Chair Pose Variations For Every Fitness Goal and Need

Whether you're dealing with tight hips and shoulders or are craving a feel-good spinal stretch, there's a chair pose variation that will give you exactly what your body needs.

Welcome to our ongoing series, Customize Your Exercise, where we simplify the process of tailoring a standard workout to suit your individual needs and circumstances. Each article in this series focuses on a foundational exercise, explaining how to perform it correctly. We then provide a variety of modifications based on your current fitness level, any existing or past injuries, or the specific muscles you wish to target. So, leave any preconceived notions behind and let's tailor your workout to fit your current situation. When picturing a yoga class, you might first think of calming, drawn-out stretches that leave you feeling relaxed and ready for sleep. However, yoga isn't strictly about relaxation. Certain poses can give your muscles a real workout. One such example is the chair pose. “The chair pose is essentially a comprehensive strength-building exercise," explains Valerie Verdier, a New York City-based yoga instructor and ambassador for lululemon. "It engages your quadriceps, hip flexors, hamstrings, glutes, inner and outer thighs, abdomen, arms, and spine." This means that just by including the chair pose in your routine, you can benefit from a full-body workout. Despite its all-encompassing benefits, the traditional chair pose may not be suitable for everyone, particularly beginners or those with joint issues. However, this doesn't mean you have to exclude this pose from your practice. There are several adjustments you can make to the position to ensure it complements your body, requirements, and capabilities. For instance, if you're experiencing tightness in your shoulders or hips, you can use a prop or alter your stance to alleviate the tension. Beginners and those with balance issues can try a modified version of the chair pose that offers extra stability. Those wanting to take their practice further can try advanced variations that involve spinal twists. The key is to feel comfortable and confident in modifying or advancing the chair pose to accommodate your current state. Ready to try the chair pose? Follow the guidelines below to get the basic chair pose right. Then, observe as Verdier demonstrates seven alternative chair pose variations to accommodate all abilities and fitness aspirations.

How to Do the Chair Pose

<p>Begin by standing tall with your feet and legs close together, arms resting along your sides. Make sure your core is tight. Gradually lower your hips back and down, as if moving to take a seat in an unseen chair. Go as low as is comfortable for you. At the same time, lift your arms upwards towards the ceiling to the full extent of your shoulder’s range of motion. Your biceps should be positioned next to your ears, with your palms facing each other.</p> <p>Maintain this stance, ensuring your chest remains elevated. To avoid rounding your back, engage your core and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Keep holding the position.</p>

7 Chair Pose Variations

If the standard chair pose doesn't seem to suit your physical condition or mental state, you needn't worry. There are numerous variations of this posture that still offer strength-enhancing benefits without causing discomfort or pain. This article presents different versions of the chair pose that either intensify or simplify the exercise, with some specifically designed to alleviate tension in the hips, shoulders, and feet. In addition, Verdier shows how to modify the chair pose to stimulate the inner thighs and elongate the spine. Regardless of the variation you opt for, it's crucial to continuously monitor your body’s response and switch to another version if something feels off. Make sure to prevent your knees from buckling inwards or twisting outwards during each chair pose variation and avoid curving or overextending your back excessively to keep discomfort at bay, as suggested by Verdier.

Chair Pose Variation to Scale Down: Chair Pose Against a Wall

For those who are new to yoga or have balancing issues, Verdier suggests utilizing a wall as a stabilizing prop when performing the chair pose. This technique not only provides needed support but also helps alleviate any discomfort in the knees and lower back by reducing the body's load. It promotes an upright, lengthened spine, too. If you're dealing with limited shoulder mobility, consider raising your arms to your shoulders instead of all the way overhead.
 
Position yourself a few inches away from a wall with your feet set hip-width apart and your arms resting at your sides. Engage your core, then bend your knees and lower your hips down and back, similar to how you'd sit in a chair. Sink as low as comfort allows, letting your buttocks rest against the wall. Concurrently, lift your arms to shoulder height in front of you, palms facing downward.
 
Maintain this pose, ensuring your chest stays elevated. Prevent your back from rounding by pulling your shoulder blades together and keeping your core engaged.

Chair Pose Variation to Level Up: Revolved Chair Pose

Revolved Chair Pose, a dynamic variation of the basic chair pose, offers increased flexibility and strength in your thoracic spine. This posture, according to Verdier, engages your core from your inner thighs to your pelvic floor and abdomen. Maintaining this pose requires stability, as lack thereof may lead to misalignment in your knee and sacrum, throwing off the overall posture.

Instructions:

A. Begin standing upright with your feet together and arms at your sides.

B. Activate your core and bend your knees, lowering your hips back as though sitting on a chair. Go as low as you comfortably can. Concurrently, extend your arms upwards towards the ceiling within the limits of your shoulder mobility. Your biceps should be next to your ears with palms facing each other.

C. With a lifted chest and a straight back, bring your arms down in front of you. Your palms should be pressed together and your elbows pointing sideways.

