Chair yoga is a simple and effective way to add physical activity to your day. You can do it anywhere — as long as you have a chair!

In the video below, learn easy natural movements joined to breath to create a simultaneous sense of rejuvenation and relaxation.

Watch the video below or read the transcript that follows. Watch more physical activity videos at this link. Or, read this article on chair yoga.

About the Instructor: Lisa Emerson, RN, certified yoga instructor and nurse at the University of Vermont Medical Center. 

Hi. I’m Lisa Emerson, and I’m the nurse manager of the inpatient pediatric unit here at [inaudible 00:00:06] Medical Center. I’m also a 200-hour certified yoga teacher, and I’ve been doing yoga for about 20 years. It started as sort of a little hobby, and then I became really passionate about it and decided that I wanted to become a yoga teacher, and then in the past couple of years, I actually injured my back and haven’t been able to practice yoga much, so I’ve been looking at different ways that I can practice that aren’t necessarily on the mat in a studio.

Chair yoga is one way to do that, and so I was asked to participate in the One Small Thing campaign and lead a chair yoga practice for whoever is interested in to join me in. Hopefully, you’ll find this interesting and accessible to you. There are plenty of modifications always, and I’ll try to point out the modifications as we go, and it’s really just a simple way to, during your workday, or even at home if you’re on the couch, to find a nice way to stretch your body to distress and to find some relaxation and some presence in the moment.

One nice thing about yoga is there’s a really great focus on the breath, and if you’re focused on your breath, it sort of creates an in the moment time for you. There’s that whole mindfulness piece of it as well.

As we’re doing the different asanas, I’m going to be guiding you in breath as well, so with each move, there’s going to be instruction on inhaling and/or exhaling, and it shouldn’t hurt, so if you find it uncomfortable at all, you should stop, but I think that these moves are going to be nice and relaxing for you.

Since we’re focusing on stress relief and relaxation, we’re just going to begin with focusing on the breath, so find a comfortable seat, making sure that your feet are both planted flat on the ground, just to ground yourself and to find the stability. Your shoulders are back, and your spine is straight, and if you’re comfortable, you can close your eyes, and we’re just going to take a moment to connect with your breath, so notice the touch of your body on your seat, and then notice your breath and where you feel your breath the most as you’re inhaling.

If you’re feeling it in your nose or in your throat, and then notice what it feels like as you exhale, and then keeping your breath nice and slow, we’ll just sit for a moment and breathe. And when you’re ready, notice the touch of your body on your seat, and you can open your eyes if they were closed.

We’re going to start out with a seated cat-cow, so from your position where you are right now with your shoulders back, as you inhale, move your shoulders further back and look up to the sky, exhaling, bow your shoulders forward, and tuck your chin and almost lean right back into the back of your seat.

Inhaling, bring your shoulders up and back, eyes to the ceiling, and exhaling, tucking your chin as a cat. We’re going to do this three more times. Inhale, eyes gaze to the ceiling, and you can bring a little bit more of an arch in your back if that’s comfortable for you, and then exhale, chin to chest, and bring your spine right to the back of your seat.

Inhale gazing up, exhale gazing down. Inhale gazing up, exhale gazing down. Then come back to your regular seat, and you may have felt the stretch in your lower back and probably in your neck as you looked up at the ceiling and then down at the ground. That’s really just a nice neck stretch, especially if you’re sitting in front of a computer or at a desk a lot during the day.

Next we’re going to do a spinal twist, and then this can be done in a couple of ways. If you’re in a seat without arm rests, you can turn the seat to the side and sit with your left arm over the top of the seat. And then if you do have arm rests, then you can just use the arm rest to enhance your twist. We’re going to do five twists on each side, and so, once again, focusing on the inhale and exhale and twist to your list, and you can use the back of the seat to enhance that twist, and staying right here for five breaths, inhaling, kind of release a little bit. Exhale and really move into the twist. Inhale, release. Exhale, twist. Inhale, release. Exhale, twist. And then you can release, and we’ll move to the other side, so you can either move the back of your seat to the right side, or you can focus on using the arm rest on you right.

