11 Chair Yoga Poses You Can Do Without Getting Up

No mat needed.

Originally Published: 
Chair yoga poses you can do without getting up.

The next time you’re in the mood to bend and stretch but don’t exactly feel like getting up or unfurling a yoga mat, stay right where you are and try chair yoga instead. It’s not only the comfiest and most accessible yoga style, but it’s also super beneficial.

Chair yoga is a gentle form of yoga and stretching that is practiced using a chair for support, says Stella Stephanopoulos, a yoga teacher at CorePower and founder of the podcast Everyday Endorphins. Instead of, say, doing a forward fold on a mat, you’d remain seated and reach for your toes from the comfort of your chair. Each move is adapted from traditional yoga poses and modified to be done while sitting or using a chair, says Dr. Brian Gans, M.D., a double board-certified physician and yoga teacher.

This form of yoga works as a great way to stretch when you’re sitting at your desk, Stephanopoulos tells Bustle. You can do it on the fly, right in your workspace. It’s also a good option if you have limited mobility, low energy, an injury, or if you’re brand new to yoga. “One of the main benefits to chair yoga is its accessibility for a wide variety of people,” Stephanopoulos says. If you’re just looking for a way to ease into the practice as you gain strength and flexibility, chair yoga’s got your back. “It can be practiced anywhere, and is an easy way to incorporate brief stretches into your daily routine to increase flexibility and manage your stress,” she adds. Here’s how to get started with 11 body-lengthening chair yoga poses.


Sun Salutations

To kick off your chair yoga practice — or quickly unkink a stiff back — try a seated sun salutation.

- Start in a seated position on your chair with your feet firmly on the ground.

- Inhale and raise your arms over your head.

- Stretch your arms long and bring your fingertips to the sky.

- Exhale and bring your palms down to your chest.

- Begin to fold forward, rounding your spine.

- Pause then inhale and roll up one vertebra at a time, with your head lifting last.

- Roll your shoulders up, back, and down to relax your shoulder blades.

- Repeat for 2 to 3 rounds.



From there, Stephanopoulos recommends moving onto to the spine-stretching cat-cow pose. Typically, this one is done on all fours on a mat, but in chair yoga, you get to stay right where you are.

- Sit up in your chair with a long spine.

- Keep both of your feet firmly on the floor.

- Bring your hands to your knees or the tops of the thighs.

- Take a deep inhale as you arch your spine and look up towards the ceiling.

- Drop your shoulders away from your ears and expand your chest open for cow pose.

- Round your spine as you exhale and drop your chin to your chest.

- Engage your core to bring your naval in towards your spine for cat pose.

- Slowly repeat the cat-cow sequence for 5 breaths.


Forward Fold

A chair forward fold can stretch your hamstrings, lower back, and hips, says Gans. As a bonus, it’s also great for period pain.

- Sit on a chair with your feet flat on the floor and your hands resting on your thighs.

- Inhale and lengthen your spine, sitting tall.

- Exhale and slowly fold forward from your hips, reaching your hands towards your feet or the floor.

- Allow your head to hang heavy and your neck to relax.

- Take a few slow breaths, feeling the stretch in your hamstrings and lower back.

- When you're ready to come out of the pose, inhale and slowly roll back up to a seated position.

- Repeat 3 to 5 times.


Spinal Twist

A spinal twist will make your mid-back, chest, shoulders, and hips feel brand new. It can also get rid of mild back pain and improve your digestion, Gans says.

- Sit on a chair with your feet flat on the floor and your hands resting on your thighs.

- Inhale and lengthen your spine, sitting tall.

- Exhale and slowly twist to the right, placing your left hand on your right knee and your right hand on the back of the chair.

- Inhale and lengthen your spine, sitting tall.

- Exhale and deepen the twist, gently turning your head to look over your right shoulder.

- Take 3 to 5 slow breaths, feeling the stretch in your spine and upper back.

- When you're ready to come out of the pose, inhale and slowly release the twist, returning to a neutral seated position.

- Repeat the twist on the other side.


Seated Pigeon

Stephanopoulos suggests doing a pigeon pose to open up tight glutes.

- Sit tall in your chair.

- Bring your right ankle to cross over your left thigh.

- Flex your foot.

- Fold your torso over your thigh.

- Reach forward.

- Hold for 3 to 5 breaths.

- Repeat with your left leg to stretch the left side.


Extended Side Angle

Add a seated extended side angle to increase your flexibility and improve core strength. Stephanopoulos breaks it down:

- Keep your feet firmly on the floor and back long.

