8 chair yoga poses for any skill level: Benefits of seated poses – Insider

  • Chair yoga makes it possible to try yoga if you can’t get on a mat or need extra support for poses.
  • This type of yoga may help boost flexibility, ease tight muscles, and improve balance and motion.
  • Yoga instructors recommend trying poses like chair pigeon, seated cat-cow, and seated chest opener.

Even if you don’t have much familiarity with yoga , you might know it’s typically practiced on a mat on the floor.  

But you can do chair yoga exercise — as the name suggests — while seated in a chair. That makes it a more accessible and convenient option when you’re short on space, new to yoga, or have physical limitations, says certified yoga instructor Trin Perkins .  

“Chair yoga is often a preferred style for those who have difficulty getting down on the mat to practice postures. Also, many people have access to a chair or may even spend the majority of the day sitting in one during work, ” she says.

According to Perkins, this type of yoga offers many of the same benefits as traditional mat yoga — such as relieving stress , building strength , plus improving versatility . What’s more, it may also help improve balance, grip strength, and upper body range of motion in older adults.

“Not only that, but using a chair as support for balance postures and inversions can help prevent injury if you’re unsure of your capabilities or stability on the mat, ” she says.

Whether you’re experiencing “tech neck, ” back tension, or stress in your shoulders, these eight chair yoga presents may offer instant relief.

1 . Seated shoulder rolls

A person in workout attire performing the seated shoulder roll yoga pose.

The seated shoulder roll is an easy yoga exercises pose for reducing stiffness in the shoulders and neck.
Eduardo Balseiro

Why it helps: Leila Kubesch , a certified yoga instructor from the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health , recommends this posture because it opens up the chest while reducing tension and stiffness in the shoulders and neck. It’s also a great warm-up to prepare you for more intense postures.

How to do it

  • Start seated in a chair with your feet flat on the ground, about hip distance apart.  
  • Lift your arms in front of you to shoulder level. Then, begin slowly rolling your shoulders backward in a circular motion, feeling the stretch across your own upper back. Repeat this for about five full breaths.
  • Next, reverse the direction of your shoulder rolls. With your arms still lifted, start rolling your shoulders forward inside a circular motion, feeling the stretch across your upper body. Repeat for about five full breaths.
  • Finish by lowering your arms so they’re relaxed at your sides.

2 . Seated forward fold

A person in workout attire performing the seated forward fold yoga pose in a chair.

The seated forward fold pose will stretch your lower back.
Eduardo Balseiro

Why it will help: According to Kubesch, this seated forward fold provides an excellent stretch for your entire back again — which is helpful if you experience tension or pain caused by long hours hunched over a computer .

How to do it

  • Start seated in a chair with your arms at your sides and your feet flat on the floor, about the distance of the chair legs or slightly wider.
  • Inhale and lift your arms up straight, with your fingers pointed toward the ceiling.  
  • Then, on your exhale, hinge forward at your hips until your torso is resting on your thighs and you can place your palms or fingertips on the floor in between your feet. If you’re unable to reach the floor with your hands, Kubesch indicates placing a block on the floor in front of you.
  • Relax your head and neck plus stay in this position for about 5 full breaths.
  • Inhale and slowly raise yourself back to a seated upright position.

3. Chair pigeon

A person in workout attire performing the chair pigeon yoga pose.

Give you hamstrings a good stretch with the chair pigeon present.
Mike Cadotte of MidAtlantic Photography

Why it helps: This pose is helpful if you have tight hips , Perkins says — and it offers a nice stretch for your hamstrings, hip flexors , and glutes alike.

How to get it done

  • Sit up straight, together with your butt toward the edge of the chair. Perkins suggests imagining that an invisible string will be pulling you upright from the crown of your head.
  • Take a deep breath in through your nose, and exhale throughout your mouth.
  • Reach down and grab hold of your left ankle, and rest it on your right thigh. Try to keep your knee in line with your ankle. To intensify the stretch, you can fold your torso slightly forward.
  • Pause and enjoy the stretch for three to five full breaths.  
  • Place your left foot back on the floor, and repeat steps 3-4 with your right ankle on your left thigh.

4. Seated spinal twist

A person in workout attire performs the seated spinal twist.

Only distort as much as feels comfortable during this yoga exercises pose.
Eduardo Balseiro

Why it helps: Kubesch recommends this seated turn because it can stretch the torso and help relieve tension in your back by gently “wringing out” your muscles, so to speak.

How to do it

  • Start sitting in a chair with a straight back and both feet flat on the floor about hip distance apart.
  • Inhale deeply, then as you breathe out begin gently twisting only your torso to the correct. Keep your feet on the floor as well as your hips square as you continue twisting as far as is comfortable. Place your right arm behind the chair plus rest your left hand on the outside of your right leg, or on the right edge of the seat.
  • As you stay in this position, inhale while lengthening your spine to sit taller. Then, exhale and see if you can twist into a deeper stretch. Unwind your shoulders. Stay here for three to five full breaths.
  • Remove your right equip from the back of the chair and begin turning back to your starting position, facing ahead. Then, repeat steps 2-3 while twisting toward the particular left.

