Chair Yoga

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Seniors practising Chair Yoga

Chair Yoga is a specific form of yoga as therapy developed by Lakshmi Voelker[1] in 1982, practiced sitting on a chair, or standing using a chair for support.[2][3] The poses are often adaptations of asanas in modern yoga as exercise.[4] Chairs have long been used as props for certain asanas in some schools of yoga, such as Iyengar Yoga and Alice Christensen's Easy Does It Yoga,[5] but such informal usage is distinct from Voelker-Binder's Chair Yoga approach.

Chair Yoga, along with other schools of yoga as exercise, has been evaluated for its possible medical benefits. There is at best only weak evidence that yoga helps with osteoarthritis, but there are small to moderate benefits on health related quality of life for older people including balance, lower limb strength, depression, and vitality.



Schools such as Iyengar Yoga use props including blocks, blankets, and chairs to assist correct alignment, as here in Utthita Vasisthasana.[6]

Chairs and other props are used widely in some schools of modern yoga as exercise, such as Iyengar Yoga, to enable students to work in more advanced asanas with suitable support. For example, Sarvangasana, shoulder stand, can be practised under suitable supervision with the shoulders on a bolster, the buttocks supported on the seat of a chair and a blanket, and the legs resting on the top of the chair's back.[6] Alice Christensen's Easy Does It Yoga, first described in 1979, uses "chair exercises", alongside others on floor or bed, and in later editions also in swimming pools.[7][5] In 2017, a DVD called "Chair Yoga with Nadia Narain" was released "for anyone wanting to increase mobility and flexibility".[8]

Yoga as therapy is the use of asanas as a gentle form of exercise and relaxation, applied specifically with the intention of improving health. This may involve meditation, imagery, breath work (pranayama) and music alongside the exercise.[9]


Lakshmi Voelker (given her first name by Muktananda, the founder of Siddha Yoga) created the yoga as therapy approach named Chair Yoga in 1982, on seeing that one of her pupils, aged only in her thirties, was unable to do floor poses because of arthritis.[10] Lynn Lehmkuhl described Chair Yoga as the fastest growing aspect of the yoga market in 2013, prompting her to take a yoga teacher training with Voelker.[11]



A Chair Yoga version of Urdhva Vrikshasana, an upwards stretch

Chair Yoga is designed to be suitable for students who are new to yoga, confined to a desk at work, or unable to participate in a traditional yoga class because of aging, injury or disability. Chair yoga is claimed to deepen flexibility, increases range of motion, and strengthens personal body awareness.[12] Chair yoga classes are sometimes made available at senior fitness centers, retirement facilities, and adult daycare centers.[3] Sessions may include many yoga postures, yoga breathing techniques, meditation, and relaxation methods, all with the support of a chair.[3][13] Chair Yoga can be practised unobtrusively and in limited spaces such as in an aircraft seat.[14][15]


The poses are often adaptations of ordinary yoga asanas. For example, the Cat/Cow pair, alternating between Bidalasana and Bitilasana, is normally performed kneeling on the floor, with the back horizontal; in Chair Yoga it is performed sitting on the front edge of a chair, with the back vertical.[4] Standing poses such as Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II), Parshvakonasana (Side Angle) and Viparita Virabhadrasana (Reverse Warrior) are performed straddling the chair.[16][17]


The possible benefits of yoga, including Chair Yoga, for rheumatic diseases and osteoarthritis were evaluated in 2013 and 2019 systematic reviews of randomized controlled trials. The reviews considered the quality of scientific evidence "very low" and stated that only a "weak recommendation" could be made for the use of yoga (in whatever form) in osteoarthritis.[18][19]

A 2019 systematic review evaluated yoga, including but not limited to three studies of Chair Yoga, as an intervention for "physical function and health related quality of life (HRQoL) in an older adult population not recruited on the basis of any specific disease or condition". It found that yoga provided "small to moderate benefits in balance, lower body flexibility, lower limb strength, depression, perceived mental health, perceived physical health, sleep quality, and vitality" compared to inactive practices. Yoga was also significantly better than other active practices for lower body strength and flexibility, and for depression.[20]


