When I declare to people that I am a yoga teacher, they often reply “you must be very flexible to do that”. The truth is I am flexible; flexible in the way I think, flexible in the way I approach my life and business, flexible in the way I teach my yoga classes.
This initially came from teaching yoga to children, where good form is not a requirement. Everything in the class is just an invitation and provided the children are safe they can pretty much do what they want. So “going with the flow” is more of a prerequisite of leading kids yoga classes than physical flexibility.
Later, when I started teaching chair based yoga classes I quickly realised that limitations my students faced where very personal, so a variety of adaptations had to be offered during our practice for each and every one of them; it was what led me to complete a 300h training in “Adapting yoga for everybody”.
The real flexibility in my chair yoga classes comes from adapting yoga to suit everyone.
“The real flexibility of a yoga teacher is adapting the poses to suit everyone.”yuva yoga
A Chair Based Yoga practice is an adapted yoga practice, allowing people to do yoga without having to get on the floor. It is by no means the “easier” option, or “less effective”.
Poses are not adapted to simply look the same, poses are adapted to lengthen, strengthen, secure, empower and so on. The effect of the pose is so much more important than the way it looks.
Often those that practice even if they are capable of achieving the full expression of an asana discover that an adaptation allows them to feel more, “be more” (if that’s a thing).
During my live chair based yoga trainings my students often have “lightbulb” moments while practising, due to the effectiveness of the practice and the the poses.
6 standing yoga poses adapted using a chair.
- 1. TREE POSE:
A standing asana that aims to strengthen the legs and ankles and challenge your balance.
By adapting on the chair we somewhat remove the element of balance, offering our students the ability to feel grounded and focus more on the hip “opening” effect of the pose.
2. WARRIOR 3
Another balancing pose, that challenges the hips and pelvis, with legs placed in opposite directions.
By removing the element of balancing from the pose, while using the chair, we can focus more on pelvis stability.
For some people that have experienced a fall in the past, this pose can be very empowering when practiced dynamically (from mountain pose to warrior 3 with chair).
3. REVOLVED TRIANGLE
The muscles of the legs are actively stabilising while we are revolving, therefore this asana often feels very precarious if the hamstring or abductor flexibility is not there.
By adapting the pose using the chair we can focus more on the twist while maintaining balance and neutral alignment of the spine.
4. FLOATING HALF MOON
A tricky balancing pose that requires you to be open across the front of the body to feel the full benefits of this pose.
I still remember the 1s time I tried this pose standing with my back against the wall; I felt powerful, balanced, happy.
With all the endocrine system glands lined up in this pose it feels like your own body is holding you up when in perfect alignment.
By practicing using a chair, or the wall we can experience the full effect of this pose and simply feel wonderful.
5. CHAIR POSE
Also known as a squat this is great for strengthening the legs, but often students with lower mobility do not get low enough to benefit fully from this pose.
The chair adaptation of this pose allows student to feel secure. The practice may also be more dynamic, similar to a sit-to-stand, finally progressing to a low hover over chair and a squat.
The arm position is very much dependant on shoulder mobility and latissimus dorsi strength, therefore cactus hands may be more beneficial here also.
This pose stretches the thighs and groin and lengthens your hip flexors. A challenging pose for many.
In order to keep the spine long and benefit fully from the pose, which is also a gentle backbend, a certain degree of hip flexibility and balance is required.
The chair accommodates all of those needs , assisting with balance and minimising the need to flex the spine forward.