4 Principles of Teaching Chair Based Yoga

I have found great pleasure in teaching chair based yoga classes. The participants are often very receptive to the practices and are looking forward coming back to the classes every week. It gives me great satisfaction to watch my students progress with their poses and benefit deeply from the practices on a different level over time.
The benefits of chair based yoga are in my honest opinion even greater than a “regular” yoga practice, because by using the chair we are opening the classes to people that thought could not do yoga.
Over my time teaching chair based yoga I have heard them say things like “I am convinced the yoga breathing is the reason I have not got a single cold this winter’, or “I just practice the breath you taught me and I am off to sleep in minutes”, or “I am convinced yoga is the reason I can lift my arms up now”.
It is wonderful to hear them say these things, it truly fuels my passion for chair based yoga even more.

For the classes to be effective there are some basic principles that I follow listed below.


1. Observation

Before I even begin my practice, I observe my yogis as they come in through the door. I often spend time with them before I start my class every week to getting to know them and finding out how they are.
I try to understand the individual and group that is in that room with me and offer them a personalised approach. 

During the practice, I do it with them and I do not take my eyes off of them… I observe their facial expressions (for strain and pain), observe if they are wobbly or if they are holding their breath etc.
Observe closely, almost like a hawk, or a mother watching her babies from a distance. I am ready to step in as I go.

2. Clever Sequencing

I build practices that specifically suit my students and do not rely on replicating class plans. Once I get to know my students (principle no 1) and then of course get to know their ailments.
I educate myself on their condition AND on the application of yoga for their condition, then adapt practices to a chair based yoga practice and try it out.
I Keep going back to principle no1 throughout my time with my students and adapt my sequence according to my students needs – or even progress as I go and they “improve”.

“Teach the person, not just the ãsana”

BKS Iyengar

By building practices that specifically suit my yogis I am also showing great respect for them, towards my students. I do truly care.

3. Adaptation

Adaptation, but not just of the yoga pose. “We” are already doing that by practising on the chair; adaptation of the whole practice. 
I simplify – intensify , any tool on a physical, mental or energetic level to ensure accessibility and efficiency of the practices for my students, whatever their capabilities.

A great example of this is moving freely between asana, pranayama and meditation in my classes. OR moving between dynamic (repetitive tracking movement) to static practices. Adapting to my students’ needs as I go.

4. Effect over looks

The effect of a yoga pose is significantly more important than they way it looks.

  • I check the energetic effect of the pose: Laghana (relaxation), brahmana (energy / awareness) or Samana (balance).
  • How does the asana enhance the breath and how does it lengthen the body? Then I adapt to achieve that rather than create a pose that may look the same but has not got the same effect.
  • The chakras and nadis of the poses are also important depending on the imbalances my students are experiencing, then I adapt to create balance.
  • Integrating gestures and visualisations to assist my student to access the desired effect often in my classes also. The mind is a very powerful tool and where everything begins (including movement).

These 4 principles go beyond moving the body or achieving an asana. They are person centred approaches, that create effective practices. These 4 principles may also be applied in mat-based practices. By applying these in your classes you are sure to create a community and build trust in your teaching, plus faith in the magic we also know as yoga.

The Chair Yoga Handbook

the chair yoga handbook thumb
the chair yoga handbook for yoga teachers