Silly me. I thought chair pose – you know, the one that makes your thighs burn like a hot stove – would be a breeze starting from a chair.
Wrong. This was my first sign that chair yoga isn’t your grandmother’s yoga. Just because you’re not getting up and down in rapid succession from the mat doesn’t mean you’re not getting a good workout.
When you feel yourself pushing your edge, feeling the burn, and beginning to break a sweat, you know chair yoga is working.
Yoga can be intimidating to people with health, mobility, balance or weight issues. But chair yoga often eliminates that problem. All the same poses that originated on the mat, including sun salutations, downward facing dog, eagle pose, – even savasana, have been modified to work with the support of the chair.
Essentially, the chair replaces the mat. Yes, it’s brilliant. It’s not only a great way to work out your entire body, and promote strength, flexibility and balance, it also incorporates the breathing and mind-body benefits of a traditional mat-based class.
Chair yoga also works well at the office, or on a long airplane trip, as it helps you relieve tension without leaving your chair.
“It’s beneficial for all levels, from beginners to advanced yogis,” said Elizabeth, who instructs the chair yoga class at Soluna Yoga + Spa.
So I tried it out. We warmed up, did chair salutations to work our shoulders and back, and twists to energize the spine and work out the abdominal organs. We worked our quads, lifting up into chair pose, which also strengthens the ankles, thighs, calves, and spine. Later, we incorporated the strap to work out our hips, calves and feet.
“It really makes you mindful of the movements and the muscles,” Elizabeth said, noting we get up and down from chairs all day long without thinking about it. “These are tiny movements, but they really work deep.”
Just ask Jean. A regular at Soluna’s chair yoga class, she accomplishes the same workout despite having had a hip replacement and half of her lung removed. She says the breathing techniques and poses are increasing her lung capacity and building muscles that protect her bones.
“This is wonderful,” Jean said, noting she started with mat yoga but found it a little beyond her skill level. “That would take me a whole lot longer than doing it this this way. I think eventually I’ll be able to do the floor poses.”
For yoga beginners and people seeking a gentler yoga practice, chair yoga will get your blood pumping and make you want to come back for more. I’m heading there now.