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Even if you failed yoga for beginners and power yoga is out of the question, seated yoga can allow you to do yoga poses that do your body a lot more good than simply stretching.

So how do you do seated yoga? There are many different approaches, but these eight exercises are accessible to just about everyone. These simplified exercises are most easily done from a chair, not on a bench or on your bed.

1. Seated neck rolls 

Sit comfortably in your chair, back straight, feet against the floor. Place your hands on your thighs. Raise your head until you can gaze at he ceiling. Next bend your neck to the left, as if you were trying to touch your left shoulder with your left ear. Move your head back to the straight-forward position and bow, touching your chin to your chest. Then raise it so you can look ahead and in a slow, gentle motion. Next roll you head to the right as if you were going to touch your right shoulder with your right ear. Finally move your head back to the straight-forward position and raise your head so you can look at the ceiling. Repeat this exercise two to five times, but only as long as you are comfortable. Don't do this exercise if you have had neck injuries or neck pain unless your doctor approves. For this and all following exercises, stop any time you feel discomfort.

2. Seated mountain pose 

This is the pose that many yoga instructors use to start a class in other forms of yoga. Keeping your feet comfortably flat on the floor and your back straight against the back of your chair, raise your head and raise both arms above your head, pointing the palms of your hands toward each other. If you feel your shoulders rising up toward your ears, relax them. Keep your stomach as flat as you can. Hold your hands over your head for five breaths. Then lower your hands back to your lap. Repeat two to five times. 

3. Seated eagle arms

This exercise stretches the area between the shoulder blades and the wrists. Start by sitting up straight in a chair. Roll your shoulder blades up and down, keeping your arms relaxed at your sides. Extend your arms out in front of you at 90-degree angles, holding your hands so your palms face each other. Then rest your right arm on the crease of your left arm. Continue sitting up straight and inhale. Then exhale as you touch your chest with your chin as you count five breaths. Raise your head, switch arms, and repeat two to five times.

4. Seated forward bend

While staying seated, reach over and touch your toes, or get as close to your toes as you can comfortably. It helps to exhale as you are bending forward and inhale as you come back to the seated position. This exercise stretches your spine and strengthens your hamstrings. Repeat two to five times. Avoid it if you have a detached retina or glaucoma.

5 and 6. Seated cow, arching cat 

This exercise increases spinal flexibility. Relax your arms and shoulders at your side and let your head gently fall forward, while your shoulder blades roll outward (cow). Then raise your head, arch your back, and move your shoulder blades inward (cat). Hold to a count of five and relax, repeating two to five times as you are comfortable.

7. Standing forward bend

Stand arm distance away from the back of a chair, far enough that when you bend forward to touch the back of the chair, you entire back and arms are straight, parallel with the floor. Exhale as you lean forward to touch the chair, and inhale as you return to your upright position. Repeat once.

8. Seated forward bend

Sit on the floor in front of a chair, placing your legs together underneath the chair. Bend forward to touch the chair with your fingertips, allowing your head to drop gently between your arms. Hold for five to ten breaths, and gently raise your head and then get up off the floor, propping yourself up against the chair if needed.

These eight exercises together strengthen muscles from head to toe, without risk of falling during your session. Do these exercises anytime you feel the need to stretch. Proceed only after discussion with your doctor if you have had recent spine or eye surgery.

  • Edeltraud Rohnfeld and Anne Oppenheimer. Chair Yoga: Seated Exercises for Health and Wellbeing. Singing Dragon
  • 1 edition (September 15, 2011).
  • Melville GW, Chang D, Colagiuri B, Marshall PW, Cheema BS. Fifteen minutes of chair-based yoga postures or guided meditation performed in the office can elicit a relaxation response. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012.2012:501986. doi: 10.1155/2012/501986. Epub 2012 Jan 16.
  • PMID: 2229184
  • Photo courtesy of hernanpc: www.flickr.com/photos/hernanpc/8024393669/
  • Photo courtesy of freepik.com

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