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Season 1 - Episode 9

Chair Yoga to Awaken the Body

20 min - Practice


Cheri, with the help of Ellen and Francine, guides us in an active chair yoga sequence designed to mobilize the joints, increase circulation, and stretch and open the hips, hamstrings, and back. Cheri closes with a guided meditation to help us sink into a quality of sweet calm and ease.
What You'll Need: Chair

About This Video

Nov 05, 2015
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Welcome to Healthy Chair Yoga for the hips and spine or back. Today, I have with me Ellen and Francine. Thank you so much for being here, and we're going to share a chair practice that can be done at work when you have a few minutes, in between things happening at the computer. Take time to release your body, to stretch, and to open, and then return back to what you're doing. I also do this kind of yoga on airplanes when I'm traveling and just whenever you're sitting in a chair, you can bring this in.

So we'll start by sitting back, so you can scoot back in your chair, and leaning back comfortably. Feel your feet touching the earth, or if they're not, if they're floating, then you'll want to put something underneath the feet, a folded blanket works or a bolster, and your hands can be on your body, which is always a nice place as we begin by connecting in, or if it's more comfortable for you, you're welcome to rest your hands by your sides or on your lap. So as you connect in, just take a few moments to notice how you're feeling today. Become aware of any tension or stress you may be holding. Begin to soften those areas, the tension, let your hips sink down into the support of the chair, your feet nestle into the earth, and the spine gently lengthens, the crown of the head floating upward, the shoulders drawing back and down, taking a few deep belly breaths, breathing into the belly, inviting it to expand fully as you inhale and then to soften and draw back towards the spine as you exhale.

Breathing into the belly, and now the heart centers so at the top of the inhalation, feel the heart rising, expanding, opening, and then slowly pour the breath out as if releasing from top to bottom, inhaling in to the belly first, then the heart. And feel all sides of the body expanding as you breathe, the back of your body opening, the sides expanding, and then slow long exhalation. The exhalation is really very connected with releasing stress and calming the central nervous system, so if you're having a stressful day, it's a good focus to lengthen your exhalation, two more breaths. Now releasing your hands, you can slide forward so your sitz bones are perched at the front of the chair. We'll bring our hands to the tops of the knees for some gentle warming up of the spine.

Coming now into a seated cat cow. As you hold your knees firmly, you'll draw your heart forward, pulling the chest through, bending the elbows to create a really nice lift through the front body, and as you exhale, engage the stomach muscles. Keep ahold of the knees, lean back. Lean back as far as you like, chin tucked down towards the chest, inhaling forward, hips rotate forward, rib cage lifts, chest lifts, you can even lift the head if that feels comfortable, and it'd be nice to gaze up to exercise the eyes, especially if you've been spending time gazing at a computer screen or reading, and finding your own rhythm. Remember to listen to your body, going just as deeply into it as feels comfortable, and being aware not to contract up and around the neck, but rather draw the shoulders down and away from the ears.

Typically in yoga, we inhale as we expand, as we come forward here, and exhale as we contract or draw in. This is our cat stretch as we lean back and the cow movement as we come forward. One last time. Good, and then you'll come back to sit. You'll lean back, so you're leaning back a little bit, you're not sitting straight anymore.

You'll take your right knee and you'll draw it in towards your chest, now if you have any knee issues and your knee feels tender, hold the back of the knee and draw the knee towards the chest, just as close as feels comfortable, or if the knee feels comfortable, you can hold the top, and circling, here the ankle, very good for ankle flexibility, also for freedom in movement as we walk, and go the other direction. This is great to do when you're traveling too to move the blood through the legs, and then we'll take ahold of the top of the knee with the right hand, left hand can just relax, and directing that circular motion into the hip socket, warming up the hip a bit, and this can be nice because we do sit a lot, the hips can get very tight, this whole sequence is wonderful for the hips. Then we'll go back the other way a few times, breathing deeply, feeling the movement inside your body, and this time as you come back to center, you'll take ahold of your ankle and you'll place it across the top of the thigh just below the knee from where you're sitting. You can flex the foot, and you'll notice right away if there's a lot of tension in your hip because your knee will be up high, just honoring where your knee is, begin to give it a little bit of a stretch. You can press down into the right knee with the right hand, and that quite often is enough for people.

