain strength and mobility 07/01/11 [Last modified: Friday, July 1, 2011 4:30am]
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