It’s 3:30 in the afternoon, you’ve had a busy day, and your energy reserves are running low. The mid-afternoon slump ambushes you and suddenly you’re in a battle with your eyelids to stay awake. Does this sound familiar? If so, what can you do to recharge your batteries to make it through the remainder of the day?
Chair yoga to the rescue!
Chair yoga is an ideal way to invigorate your mind and body from the comfort of your office or desk chairs. In as little as 5 to 7 minutes, you can perform a handful of poses that will stimulate your circulation, boost your metabolism, lengthen your muscles, deepen your breathing, and fill you up with a surplus of life force energy (Prana). It’s a convenient and handy way to integrate yoga into your day and the perfect antidote to the fatigue you may run into as your energy begins to wane.
The poses that follow form a simple chair yoga routine that will give you an energy boost when you find yourself in the mid-day doldrums. Explore each pose mindfully without forcing your body into any position that doesn’t feel appropriate. Adapt the poses to your body rather than pushing yourself into the “perfect pose.” Remember that yoga is about deepening the conversation between your mind and body, so listen to the messages your body sends you as you move through the sequence. For each of these poses, keep the tip of your tongue gently touching the small ridge behind your front top two teeth to help relax your face, neck, and jaw.
1. Spinal Cord Breathing
Come toward the front portion of your chair with both feet flat on the floor. Sit up tall as if there was a thread attached to the crown of your head, pulling you up toward the sky. Extend your arms out to your sides with the elbows bent, hands toward the sky, forming a “goalpost” or “cactus arms” type position. Make soft fists with your hands. Now as you inhale, look upward, draw your elbows back and down, expand through your chest and slightly arch your spine backward. As you exhale, draw your elbows in toward your abdomen and round your back into a soft forward bend. Align your movement with the breath while keeping your attention on the gentle extension and flexion of your spine through its full range of motion. Repeat this cycle for 5 to 10 breaths.
2. Spinal Twist
Keeping yourself centered in your chair, face forward with a tall spine. Bring your knees close together and keep your feet grounded on the floor. Inhale and extend both arms straight up, palms facing each other. As you exhale, rotate your spine to the right, bringing the palm of your left hand to the either 1) the outside of your right leg, or 2) the inside of your left leg, depending on your comfort level. Lower your right arm to the right and place your palm on the seat of the chair behind your tailbone area. Gently draw your chin over toward your right shoulder, keeping your head and spine straight. Avoid the temptation to force or crank the twist too deeply. Let comfort be your guide. Take 2 to 3 slow steady breaths in this revolved position before inhaling and drawing your hands back up toward the sky. Repeat on the left side and continue to alternate from left to right for as many repetitions as comfortable.
3. Breaths of Joy
This is an energizing breathing movement that consists of three sharp inhalations through the nose followed by one deep exhalation through the mouth. Begin in a seated forward fold position with your chest resting on your upper thighs.
- Inhalation #1: Roll your spine up to seated while swinging both arms straight up in front of you, fingertips pointing forward at eye level.
- Inhalation #2: Drop your arms down to your lap and swing them out to your sides, parallel to the floor at shoulder level.
- Inhalation #3: Let your arms dip down slightly toward your lap once more before swinging them straight up to the sky.
Now, as you exhale fold forward and down, back to the starting position. If you like, exhale powerfully with a deep “Haaah” sound while opening your mouth widely and extending your tongue into a lion’s face. Repeat this cycle quickly 5 to 10 times or for as long as comfortable. Note: if at any point you begin to feel dizzy or lightheaded, stop the movement, sit still, close your eyes, and breathe normally.
4. Sun Salutations in a Chair
Although most of us are familiar with the standard standing versions of Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutations, a modified version of this powerful yoga sequence can be performed in a chair providing the same energizing and invigorating benefits as when standing. The chair version of Sun Salutations can be found here. Move easily and comfortably with each pose consciously focusing on inhaling during the poses that expand or lengthen your body and exhale when collapsing or rounding your body. Perform 3 to 6 rounds at a steady and even pace.
5. Seated Triangle
Sit near the front edge of your chair and spread your legs slightly wider than shoulder-width apart with your feet flat on the floor. Extend both your arms straight out to the sides, keeping them level with your shoulders. Inhale deeply and broaden your chest slightly as you lengthen through your arms. As you exhale, imagine your right arm being gently tugged to the right; bend at the waist to lower your right hand toward the floor (it doesn’t have to touch). Simultaneously extend your left arm up toward the sky. If comfortable, turn your head to look up toward your left fingers. Take several slow breaths as you stretch into your arms, waist, and hips. Return to center and repeat on the left side.
6. Qi Massage
Sit forward on your chair with your spine upright. Make soft fists with your hands and begin to tap lightly on the area around your kidneys, lower back, and tailbone. Now open your hands and use the palms to gently slap your lower back; continue the slapping down your hips, outer thighs, calves, and ankles. Once you reach your feet, continue softly slapping up the insides of your legs, back up to your abdomen. Perform two of these cycles on your lower body.
Now, with soft fists again, lightly knock on your sternum and chest. After a few moments, extend your right arm and use your left hand to softly slap your chest, right shoulder, and down the entire length of the inside of your right arm. When you reach your wrist, roll your arm over slightly so you can slap your way up the outside of your arm, finally rolling over the shoulder. Repeat this cycle on the right arm before doing two rounds on the left arm following the same pattern. Conclude by knocking lightly over your chest once more before sweeping your hands down over your chest and abdomen into your lap.
7. Pulling Down the Heavens
To conclude your session, inhale deeply as you circle both of your arms up toward the sky, forming a large circle. Your hands will be slightly above your head at the top of your inhalation. As you exhale, draw your hands down in front of your face (down the centerline of your body) and lower them to your lap. Inhale and repeat this cycle 5 to 10 times, visualizing the infinite energy of the universe funneling down through the crown of your head and into your mind and body.
Once you complete this sequence, take a few moments to be still and tune into your body. Allow this experience of movement, breathing, and relaxation to be integrated and metabolized into your system so you can take this renewed level of energy with you into the remainder your day.