The magic of chair yoga

The solid workout can help improve physical flexibility and reduce fall risks.

Jessica Rosenberg
Jessica Rosenberg

If you’ve ever come across photos of people doing yoga, you may have wondered how it was possible for the human body to get itself twisted into such incredible, pretzel-like shapes.

But there’s more to yoga than fancy-pants poses. There’s also chair yoga.

Yes, it’s possible to do in the comfort of your own chair. Granted, you have to get out of the Lazy Boy for a few minutes and move to a metal folding chair (or similar chair), but other than that, you don’t need to bring anything else but your breath, your body and an open mind.

A good workout

Is it possible to get anything like a good workout while sitting down? Many experts, including yoga teachers based right here in the Twin Cities, say “yes.”

“Balance is power,” said Jessica Rosenberg, a certified yoga teacher and the founder of Strong Spirits Mindfulness
& Movement chair yoga program.

She teaches throughout the Twin Cities, including regular classes at senior care centers, senior independent living apartments, and assisted living and memory care communities. She conducts education and teacher trainings across the country,  is the author of the Chair Yoga Training Manual, available on Apple Books ($14.99) and is the force behind The Adventures of Super Stretch children’s yoga program, too.

“Chair yoga is a gentle form of yoga that can be done sitting on a chair or standing while using the chair for support,” Rosenberg said. “It not only helps you gain that balance, but also strength and flexibility, from doing just two to three sessions a week, either in a class or on your own.”

Mind and body benefits

Doing chair yoga can help improve physical flexibility and reduce fall risks, Rosenberg said. “And there are other, less tangible benefits that class participants have experienced,” she said, “such as elevated mood, a more grateful attitude and decreased stress and anxiety.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Chair yoga poses can help seniors and people with chronic pain improve their quality of life, lower their blood pressure, improve their sleep patterns and manage depression.”

In most chair yoga classes, students sit in a circle. Class often begins with some time for centering and breathing. Then the teacher will conduct series of warm- ups, followed by deeper stretches, all done while sitting on chairs or standing behind them. Props might include hula hoops, straps, weights, scarves or exercise balls.

Participants learn to bend and twist with a stable base, lift the lower body while using support and create strength and flexibility while using props. At the end of class, the teacher often leads a group relaxation exercise.

What others say

Rosenberg teaches a class at Birchwood Senior Living in Forest Lake. She recently asked her students for some thoughts about the class.

“It’s good and good for you,” said one male resident. A female participant said: “I just feel so much better after I do the movement and breathing exercises.”

Rachel Trelstad-Porter, director of integrative health and wellness at the St. Paul-based Senior Care Communities, said the benefits go even beyond that: “Jes specializes in getting people to move and breathe, and that helps people arrive at a deeper place where health and healing happen.”

Brett Collins, an active life director at Providence Place in Minneapolis, appreciates the chair yoga program at the active adult community.

“The classes strengthen and stretch our residents’ bodies,” he said. “We caregivers can see how the cognitive benefits of breathwork and mindfulness help people here seem more relaxed and in a better mood.”



Julie Kendrick is a frequent contributor to Minnesota Good Age.