Also, rather than leaning back here, we're going to sit up and really lift the chest and that also takes the stretch into the hip. Then for those of you that would like to go deeper, you're welcome to bring your forearms here and to start to relax into a deeper stretch, finding for you the place that really opens the hip. And then as you're ready, you'll come back and you'll clasp ahold of the leg, this time let's take underneath the leg and we'll stretch the leg out, reaching through the toes, this is more of a hamstring stretch. If you're tight in your hamstrings, you may be here, that's okay, little by little start to extend and once you get a little more flexible, you can take ahold of the back of the leg and draw it up towards you, keep your shoulders relaxed, keep your heart lifted, take a couple deep breaths, beautiful, and then slowly release the foot, and once you've released the foot, you'll scoot a little bit to your right and you'll walk your right foot back along the side of your chair. Now if you have a chair that has edges, you may not be able to do that, or arms rather, but if you can, you can do this half dancer pose, so the knee moves down towards the floor, and for those of you that can go deeper into the pose, you can lift the ankle off the floor, clasp ahold of it, draw it into the sitz bone, towards the right sitz bone, and the knee moves in slightly, lifting the chest, holding here and taking a few deep breaths, so honoring the level that feels right for you.

You can always go deeper as you open tight muscles, but it's often good to start with the gentle variation and see how it feels, and then as you're ready, you can release slowly, we'll walk that foot back to center, and we'll come back to sit and perch on the edge of our chair, taking just a nice deep breath before we change sides. And now leaning back so your back rests against the chair and taking ahold of the left knee, the other side, drawing it towards the chest, and you can circle the ankle here. Remember, you can hold here if that's more comfortable for you, and circle the other direction. And the joints, when we move the joints, they become lubricated, so it's good to walk, to move, and to stretch in this way with yoga. Now bringing the left hand to the top of the left knee, we'll take that movement into the hip joint.

And creating juicy joints as they say. Motion is lotion for the inner body, I love that, and feeling the movement, going the other direction for a few cycles, so we're just warming up a little bit before our deeper stretch. Also, this is often a good time to just notice is there tension there, have I been favoring this side, and then we'll bring the foot to the top of the leg below the knee, foot flexed to really direct the stretch into the hip, and take a moment to press the left hand down into the left knee, sitting nice and tall. Now this may be your perfect stretch, this may be plenty. You can stay here or you can start to come forward.

It's nice to do so with a flat back if you can. If not, it's fine to round, a little bit of rotation in the pelvis forward will help to deepen the stretch into those large muscles in the hip, the gluteus muscles, the piriformus muscles, they work hard all day, so it's wonderful to give them this stretch. So a couple more deep breaths, visualizing breathing right into that left hip. Taking a nice inhalation and as you exhale, you'll lean back and you'll hold the back of the leg now. As you release, you'll stretch the hamstrings.

Now feel free to slide the hand up a little higher, to spread the toes, to activate the leg a bit, to straighten the leg will bring a bit more stretch into the hamstrings, and to bend the knee will lessen the stretch, so lengthening as much as you can, spread the toes a little bit, awaken the energy in your feet, those lines of energy that we work with in our yoga, do so here in chair yoga as well. Now take another breath, lifting the heart, lifting up through the crown of the head. And then as you're ready, you'll release the foot, you'll scoot a little bit towards the left side of your chair, you'll walk the foot back and let the knee come down towards the floor. And this may be enough of a stretch today for you, so feel free to stay there, and or clasp ahold of the ankle, let the knee come in and down to receive that benefit of half dancer pose, lifting up through the chest, lifting up through the heart, breathing deeply, you can see where this is a counter stretch for sitting, for how the hip flexors get shortened and tightened, nice stretch for the quads as well. And inhaling and as you exhale, release the foot to the floor, walk it forward, sitting on the edge of the chair, and we'll inhale and lift the chest and exhale and come forward now, coming down into a nice deep forward bend, so you're welcome to do so with the elbows crossed or with your hands dangling.

