If the word “yoga” calls to mind twisted limbs in uncomfortable positions, the benefits and ease of a gentle form of the exercise may come as a surprise.
Chair flow yoga involves simple stretches and postures performed while paying special attention to breathing. The movements—most of which can be done while seated or using a chair for support while standing—can be modified for individuals with health or mobility challenges and, if done with regularity, can help improve strength, balance, and flexibility.
Lt. John Wylie of the Penn Police Department has practiced yoga for more than a dozen years and is a certified instructor of power flow yoga, which is a very fluid, flowing movement style that is normally taught in a hot room. He brings the key elements of yoga into his chair flow yoga method.
Wylie partnered with the Penn Professional Staff Assembly to provide an hour-long chair flow yoga session and tutorial video on YouTube.
Before starting chair flow yoga, Wylie recommends sitting in a stable chair without wheels, keeping your spine straight and elongated, and maintaining a mindful focus on your breathing.
“This is really nothing more than a practice in breathing while you’re sitting, hopefully to bring you to a point and sense of full meditation,” he says.
Wylie says chair flow yoga is the reverse of what usually occurs in a yoga session. In the normal course of events, people do yoga so they can sit in a chair.
“Yoga is primarily to bring yourself a sense of health and wellness so that you can sit and meditate,” he says. Chair flow yoga starts at the end, and retreats to the beginning.
“This system definitely gives you a workout but also highlights the things you would normally get from a yoga practice, including a focus on breathing, a focus on body awareness, and a focus on lengthening and stretching,” he says.
For people who are adept at doing yoga, Wylie says chair flow yoga is something they can incorporate when they can’t get to their mats to do yoga for 30 minutes or an hour.
Anyone with preexisting injuries should consult with their doctor before performing chair flow yoga.
Originally published on March 1, 2012