Chair Yoga Exercises to Improve Strength and Flexibility

Chair yoga exercises are one of the big new crazes sweeping the world - but exactly what is chair yoga? It's simply the practice of adapting yoga techniques and applying them to sitting in a chair. Most yoga is done standing or lying on the floor.

While a full yoga session can hold many benefits both for you body and sense of inner peace, it can be too strenuous for someone with a bad back. On top of that, we don't all have a spare hour or two to spend at a yoga class. That's where chair yoga exercises can really come in handy, giving you a low-intensity yoga option which can be done comfortably in your own home, any time you like.

Breathing for Yoga

Chair yoga exercises

Before we get into exercises themselves, it's important to get familiar with the correct breathing pattern for chair exercise yoga. Following the right style and pattern of breathing is an important part of getting the more out of yoga.

When performing these exercises, aim to breathe in as deeply as possible. Try to breathe in using your diaphragm - the sheet of muscle under your rib cage. This can feel a little strange at first, but one you have some practice expanding and contracting the diaphragm it will become second nature.

Breathing should be slow and rhythmic. Try to breathe in and out through the nose - if these is too difficult, breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth.

Now let's get into some good chair yoga exercises to get you started.

The Forward Stretch

This chair yoga exercise is simply a 'leaning forward' pose that will help you stretch out the muscles in your back and neck.

Breathe deeply and sit up straight on your yoga chair, with your back straight.

As you exhale slowly bend forward, letting your arms hang limp. Allow your spine to curve naturally forward and let your head hang.

Relax your neck. Don't push this any further than what feels comfortable for you.

You should feel the force of gravity pulls on your arms, allow the muscles between your shoulder blades to release and stretch.

As you slowly breathe in again, start to pull back up to a sitting position, rolling up your spine so that your head is the last thing to come upright.


Twisting helps relieve tension on the spine as well as having benefits for encouraging digestive processes.

For this move, sit up straight. You should be gently engaging your abdominals to hold your body upright.

As you exhale, slowly twist your upper body to the left. Keep your hips straight, but rotate your head and shoulders towards the left. Hook your left arm over the back of your chair and use your right arm to steady yourself.

Hold the pose for one in-breath, then return to center as you breathe out. Repeat the move in the opposite direction, turning towards the right.

Mountain Pose

In traditional yoga, the mountain pose is a 'grounding pose' which engages your entire body, with a particular focuses on good posture and keeping your core strong. Likewise, in chair yoga, this pose will help you develop the small but important muscles in your core and abdominals which help keep you balanced and give you an upright and aligned posture, which reduces strain on your back and neck.

Mountain pose involves no movement. Let your arms fall to your sides (this is best done in a chair with no arm rests). Your arms should be held firm at your sides, not dangling.

Engage your abdominals to hold yourself up straight. Breathe in and out slowly and steadily as you do this.

Pull your breastbone up towards the roof while keeping your back nice and straight. Don't allow too much of an arch to form in your back.

Your shoulders should sit back but be relaxed. Don't hunch forward. Allow the chest to open out as you breathe deeply.

Tilt your chin downward slightly so the back of your head move up, allowing your spine to align from the tailbone to the top of your skull.

Resting Pose

If you've ever been to a yoga class you'll know there's usually a resting pose as the end where you lay on the floor for five or ten minutes, breathing deeply and not moving at all. It's good to include a restoration pose in your chair yoga workout as well – this will both relieve tension in your neck and back and help you feel more peaceful and calm for the rest of the day.

To rest and restore, simply lean forward again your desk. Allow your arms to lie relaxed and rest your head against the desk, letting all the tension release from your body. Continue to breathe slowly and deeply as you do this.

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