Chair Yoga for Travel by Stacie Dooreck
Have you ever been at the airport, on a plane or a bus and felt like you really needed to stretch? You start wishing you could just get where you’re going to do some yoga to ease that stiff back or those tight shoulders. Well, there’s good news: you don’t have to wait! With some creativity and modifications you can always practice yoga.
“If you can breathe you can do yoga,” says the yoga master Krishnamacharya.
Here are some “chair yoga” ideas you can use on a plane, train, or bus (or at your desk, in a wheelchair):
Sitting Mountain Meditation
1. As a starting point, sitting tall yet relaxed is the key to many meditation postures and breathing exercises (pranayama). Then simply become aware of your body sitting, allowing a natural stretch in your spine and feeling your lower body release downward and as your spine lengthens upwards.
2. Next, begin to simply observe your breath just as it is, without any effort or strain. This may take a little while, but the result is naturally calming. Keep bringing your focus back to your breath.
3. You can then add a basic breathing exercise: inhale slowly for 3 counts, then exhale slowly for 3 counts. Continue for a few rounds, possibly adding a stress-free 1-3 count pause in between each inhale and exhale. As you settle in, you can try 4 counts, then 5. The important thing is not to force anything.
4. You can also add a mantra, such as “so hum,” (meaning “I am”) or simply OM. Add the mantra silently inside yourself as you inhale and again as you exhale. Mantras calm and help focus the mind adding benefit to your breathing exercise.
Upward Hand Pose (Urdhva Hastasana)
Wherever you are sitting right now, try this re-energizing 1-minute yoga break.
1. Inhale and lift your arms up overhead. Exhale as you lower your arms. Stay aware of your lower body’s connection with the seat and move slowly.
2. Repeat 5-10 times or hold the arms overhead for 3-5 slow, deep breaths, then exhale as you lower them.
3. Sit and relax for a few moments after.
Benefits: This energizes the body, stretches the spine and waist, and increases mobility to the shoulder joint.
Seated Spinal Twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
1. Sit tall and away from the back of your chair or seat on the plane. Cross your legs fully or just the ankles.
2. Inhale slowly. Exhale as you twist to one side. Keep the head centered over your spine and twist gently and evenly throughout the entire spine.
3. Hold for 1-3 slow, deep breaths or as long as comfortable.
Benefits: Twists release back tension, help the digestive organs, and calm the nervous system. They also increase spinal flexibility.
Precautions: If pregnant, for all twists, do not twist through the torso (belly). Twist only from the area above the ribcage (all trimesters). For whiplash or neck pain, keep the head facing forward or as comfortable.
Arrival Recuperation/Legs Up on a Chair
1. Sit down on the floor with the side of your body facing the chair front. Lower yourself down to your elbows then onto your back, using your hands and arms to support you.
2. Then bring the legs up on the chair. Place the hands about one foot from the hips with the palms facing up towards the sky. Keep the head centered over the spine.
3. Close your eyes and enjoy some slow, deep breathing. Relax your body and mind, settle in, and let go. Stay in the posture for 3 to 5 minutes, or longer if you are comfortable.
4. To come out lower the knees to the chest and pause. Then roll to one side and pause again. Use your arms to come up to sitting. (You can use the support of the chair if you need as well.) Slowly let the head come up last and sit quiet for a few movements and meditate on the breath. Observe the calm that this posture creates.
Benefits: This posture eases the low back, balances the body’s energy, and is said to help alleviate jetlag and insomnia.
Remember, yoga IS for everyone! So go ahead: stay seated and do some yoga today. Inhale, sit tall, exhale, relax.
Written by Stacie Dooreck, creator of SunLight Chair Yoga and author of SunLight Chair Yoga: Yoga for Everyone! online Chair Yoga teacher trainings. Stacie is a Sivananda Yoga instructor since 1995, she is also a certified Gentle Integral and Kundalini trained teacher. Stacie has been implementing yoga programs in health clubs, senior homes, hospitals, and corporations since 1994.
