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Seated Chair Yoga for all Levels and Abilities

Adaptive Chair Yoga is designed for all bodies and abilities.

Prolonged sitting can lead to muscle tightness, imbalance and poor circulation. If you sit for long periods of time for work, school, teaching, or learning, there’s no need to be discouraged. Simply take a quick break for deep breathing and strategic movement. These ten simple and effective poses for the upper and lower body can get your muscles and joints moving and loosened up within minutes.

Level: All levels and abilities.

Props: A sturdy chair without arms, a clear floor or mat, comfortable shoes or gripped socks.

Adina Crawford in seated mountain pose

Seated Mountain Pose

This pose stretches your shoulders, hips and spine. Paired with deep breathing it can help to calm your mind amidst a busy day. Hold the posture for 30 seconds to one minute.

How to do it:

  • To start, press your back against the back of your chair.
  • Elongate your neck and lengthen your spine.
  • Plant your feet into the floor.
  • Bring your ankles under your knees to form a 90-degree angle.
  • Place your hands on your kneecaps.
  • Squeeze your thighs together.
  • Breathe deeply and close your eyes for further relaxation.
Adina Crawford demonstrates seated neck stretch

Seated Neck Stretch

The seated neck stretch reduces stress by gently stretching your spine and releasing tension in your neck. Hold each side for 30 seconds to one minute.

How to do it:

  • Align your back with the back of the chair.
  • Lengthen your spine.
  • Plant your feet firmly on the floor.
  • Roll your shoulders down and back.
  • Keep your neck and shoulders neutral.
  • Engage the abdominal muscles.
  • Release your left arm to your side with fingertips pointing toward the floor.
  • Drape the right fingertips over to the left ear.
  • Bring your right ear toward your right shoulder.
  • Inhale and exhale to provide a deeper opening of the side of the neck.
  • Feel a gentle neck release.
  • Release the draped fingers, bring your head and neck back to neutral.
  • Switch sides.

Modification: Place each hand on the thighs and proceed with neck stretch.

Adina Crawford demonstrates seated cactus arms

Seated Cactus Arms

This pose strengthens your upper back and shoulders. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute. For a deeper opening of the shoulders and chest, release your arms down and repeat.

How to do it:

  • Sit up straight, extending your spine along the back of your chair.
  • Engage your core.
  • Plant your feet firmly on the floor.
  • Bring the hands up bending the elbows.
  • Bring the shoulders back.
  • Bring the elbows down to a 90-degree angle (like two bookends).
  • Lift your chest.
  • Focus your eyes forward.
Adina Crawford demonstrates seated head cradle

Head Cradle

This pose relieves tension in the head, neck, back and shoulders. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat the pose for a deeper opening of the shoulders and chest.

How to do it:

  • Extend the spine to the back of the chair.
  • Press the feet firmly on the floor.
  • Tuck the chin slightly.
  • Squeeze the thighs together.
  • Bring the arms up, bending the elbows.
  • Interlace the hands behind the head.
  • Let the thumbs press into the base of the head.
  • Gently pull the length of the back toward the neck.
  • Focus your eyes forward.


    Adina Crawford demonstrates seated wrist stretch

    Wrist Stretch

    This pose improves the flow of blood to the hands to warm the muscles and increase wrist mobility. Hold for 20 seconds and release. Repeat two more times.

    How to do it:

    • Press the back into the back of the chair.
    • Lengthen through the spine.
    • Relax the shoulders.
    • Draw the shoulders back.
    • Send the fingertips forward.
    • Lift through the chest.
    • Turn the hands down.
    • Bring your eye focus forward.
    • With each inhale and exhale feel the wrists softening.
    Adina Crawford demonstrates seated side stretch

    Seated Side Twist

    This pose opens your hips, improves posture and stretches the neck and upper back. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

    How to do it:

    • Lift through your spine.
    • Draw your shoulders down and back.
    • Firmly planted your feet on the floor.
    • Align the hips.
    • Place the knees together.
    • Turn your face toward the back of the chair.
    • Place your left hand on your right knee.
    • Inhale to lift and lengthen the spine.
    • Exhale as you twist.
    Adina Crawford demonstrates seated side angle

    Extended Side Angle

    This pose opens the chest, stretches the hips, legs, and thighs. It strengthens the glute muscles and opens up the side body. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute, then switch sides.

    How to do it:

    • Open the legs wide with your feet planted on the floor.
    • Root through the chest.
    • Stretch your left arm sideways toward your left leg.
    • Bring the left elbow and fingers towards the inside of the left leg.
    • Bring the left hand to the ankle, or foot.
    • Rotate the chest upwards.
    • Raise the right arm up extending as high as your body will allow.
    • Bring the eyes upwards towards the extended arm.
    • Breath in to extend and lengthen and exhale to release.
    Adina Crawford demonstrates seated leg lift

    Seated Leg Lift

    This pose strengthens your shoulders and quads. It reduces stress on the knees. Hold for 30 seconds.

    How to do it:

    • Sit straight in the chair.
    • Lengthen the back.
    • Engage the core.
    • Place both feet on the floor.
    • Engage the quadriceps.
    • Extend the right leg.
    • Extend the left leg.
    • Shoulders down and back.
    • Extend both arms out in front of you.
    • Face your palms and fingertips downward.

    Modification: hold the sides of the chair and lift one leg and arm at a time

    Adina Crawford demonstrates seated wide legged stretch

    Seated Wide-legged Stretch

    This pose opens your hips and the back of your body. It strengthens your spine and stretches your inner thighs. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat for a deeper stretch.

    Steps:

    • Sit straight in the chair.
    • Lengthen your back.
    • Engage your core.
    • Place both feet on the floor.
    • Engage your quadriceps and core.
    • Extend your right leg.
    • Extend your left leg.
    • Bring both legs out to a V shape.
    • Flex your feet and plant your heels on the floor.
    Adina Crawford demonstrates seated  figure 4

    Seated Figure Four

    This pose stretches your inner thighs, opens your hips and strengthens the spine. Hold for 30 seconds and then switch sides.

    How to do it:

    • Sit straight in the chair.
    • Lengthen your back.
    • Keep your spine neutral.
    • Plant both feet firmly on the floor.
    • Engage your core.
    • Cross the right leg above the left knee.
    • Flex your right foot.
    • Bend the chest forward slightly.

    By Adina Crawford. Adina loves running, cycling, swimming and, most of all, yoga. She is certified to teach many forms of yoga and specializes in Sculpt, Vinyasa and Restorative. You can also find her teaching classes on mindfulness, HIIT, strength and agility.

    All photos courtesy of Mark Williford.

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