Is Chair Yoga Real Yoga?

Yes. Well, in my humble opinion, yes.

This question has come up several times this week so, as someone who studies and teaches yoga, and chair yoga, I thought I would offer my own clarification and some words from those who practice chair yoga. First, overall, yoga classes can vary greatly and no two classes are ever exactly alike. Some classes, like Bikram or Ashtanga classes, are more alike than not. With each class, the sequencing is the same or very similar and as a seasoned practitioner, you know what to expect, you know which asana (asana = pose) is coming next. In other yoga lineages, such as a Hatha practice, the asana practice is less regimented.

I asked the awesome yoginis in my Tuesday morning chair class for their opinion: “Is our chair yoga practice really yoga?” They are a smart and fiesty bunch so I dare not tinker with any of their words. Below are some of their thoughts:

  • “Hell, yeah.”
  • “The first test I would apply is when we finish a session, do I feel that I’ve had a good workout? Answer: Yes. Second: Does the instructor explain and demonstrate how each position replicates mat yoga asanas? Answer: Yes.Third: Does the instructor demonstrate how to modify poses for students’ varying or occasional joint challenges? Answer: Yes.
  • “Not everyone has the blessing or luxury of being able to be on the floor for yoga. This is my question. If the floor positions can be replicated sitting in a chair and the benefits are the same, is that not the same as “real” yoga? Do not discount it until you have tried it. You will be pleasantly surprised.”
  • Not everyone can get up and down from the floor without assistance.  Not everyone can use their knees anymore. And not everyone can pose their bodies into pretzel-like stances without falling on their faces! I love what our instructor says many times during our practice… “anything you do on the floor, you can do in a chair.”  My balance is better, and my breathing is much better.  It’s a great workout.

The practice of yoga is as unique as the thumbprint of the one who practices. From my experience as a yoga practitioner and teacher, I know that a yoga practice always meets me right where I am, without judgement and always with great compassion. Chair yoga is yet another way to experience the amazing benefits of this ancient practice and makes the practice accessible to every body.

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