- Inhale, then exhale and fold forward.

- Drop your fingertips to the floor and round your spine.

- Bring your left hand to the outside of your left foot or place your hand on a block to elevate your reach.

- Twist and reach your right arm up to the ceiling, opening your chest as you look towards the sky.

- Hold for several breaths.

- Bring your right arm back down on an exhale.

- Repeat on the other side.


Eagle Pose

An eagle pose on a yoga mat requires a ton of balance, while an eagle pose in a chair is totally chill.

- Sit with your spine long and your shoulders away from your ears.

- Cross your right thigh over your left thigh for eagle position.

- If possible, wrap your right foot all around your left calf.

- Hook your foot around your left ankle.

- Cross your left arm over your right one.

- Bring your elbows in line with one another and your palms to together.

- Extend your fingers to face the ceiling.

- Bring your elbows in line with your shoulders.

- Hold for 3 to 5 breaths.

- Unravel yourself and repeat on the other side.


Goddess Pose

Tara Jacobson, MS, ACSM, a yoga teacher and kinesiology faculty member at Santa Rosa Junior College, likes the goddess chair pose. It’s a juicy stretch for your arms and shoulders as well as your neck, back, and hips.

- Start by sitting in a chair with your thighs, knees, feet, and hips together and hands resting on your thighs.

- Inhale and sit up tall and straight.

- Exhale and walk your feet out to a wide comfortable stance.

- Keep your knees over your ankles with toes slightly turned out.

- Inhale and reach your right arm up and side stretch to the left, expanding the right side of your body on your exhale.

- Repeat on the other side.

- Next, place your hands on your thighs closer toward your knees.

- Inhale, then exhale and dip your left shoulder down and gaze over your right shoulder moving for a spinal twist.

- Repeat in the other direction.

- On your next inhale, slide your hands so they’re holding onto the front of your knees.

- Push your shoulders back and sit up tall to expand your chest.

- As you exhale flex your spine, rounding your back as you draw your belly button in to scoop your tailbone.

- Draw your chin to your chest.

- Repeat this flow three times.


Warrior II

Doing warrior II in a chair is another one that takes balance out of the equation, making a tough posture slightly more doable. You’ll feel it in your hips, back, and spine.

- Sit tall in your chair.

- Extend your right leg out to the side.

- Point your left foot in the opposite direction, with knee bent.

- Extend your arms out like a T.

- Reach your left arm over your left knee, then extend your left arm over your head.

- Slide your right hand down towards your right foot.

- Repeat for several breaths on each side.


Happy Baby Pose

Usually a happy baby pose happens on your back while you roll around with your feet in the air. If that sounds like a bit much, or if you want a quick hip stretch in the middle of your workday, do it in a chair.

- Sit tall in your chair.

- Open your legs wide.

- Take a deep breath, exhale and bend forward.

- Feel a stretch in your back and neck.

- To go further, reach for your ankles.

- Hold onto your feet.

- Let your head hang heavy.

- Wiggle out any discomfort.

- Take 3 to 5 deep breaths.

- Roll back up.



Yes, you can also do savasana in chair yoga. For this pose, you’re typically lying on your back, but the chair variety has you sitting up with intention. The end goal is still the same: to relax and reset.

- Sit up with good posture in your chair.

- Place your feet firmly on the ground.

- Rest your hands on your thighs.

- Close your eyes.

- Take slow, deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth.

- Think about relaxing all your muscles.

- Feel present in the moment.

- Bonus points: Play spa music or listen to green noise.

- Slowly return your focus to the room and move on with your day.

Studies referenced:

McCaffrey, R. (2019). A Pilot Study of the Effects of Chair Yoga and Chair-Based Exercise on Biopsychosocial Outcomes in Older Adults With Lower Extremity Osteoarthritis. Holist Nurs Pract. doi: 10.1097/HNP.0000000000000355.

Park, J. (2017). A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial of the Effects of Chair Yoga on Pain and Physical Function Among Community-Dwelling Older Adults With Lower Extremity Osteoarthritis. J Am Geriatr Soc. doi: 10.1111/jgs.14717.


Stella Stephanopoulos, yoga teacher at CorePower, founder of Everyday Endorphins

Dr. Brian Gans, MD, double board-certified physician, yoga teacher

Tara Jacobson, MS, ACSM, EP-C, E-RYT 500, yoga teacher, kinesiology faculty at Santa Rosa Junior College

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