Sep. 19, 2013 at 4:19 PM ET
If you’re new to yoga, you may think that it’s all about contorting your body into difficult positions performed on a mat. But the reality is, yoga can be practiced in a seated position too. Chair poses are a wonderful way for almost anyone to practice yoga, at any time. The chair supports your weight, so you can find a deeper position while still feeling safe and supported by the chair.
Remember to listen to your body. You should not experience pain when practicing yoga. Here’s another tip: If you remind yourself to sit up straight and not use the back of your chair, you will strengthen your back and core doing everyday activities. Here, six chair poses for you to try:
Loosen tight joints by shaking your arms and legs in the air. Start with shaking one leg at a time; then add the arms when your core becomes stronger. Remember to shake out your spine for a few seconds and then keep it tall. This will not only loosen your joints, but it will strengthen your core so that you’re strong enough to shake out your legs and arms together.
Start seated on the edge of a sturdy, hard-backed chair. Your feet should be firmly planted on the floor, hip distance apart. Reach both arms back and grab onto the back of the chair. Roll your shoulder blades down your back, creating an opening in the chest. Take a deep breath in; as you exhale, lean forward, leading with your chest. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths and slowly release. Finish by wrapping your arms around yourself in a hug to counter the stretch.
Grab a belt or a strap and sit up straight. Raise your arms up with the strap stretched tautly above you. Take a deep breath in while bending slightly to your right side and exhale; come back to straight. Repeat this sequence on your left side. Once you become stronger, hold your side bend for several breaths; this will help strengthen your core. Remember to breath and take it slowly—building up your pace and the amount of time that you hold the pose.
Inhale deeply and lengthen your spine; then twist to your left while gently looking over your left shoulder. Hold this pose for three breaths and come back to neutral. Repeat on your right side.
Sit forward on your chair with a straight spine. Open your legs widely and press your hands on to your thighs; lean forward with a straight back. Notice the stretch on your legs and lower back. Hold for a breath and come back to a neutral position. Once you feel secure doing the pose one time, build up to 3 to 5 repetitions.
Sit up straight and put your hands on your belly. Relax your body and allow yourself to slow down your breathing. Try to relax enough to push your breath deeper into your core. Practice these poses daily for increased body awareness and a stronger upper body.
Judi Bar is Yoga Program Manager at the Cleveland Clinic. She designs programs for patients and employees and is a registered advanced yoga teacher E-RYT 500 and yoga therapist. Debra Darnell 200 CYT-RYT, NY Strength Master Trainer also contributed to this blog post. Debra Darnell, RYT-CYT 200 hour yoga teacher and a NY Strength Master Trainer, also contributed to this blog post.
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.