  1. ^ Voelker, Lakshmi. "About Lakshmi". Yoga International. Retrieved 21 November 2020.
  2. ^ Kain, Cheryl. "The Surprising Benefits of Chair Yoga". Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. Retrieved 21 November 2020.
  3. ^ a b c "About the Founder". Get Fit Where You Sit. Retrieved 21 November 2010.
  4. ^ a b McGee, Kristin (2017). Chair Yoga : sit, stretch, and strengthen your way to a happier, healthier you. London: Piatkus. Warm-ups. ISBN 978-0-349-41608-3. OCLC 974208268.
  5. ^ a b Christensen, Alice (1999). The American Yoga Association's Easy Does It Yoga: the safe and gentle way to health and well-being. New York: Fireside Book. pp. 63–91. ISBN 978-0-684-84890-7. OCLC 41951264.
  6. ^ a b Mehta, Silva; Mehta, Mira; Mehta, Shyam (1990). Yoga: The Iyengar Way. Dorling Kindersley. pp. 118–119. ISBN 978-0863184208.
  7. ^ Christensen, Alice (1979). Easy Does It Yoga for Older People. San Francisco and Cleveland: Harper and Row; Light of Yoga Society.
  8. ^ Wright, Matt (director); Romano, Christine (producer) (2017). Chair Yoga with Nadia Narain (DVD). New Shoot Pictures. Retrieved 1 December 2020.
  9. ^ Feuerstein, Georg (2006). Jonathan Shear (ed.). The Experience of Meditation. St. Paul, Minnesota: Paragon House. p. 90.
  10. ^ "About Lakshmi Voelker". Get Fit Where You Sit. Archived from the original on 10 March 2021. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  11. ^ Lehmkuhl, Lynn (2020). Chair Yoga for Seniors : stretches and poses that you can do sitting down at home. New York, New Tirj: Skyhorse Publishing. Introduction. ISBN 978-1-5107-5063-0. OCLC 1134762765.
  12. ^ Kain, Cheryl. "The Surprising Benefits of Chair Yoga". Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. Retrieved 12 May 2020.
  13. ^ "What Actually Is Chair Yoga and How Do I Do It?". Aaptiv. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  14. ^ Dooreck (2014). SunLight Chair Yoga : yoga for everyone. San Francisco, Calif: Sunlight Chair Yoga. p. 4. ISBN 978-0-9916250-2-4. OCLC 890419320.
  15. ^ Kravetz, Richard. "6 Benefits Of Chair Yoga + 8 Poses To Get You Started". Do You Yoga. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  16. ^ Harper, Jennifer Cohen; Gonzalez, Mayuri (8 December 2019). "Engage and Energize Your Body (Even on Days You're Stuck at a Desk)". Yoga Journal. Retrieved 21 November 2020. This sequence from Mindful Chair Yoga Deck by Jennifer Cohen Harper and Mayuri Gonzales can be done from almost anywhere and is appropriate for kids and adults.
  17. ^ Gonzalez, Mayuri; Harper, Jennifer Cohen (2018). Mindful Chair Yoga: 50+ practices for all ages card deck. PESI Publishing & Media. ISBN 978-1-68373-184-9. OCLC 1080643786.
  18. ^ Cramer, H.; Lauche, R.; Langhorst, J.; Dobos, G. (2013). "Yoga for rheumatic diseases: a systematic review". Rheumatology. 52 (11): 2025–2030. doi:10.1093/rheumatology/ket264. PMID 23934220.
  19. ^ Lauche, Romy; Hunter, David J.; Adams, Jon; Cramer, Holger (2019). "Yoga for Osteoarthritis: a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis". Current Rheumatology Reports. 21 (9): 47. doi:10.1007/s11926-019-0846-5. PMID 31338685. S2CID 198194435.
  20. ^ Sivaramakrishnan, Divya; Fitzsimons, Claire; Kelly, Paul; et al. (2019). "The effects of yoga compared to active and inactive controls on physical function and health related quality of life in older adults- systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials". International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity and Physical Activity. 16 (1). doi:10.1186/s12966-019-0789-2. PMC 6451238. PMID 30953508.

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