by Jivana Heyman
I believe chair yoga is a practice of radical inclusion.
The practices of yoga are themselves revolutionary—both inwardly in their potential to change our relationship to ourselves, and outwardly in their potential to change the world.
Chair yoga offers a way to democratize the practice, making it truly accessible to everyone and touching many more lives with the magic of yoga.
Here are three tips to support a chair-based practice:
1. Create a solid base.
It’s usually best to find a solid, strong chair without arms. To make sure you don’t fall over, the chair can be against a wall or on a yoga mat to increase traction. Be careful not to lean too far forward in case you might fall out of the chair. You can keep your feet further out in front of you, and have your legs wider apart to create a strong base of support.
2. Notice the body's orientation.
Notice that in chair yoga the body isn’t starting from a neutral position like we are in most mat practices. You’re starting from a flexed hip and flexed knee position, which tends to cause a slight rounding in the back, decreasing the lumbar curve. That means that you need to be cautious about forward bending, since your spine may already be slightly in flexion, or rounded.
3. Be aware of the fixed pelvis.
Your pelvis is the foundation for the entire upper body when you’re seated, and the sit bones are generally a fixed point in any chair yoga pose. That means that the pelvis can’t move as freely as it might when you’re lying down or standing up. The fixed pelvis is another reason to be sensitive to the lower back and the sacroiliac joint (where the spine connects to the pelvis) in chair yoga.
Not only is the practice fun and engaging in a chair, but you can easily access the more subtle practices in a chair.
It’s not a coincidence that these subtle practices of pranayama and meditation are actually more accessible.
Regardless of how your body moves, and where you’re practicing—whether it’s a mat, a chair, or in bed—you can do these practices. They represent the next limbs of ashtanga yoga, taking us into a deeper relationship with ourselves.
excerpted and adapted from Jivana's latest book, Yoga Revolution: Building a Practice of Courage and Compassion
Interested in learning how to practice and teach yoga in a chair?
Join Jivana for a five-week workshop that will explore how to practice asana safely in a chair.
You’ll learn how adapting the practice can offer the same physical—as well as emotional, mental, and spiritual—benefits. Workshop sessions have been pre-recorded and are available on demand. This five-week workshop, previously recorded on Zoom with one live Q&A session, covers all the fundamental elements of a holistic practice.
5-week, self-paced course
Content previously recorded
First session is FREE and open to all!
Live Q&A with Jivana on Wednesday July 20
at 2pm-3pm PT // 5pm-6pm ET
Jivana Heyman, C-IAYT, E-RYT500, is the founder and director of Accessible Yoga, an international non-profit organization dedicated to increasing access to the yoga teachings. He’s the author of Accessible Yoga: Poses and Practices for Every Body (Shambhala Publications, November 2019), as well as the new book, Yoga Revolution: Building a Practice of Courage & Compassion (Shambhala Publications, Nov. 2021).
Jivana has specialized in teaching yoga to people with disabilities with an emphasis on community building and social engagement. Out of this work, the Accessible Yoga organization was created to support education, training and advocacy with the mission of shifting the public perception of yoga. In addition to offering Conferences and Trainings, Accessible Yoga offers a popular ambassador program with over 1000 Accessible Yoga Ambassadors around the world.
Jivana coined the phrase, “Accessible Yoga,” over ten years ago, and it has now become the standard appellation for a large cross section of the immense yoga world. He brought the Accessible Yoga community together for the first time in 2015 for the Accessible Yoga Conference, which has gone on to become a focal point for this movement. There are now two Conferences and over thirty-five Accessible Yoga Trainings per year, as well as a strong underground yoga community supporting them.
Over the past 25 years, Jivana has led countless yoga teacher training programs around the world, and dedicates his time to supporting yoga teachers who are working to serve communities that are under-represented in traditional yoga spaces.