D. Deepen the bend in your knees, bringing your hips closer to the floor. Twist your torso to the left, resting your right elbow on the outside of your left knee. Gaze to the left, ensuring your palms remain pressed together and your elbows aligned. Maintain this position.

Chair Pose Variation to Stretch Spine: Modified Revolved Chair Pose

If you're eager to attempt the chair pose progression but lack the required flexibility, this modified version is an excellent alternative. Verdier explains that placing your hand on the outside of your knee still provides a twisting motion, while also ensuring accessibility. The use of a yoga block in this variation not only strengthens your inner thighs and core but also ensures stability for your pelvis and spine. If your anatomy, such as your chest or belly, makes it challenging to position your elbow against your knee during the traditional revolved chair pose, this adaptation can be beneficial. Step A: Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart and a yoga block between your knees. Have your arms resting at your sides. Step B: Engage your core and bend your knees, sinking your hips downwards and backwards as though sitting in a chair. Lower yourself as close to the ground as you feel comfortable. Concurrently, lift your arms in front of your chest and lightly press your palms together. Keep your chest elevated and prevent your back from rounding by engaging your core and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Step C: Release your hands and rotate your torso to the left. Extend and lower your right arm in front of your body, positioning your right forearm on the outside of your left knee. At the same time, extend your left arm behind your body and place your left hand on the left side of your lower back. Step D: Look toward the left and maintain this position.

Chair Pose Variation for Tight Hips: One-Legged Chair Pose

If you're unfamiliar with yoga jargon, consider this chair pose variation a standing four-figure stretch. "It's going to provide a stretch to the lateral part of your leg that is on top [namely, the hip abductors] and it's also a balance pose," explains Verdier. While maintaining this posture, ensure your standing ankle remains firm to prevent falling over, she adds.

A. Position yourself with your feet at hip-width distance and hands comfortably resting on your hips.

B. Engage your core, slightly bend your right knee, and shift your weight onto your right foot. Gradually raise your left foot from the ground and place the left ankle just above the right leg's knee. Ensure the left foot is flexed, with its sole facing the room's right side.

C. Bend your knees and lower your hips downwards and backwards as if you're settling into a chair, descending as far down as you feel comfortable. Hold this position while keeping your chest elevated. Avoid rounding your back by pulling your shoulder blades together and engaging your core.

Chair Pose Variation for Tight Shoulders: Chair Pose with Chest Opener

Verdier suggests that the Chair pose with a chest opener can be an excellent remedy for tight shoulders, especially for those who spend long hours sitting at a desk. This yoga pose doesn't require finger interlacing, making it favourable for those who lack sufficient mobility. The key ingredient is a yoga strap which aids in opening up the front of your torso.

Start off by positioning yourself with feet placed hip-width apart and hold a yoga strap behind you. Your palms should face the wall behind you and your hands should align with your shoulders.

As you engage your core, bend your knees and push your hips back as if you were sitting on a chair. Lower your body to a point that is comfortable for you. Concurrently, lift your arms towards the ceiling as much as your shoulder mobility permits, whilst holding the yoga strap in both hands. Pull the strap apart actively.

Maintain this posture, ensuring your chest remains lifted. To prevent your back from rounding, keep your shoulder blades squeezed together and continue to engage your core.

Chair Pose Variation to Stretch Feet: Elevated Chair Pose

Engaging your core and lifting your heels from the floor during an elevated chair pose not only facilities a smooth transition into a runner's lunge, but it also serves to fortify your calves and ankles, augment your balance, and stretch the base of your feet and toe flexors such as digiti minimi and digitorum brevis, according to Verdier. If your Achilles tendons or calves are tense, however, she recommends doing this posture with a rolled yoga mat under your heel for added support and to alleviate pressure on the rear of the ankle.
A. Begin by standing with your feet apart at hip width and your arms resting at your sides.
B. Lift your heels off the ground while simultaneously raising your arms to shoulder height in front of your body, palms facing downward.
C. Maintain your raised heels and engaged core, bend your knees and lower your hips downwards and backwards as if sitting in a chair, going as close to the floor as you comfortably can.
D. Sustain this position, ensuring that your chest is lifted and your back doesn't round by keeping your shoulder blades together and your core tight. 

Chair Pose Variation to Target Inner Thighs: Chair Pose with a Block

Ignite your inner thighs by incorporating a block into your chair pose routine. Apply strong pressure to the block with your legs to engage not only your thighs but also your core. Your core isn't merely your abs; it encompasses various trunk muscles such as the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, obliques, erector spinae, diaphragm, and pelvic floor.

Commence with your feet set hip-width apart, holding a yoga block between your knees and arms resting at your sides. Activate your core, then lower your hips back and downwards as though settling into a chair. Go as low as feels comfortable. Concurrently, elevate your arms upward towards the ceiling, extending as far as your shoulder flexibility permits. Your biceps should reside next to your ears with your palms facing each other.

Maintain this position ensuring your chest remains lifted and your back does not curve by pulling your shoulder blades together and actively engaging your core. Intensify the engagement of your thigh muscles by firmly squeezing the yoga block.

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