chair yoga for older people (1)
lifestyle

Chair yoga for seniors: How to Get Started

9 minute read

Chair yoga for seniors is super easy to do – you only need a chair, a small amount of space and a few minutes each day.

There are many ways you can start practising yoga at a level that is more suitable for your body’s needs and your own goals. And you still get all the fabulous health benefits.

This blog will introduce you to chair yoga, which is practiced using a chair for support.

  • Chair yoga is an ideal exercise for anyone with reduced mobility, strength or even those lacking confidence.
  • This gentle form of yoga is centred around using a chair for support in sitting and standing poses.
  • There are lots of reasons why seniors should practice chair yoga. As a form of exercise, chair yoga can boost mental and physical wellness. I can also be done at home, even with limited space.
  • Find different poses to stretch, strengthen and balance your body with a new routine of chair yoga. All you need is a chair!
can seniors do chair yoga (1)

What is chair yoga?

If you are someone with reduced mobility, strength or confidence, chair yoga for seniors is a wonderful way to practice a more gentle form of yoga to suit your needs. 

Using a chair for extra support, balance or seated poses allows you to practice yoga at your own pace and gradually build strength and confidence. 

Chair yoga for seniors is a spin-off of traditional yoga that has been developed by and for people who may not have the capacity to bend and stretch like the younger ones do.

Benefits of chair yoga

Using the chair allows you to keep some height and practice moving your body in a new way. 

It is a great option for anyone with mobility issues such as arthritis or reduced muscular strength.

Using a chair doesn’t require you to hold your own body weight in the way that traditional yoga does. 

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Why should seniors practice chair yoga?

For many of us, the word yoga conjures images of sleek and muscular bodies balancing on mountain tops.

In other words, yoga has always looked and sounded like something out of our reach. 

We want to assure you that these images are not the norm. It takes a hell of a lot of strength, training and perseverance to reach those yoga goals.

It’s great for physical and mental health.

Yoga is a gentle way to stimulate the body that includes building strength, stretching and improving flexibility. Though yoga is often slow, finding those poses, holding your weight and working the muscles are a great way to get your heart pumping without the need to go for a run. 

It’s space savvy- you don’t need much! 

Even if you don’t have loads of space at home, you can still practice yoga – especially chair yoga. You just need enough room to stretch out in front and on either side without touching anything around you. If this space is calming and quiet then that’s a bonus! 

You can do chair yoga at home.

In this ever-changing world, especially at the time of covid restrictions and worries, many people are searching for ways to exercise from the comfort of their own home. Chair yoga is one of the many exercise foundations you can do at home. All you need is a chair and some space to move. You can practice the individual poses and stretches that we’ll cover in the next section, or follow a video on Youtube like this one by Yoga with Adriene. 

You can choose your own pace or practice.

Unlike attending a class, practicing chair yoga at home allows you to go at a speed that you feel comfortable with. Additionally, you can tailor your practice to a certain sequence of moves or to focus on one element such as building core strength. 

It’s free!

With the help of this blog or by watching videos online, you can learn and practice chair yoga without paying a penny. 

cat cow chair yoga

Chair yoga poses for beginners

Cat and cow

Start position: Sitting up tall on a chair with your back straight and your hips level and arms relaxed and resting on your legs.

Movement: Slowly push your chest forwards while keeping your shoulders down. Raise your chin and let your head go back as far as is comfortable. In this cat pose, you are opening the chest to feel a nice stretch in the front body and neck. To reverse this for cow pose, slowly round your back, curling your shoulders forward and tucking your chin towards your chest. 

Breathing: Take a deep breath in for cat pose and breathe out for cow. Move through the sequence 3-5 times. 

Seated twist chair yoga

Seated twist

Start position: Sitting up tall on a chair with your back straight and your hips level, arms relaxed. Facing forward. 

Movement: From a neutral position, twist to the right bringing your right arm to the back of the chair and your left arm onto your right thigh. Keep your left shoulder relaxed and feel the stretch in your back and across your left shoulder. Repeat on the left side. 

Breathing: Hold for 10 seconds, or as long as you feel comfortable and breathe normally throughout. Here you can practice some deeper breathing by inhaling and holding for one count before exhaling.

benefits of chair yoga

Raised hands

Start position: Sitting up tall on a chair with your back straight and your hips level, arms relaxed. Facing forward. 

Movement: Slowly bring your arms up your body and up over your head. Maintain a straight posture and really sit into your seat bones. Draw your tummy in and keep your shoulders down (not hunched up!). Feel that nice upper body stretch. 

Breathing: Practice some deeper breathing by inhaling and holding for one count before exhaling. 

 

aged and chair yoga

Forward bend

Start position: Sitting up tall on a chair with your back straight and your hips level, place hands on hips. Facing forward. 