You can let the top of your head face the floor to really release the neck, and just take a few breaths here. Bringing your hands now gently to the top of your knees, keeping your stomach muscles slightly engaged as you roll back up, one vertebrae at a time. As you come up, you can roll your shoulders a few times forward, up, back, and down. Noticing how that feels, perhaps feeling a bit looser than when you started, and then as you're ready, we'll slide back for seated meditation, so sitting comfortably, again with your feet planted, your spine straight, scooting around to find that perfect place and position for you. As you close your eyes, allow your face to soften, shoulders to relax, your heart to softly lift.

Feel your hips sinking in to the support of the chair, your legs and feet relaxed. And now visualize in your mind's eye a beautiful golden light, vital energy, floating just above your head. You may feel the glow of this light on the top of your head, feel the warmth like a small sun, radiant. And on your next inhalation, invite this light to enter down through the top of your head, coming to rest, the center of your head. Feel the radiant vital energy filling your face.

Relaxing the facial muscles, clearing any tension from the eyes, the cheeks, the jaw. And as the light fills your brain, you feel your mind growing clear and quiet. It travels down now from the head to the heart center. The light flows into the heart, the chambers of the heart, and with each beat of the heart, you feel this light flowing through your bloodstream, touching every cell with vital energy. Feel the light traveling down into your solar plexus, bathing the organs here, charging the kidneys with pure energy, feeling the light continuing its journey as it moves down into the point just below the navel.

Feel the vital energy pouring golden light into this region, feel it traveling down from your belly into your legs, all the way to the soles of the feet. The light fills your whole spine with vital energy. It flows back up through the heart, out through the hands, now take a nice deep breath and you'll garner and gather that energy between your hands as you bring your hands to your heart. Together we'll chant the sacred sound. (chanting) Pondering the light divine within you, namaste, namaste.

Thank you for joining us, have a wonderful day.


Laurie W
1 person likes this.
This is a beautiful chair yoga sequence. I love its accessibility for many bodies. Cheri has a gentle, loving and honoring essence.
Cheri Clampett C-IAYT
Hi Laurie,
I'm so glad you enjoyed the chair practice. Thank you for your kind note, it really touched my heart. Wishing you all the best!
Warmly, Cheri
Maria T
Hi Cheri, do you have any sequence for women with osteoporosis? I would really appreciate your advice. Thanks a lot for your kindness :)
Cheri Clampett C-IAYT
Hi Maria, Yes! There is a video I filmed for women with osteoporosis on Woman's Health Season 1. In addition to that video, working with standing poses and weight bearing yoga postures are recommended for osteoporosis. Remember to always listen to your body. Start slow and see how you feel , especially with the stronger practices. Stay in touch and let me know how you are doing. Warmly, Cheri
Cheri Clampett C-IAYT
Maria, The name of the video is Bone Health Flow. xoxo
Maria T
1 person likes this.
Just saw your reply Cheri. Thank you so much :)
Gail O
Perfect practice for reawakening my body, after a week of a severe cold. Loved the mini-meditation that wrapped up the ending, too. Namaste
Cheri Clampett C-IAYT
Hello Gail, It's sweet to know I could be there (via the chair yoga video) to share some gentle yoga with you as you started feeling better. Thank you so much for your kind words, it means a lot to hear from you! With love...
Andrej Z
honoring the playful child within - i get so excited when i see there train goin by behind your back :)  was it loud?

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