Chair Yoga books, courses and trainings are on www.sunlightyoga.com
SunLight Chair Yoga: yoga for everyone! book is also accessible for the blind and print impaired in Braille and audio format (no charge), on the website above.
Chair Yoga: yoga for everyone!
What is Chair Yoga?
It is Yoga, using a chair (standing and seated, or both), as a prop for support. Chair Yoga can be useful to adapt yoga poses when injured, ill, at your desk (‘office yoga’) or if you have limited mobility. It also can be useful when travelling (practice on planes, park benches or anywhere). Chair Yoga can help make yoga accessible for everyone and is a well needed prop for many so that they can practice yoga poses (asanas) safely. Yoga teaches will benefit greatly by lear ning Chair Yoga as well so that all of their students can have safe and effective options to practice yoga).
What is a Chair Yoga class like?
Chair Yoga classes or private sessions gives you the full benefits any other yoga class entails: centering, yoga warm ups, yoga exercises & postures, concentration & breathing exercises, guided relaxation & meditation. The main difference is that students can sit in a chair or use a chair while standing, as a prop, for balance and support.
What are the benefits?
Who can participate?
What do you wear?
Anything you want! Shoes or socks can be on of off in Chair Yoga classes
Some Chair Yoga at Work Benefits
Chair Yoga article: Please Remain Seated
Chair Yoga Increases The Accessibility Of The Practice
When speaking about Yoga, we’ve all heard the following statements:
“I can’t do Yoga until I feel better.”
“I don’t have time to get to a class.”
“I can’t get down on the floor and back up again for a Yoga practice.”
“My workday is too long.”
“I’m too old to do Yoga.”
Injury or illness, age or other so-called “limitations” (including working all day at a desk), may prevent people from getting on the floor do practice poses or even stand on a mat for upright postures as we may know the poses. However, with some creativity and modifications anyone, in any circumstance, can always practice Yoga.
Renowned yogi Sri T. Krishnamacharya famously said, “If you can breathe you can do Yoga.”
Sitting as tall as you can, yet in a relaxed manner is the key to success in many meditation postures and pranayama practices (breathing exercises). Finding a comfortable seat, even in a chair, is a great place to begin to set the stage for the Yoga of breath. One simple, yet powerful practice is to observe the breath as it is. Or you can begin to extend the duration of the breath and slowing count the inhalation and the exhalation. Try starting with something attainable, such as inhaling slowly for three counts, exhaling for three counts and then gently extending the duration first to four counts and then longer as desired. Maintain a sense of ease throughout. Another breathing practice is to recite a mantra (such as “I am”) with each breath.
There are chair Yoga versions of most postures that are designed to increase mobility, vitality and flexibility. These include: sun salutations, forward bends, backbends, spinal twists, sitting mountain pose, eye exercises (which can help reduce eye strain from hours at the computer) and breathing exercises (which can calm the body, increase our energy or heighten concentration).
At your desk, in a wheelchair or wherever you are right sitting now, stop and take a two-minute Yoga break and reenergize. Try this sequence: Inhale and lift both arms overhead. As you exhale, lower both your arms. Repeat this five to ten times and see how you feel.
Look for chair Yoga classes, often held at Yoga studios, community centers, clubs and senior centers. When standing postures are practiced in these classes, the chair is used for support to enhance stability. But you don’t even have to stand up from the chair to do Yoga. I’ve seen great shifts in posture and energy from my senior home chair Yoga classes using poses from this sequence of gentle chair Yoga suggested here. You can stay seated – and still do Yoga.
Stacie Dooreck is a Certified Sivananda Yoga Instructor since 1995, Kundalini and Gentle Integral and Chair Yoga Instructor for online Chair Yoga teacher certifications and yoga courses. sunlightchairyoga.com
Stacie Dooreck is the author SunLight Chair Yoga: yoga for everyone !and Yoga for Everyone! books and ebook. Stacie is a Stress Management Specialist for the Ornish Heart Disease Reversal Program in N. CA and wellness instructor of companies. Stacie is a based in Marin/Bay Area CA and is a certified Sivanadna Yoga instructor since 1995, a Kundalini Yoga and Gentle Integral Yoga Certified instructor.