Movement: Keeping a straight back, slowly lean forward over your legs by moving from the hips. Keep your neck long. You can also adapt this stretch into a side angle pose by staying in forward position and reaching your left hand down to the floor. Twist to the right side and lift your right arm up for a nice open stretch. Return to the neutral forward fold position. Repeat on the other side by bringing your right arm down to the floor and opening up on your left side with your left arm up. 

Breathing: Stay in the posture and practice 5 deep breaths.  

Glute stretch

Start position: Sitting up tall on a chair with your back straight and your hips level, arms relaxed. Facing forward. 

Movement: Cross one leg over the other so that your ankle is resting above your opposite knee in a figure four shape. Hold your ankle and sit tall, you should feel a stretch in the glute. Repeat on the other side. Lean forward slightly for a deeper stretch. 

Breathing: Breathe normally or practice deeper breathing for 20 seconds.

Ankle circles

Start position:  Sitting up tall on a chair with your back straight and your hips level, arms relaxed. Facing forward. 

Movement: Working one leg at a time, raise your leg slightly off the ground and make small circles with your foot to work your ankle. Try 10 clockwise and 10 anticlockwise. Repeat on the second leg. 

Breathing: Breathe normally or practice deeper breathing. 

 

warrior pose on chair

Chair yoga for seniors- Poses to Strengthen

Warrior 1

Start position: Sitting up tall on a chair with your back straight and your hips level, arms relaxed. Facing forward. 

Movement: Swivel round so that you have one leg on the chair. Start by facing the left side, turn to the left by placing the left hand on the back of the chair and putting your left leg out over the side of the chair. Let your right leg stretch back. Keep your body over the left leg and bring your arms up overhead. Return to neutral and repeat on the right side. 

Breathing: Stay in this position for 3-5 deep breaths. 

You can transition from this pose into warrior 2 by instead of bringing your arms up overhead, bring your left arm forward so that it is hovering over your left leg and right arm back. Gaze over the front fingertips and repeat on the other side. 

Reverse warrior

Start position: Maintaining your side on warrior position with one leg over the chair in front and one leg behind. 

Movement: If starting with the left leg in front, place the right hand on the back side of the chair and lift the left arm up and over to reverse the bend and to give a small stretch in the side body. Repeat on the other side with the right arm. 

Breathing: Stay in each reverse bend for 3-5 deep breaths. 

exercise with arthritis well with chair yoga for seniors

Chair yoga for seniors- Poses to Balance

Stand on one leg

Starting position: Stand up and turn so that you are side on with the chair. 

Movement: Hold the back of the chair, slowly lift one leg up and balance. Repeat on the other leg. If you feel you need more of a challenge, you can lift your leg up and behind you and lean forward as far as you can. 

Breathing: Hold for 5 breaths. 

Seated Leg Lift

Starting position: Sitting up tall on a chair with your back straight and your hips level, arms relaxed. Facing forward. 

Movement: Similar to ankle circles but without the rotation. Lift each leg up one at a time. Try to draw your tummy in and sit deep into your seat, keeping your lifted leg strong. 

Breathing: Hold for 5 deep breaths on each leg. 

Chair yoga for seniors- Poses to Reset

Seated Savasana

Starting position: Sitting up tall on a chair with your back straight and your hips level, arms relaxed. Facing forward. 

Movement: Close your eyes and sit still. This is the meditation pose for the end of the session. Meanwhile, use this time to reflect on what you enjoyed or found hard, or to set a positive intention for the rest of the day. 

Breathing: Hold for 10-15 deep breaths. 

Online resources for chair yoga practice

These online resources will teach you how to do chair yoga.

Yoga with Adrienne Adrienne is an amazing, kind and knowledgeable yoga teacher. She has adapted her regular practice to include a chair in this video. Watch this video to build your confidence and learn new poses, it’s only 17 minutes long! 

Chair Yoga – Yoga Class by Kirsty Norton Kirsty’s channel is a subscription-based site offering chair yoga and meditation tutorials. 

What do you need to start practicing?

Starting to practice chair yoga for seniors could not be simpler. All you need is a comfortable, sturdy chair. 

In addition, you might want to consider some loose and comfy clothing and a blanket or your resting pose or meditation at the end of your practice. 

For more on meditation check out our guide to meditation for seniors.

The guys at Gaiam have all the yoga gear you need, from clothes and blankets to blocks and bottles.

Chair yoga for seniors is a challenge, but it is a positive one!

Practice makes perfect, so don’t worry if you aren’t amazing or super flexible the first time.

Be mindful of your body’s limitations and don’t try to push yourself into any poses that are uncomfortable, as you could pull a muscle or get hurt. 

So what are you waiting for?

If you found this post useful you might also like our guide to morning stretches.

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