Once again, inhaling, exhale and twist to the right, and then inhale and release a little bit and exhale, go a little deeper into your twist. Inhale, release. Exhale, twist. Inhale, release. Exhale, twist. Inhale, release. Exhale, twist one more time, and then you can release the twist.

And that, I find is a really nice stretch for my side body and a little bit actually on my upper rib cage as well. Oops. Got to keep my feet flat.

The next move we’re going to do is called a half sun salutation, and so that’s really … We’re going to inhale and move our arms overhead, and then exhale and fold forward at the hips. And then coming back up to seat, inhale, arms overhead, and exhale, forward fold. Inhale, arms over head, and see if you can really reach your arms up to the ceiling and try to keep your shoulders nice and low, and exhale, forward fold. Inhale, exhale. Inhale one more time, stretching really toward the ceiling, and then exhale, hinging from the hips.

And sometimes just moving your arms up over your head helps to stretch the shoulders, and you can feel the stretch in your lower back as you’re hinging forward.

Next we’re going to do something that crescent. So once again, making sure your feet are nice and flat on the floor, your back is straight. Inhaling, we’re going to move our arms overhead, and then holding our hands together, clasping and then maybe pointing that pointer finger straight up. We’re going to lean, exhaling, to the left. Inhale, up. Exhale to the right. I’ve got the sides mixed up, sorry. This is the left. And inhale up, really reaching your arms up. Exhale to the right. Inhale up. Exhale to the left, really stretching that side body. Inhale up. And this time, we’re going to exhale to the left, and we’re going to hold it for three counts. Inhale, exhale. There’s one. Inhale, exhale. Two. Inhale, exhale, three. Then inhale, straight, really bringing your hands towards the ceiling again, and then we’re going to go to the left. Exhaling, inhaling. Exhale, one. Inhale. Exhale, two. Inhale. Exhale, three. Then inhale straight up, and you can bring your hands down to your lap. So that’s also a nice side body stretch.

We’re going to next do something called the eagle, and this is a really nice stretch for the shoulders, and some people have a hard time twisting their arms like this, so we’ll show you a modification if this is difficult for you, but we’re going to put our left hand forward, and we’re going to take our right hand, bring it underneath, and then back over, bringing your elbows up and sort of your hands in toward your body. We’re going to hold this for three breaths, and if this is difficult, you can also just do this. Just inhaling, exhale, one. Inhale. Exhale, two. Inhale. Exhale, three, and then release. You’ve always got to do the other side, so put your right arm forward, and bring your left arm under, wrapping it around Lift your elbows and bring your hands up, and one again, another option is just holding your arms like this. Inhale, and exhale, one. Inhale. Exhale, two. Inhale, and exhale three. Then you can release.

And then, the final move we’re going to do is really just kind of a wrist stretch. A lot of people who are sitting at their desk on a computer really … They sometimes get like tennis elbow or also golfer’s elbow, so there’s a lot of tightness in the arms, and some this stretch is sort of just putting your hand out with your thumb facing downward and letting your elbow be loose, and just pulling gently back on your wrist.

And we’re going to count to five with this. Five breaths. There’s one. Two. Three. Four, and five. And then the other side, so you want to make sure your thumb is down, and your elbow is slightly bent, and then taking your left hand and pulling your wrist back gently for one, two, three, four, and five.

That’s it, and generally, at the end of a yoga practice, we do Shavasina which is also known as corpse pose], and it’s generally done laying flat on your back, but we’re just going to take a minute, once again, to connect to your breath, close your eyes, and just breath and relax for just a minute, and just sort of feel the effects of this chair yoga practice on your body.

So you can close your eyes and just breathe. Just your normal breath, noticing the way your body feels, noticing your breathing. You can even count your breaths if that’s more comfortable for you. And sometimes in yoga, we can lay in Shavasina for ten minute, and that’s the best part of the practice, or a minute, sometime is enough, so if you’re ready, you can open your eyes, and have a great day. Thank you so much for joining.

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