5. Seated cat-cow

A person in workout attire performs the seated cat-cow yoga pose.

Sitting cat-cow feels very different on a chair compared to the floor and is great for people with limited mobility in the lower back.
Eduardo Balseiro

Why it helps: These complementary poses assist stretch, strengthen, and improve mobility within the spine , according to Kubesch.  

Arching your back in the “cow” cause can help release tightness within your chest while rounding your back in the “cat” pose can ease tension in your neck and upper back.

How to do it

  • While sitting down in a chair with your feet flat on the floor, place your hands on your knees or the tops of your thighs.
  • Roll your shoulders back and down.
  • To perform the cat pose, slowly breathe in as you round your backbone and tuck your chin toward your chest. Stop here briefly.
  • Next, as you exhale, move into cow pose by slowly arching your back while lifting your chest and gazing up toward the ceiling.  
  • Continue alternating between cat plus cow pose by repeating steps 3-4 several times.

6. Seated side angle

A person in workout attire performing the seated side angle chair yoga pose.

If your sides need a good stretch, the particular seated side angle create may help.
Mike Cadotte of MidAtlantic Photography

Why it helps: This pose can help open up the chest while stretching the hips and thighs, Perkins states.

How to do it

  • Start seated along with your feet planted wider than the chair legs, and your toes angled slightly outward.
  • Inhale deeply. After that, exhale as you hinge forwards at your hips and place your own right arm inside your right thigh. Press your correct arm against your thigh and your right hand into the floor. If you can’t reach the ground with your hand, you can place a block underneath it.
  • On your next inhale, sweep your left arm up until your fingers are pointing towards the ceiling. If it feels comfortable to do so, gently turn your own neck to look up at your left hand.
  • Pause here for several complete breaths to feel the extend in your chest.
  • Bring your left arm straight down and slowly unhinge therefore you’re seated upright again.  
  • Now, repeat steps 2-5 on the other side — this time, placing your left arm inside your left upper leg, and sweeping your right arm up toward the ceiling.

7. Assisted neck stretch

A person in workout attire performs the assisted neck yoga stretch.

The assisted neck stretch out helps relieve neck pressure.
Michelle Razavi

Why it will help: “We carry an incredible amount of tension in our necks, ” says Michelle Razavi, a certified yoga teacher at Equinox and Alo Yoga . “This is an effective way to release that stress . ”

How to do it

  • Sit up straight in a seat with your feet planted on the ground.  
  • Location your left hand on the right side of your head, just above your ear. Slowly tilt your left ear toward your remaining shoulder, making sure to keep your shoulders relaxed. Only tilt until you feel a comfortable stretch in the side of your neck.  
  • Take 3-5 inhalations and exhalations here. To intensify this stretch, hold the right edge from the seat with your right hands and begin to gently lean your torso toward the particular left.
  • Bring your neck upright and remove your left hand from your head.
  • Next, place your correct hand on the left side of your head right above your ear — plus slowly tilt your right ear toward your correct shoulder. Again, stay here for 3-5 breaths.

eight. Seated chest opener

A person in workout attire performing the seated chest opener chair yoga pose.

Everyone with a smartphone can benefit from the seated upper body opener pose.
Michelle Razavi

Why it helps: ” This pose is a great way to undo ‘tech neck’ simply by reversing the hunching posture you may take on while using a computer, smartphone, or other devices, ” Razavi says.

How to do it

  • While seated upright with your feet planted on the floor in front of you, lift and open your own arms wide.  
  • Bend your elbows so your arms create a 90-degree angle, with your forearms and hands pointing up toward the ceiling. Turn your palms so they face outward.
  • While maintaining the 90-degree angle, gently push your arms to the outside and away from your shoulders plus push your chest forward, squeezing your shoulder blades together. If it feels comfortable, tilt your head back so that your chin is usually horizontal with the ceiling.
  • Take 2-3 full deep breaths. Then, lower your arms to your sides and bring your chest back to a neutral position.
  • Repeat steps 1-4 two more times.

Insider’s takeaway

Chair yoga can benefit anyone, regardless of age and fitness or experience level — and all you need to practice it is a chair. It also makes a wonderful option if you have an injury or even other limitation that prevents you from lying down on the mat.

Many popular chair yoga positions have specific benefits that can counteract the muscle tension and tightness associated with working at a desk all day. For instance, these postures may help improve your back, stretch your spine, or relieve neck plus shoulder tension.

Remember: These moves should never feel painful or uncomfortable, so be mindful of how your body feels and aim for a light to moderate stretch.