By Jivana Heyman
Excerpted from Jivana’s upcoming book, Yoga Revolution: Building a Practice of Courage & Compassion (to be released November 2021).
I know it sounds a little strange, but I believe chair yoga is a revolutionary practice. As I’ve described in detail in this book, the practices of yoga are themselves revolutionary—both inwardly in their potential to change our relationship to ourselves, and outwardly in their potential to change the world. Chair yoga offers a way to democratize the practice, making it truly accessible to everyone and touching many more lives with the magic of yoga.
As you can tell, I’m a huge fan of chair yoga. Not only is the practice fun and engaging in a chair, but you can easily access the more subtle practices in a chair. It’s not a coincidence that these subtle practices of pranayama and meditation are actually more accessible. Regardless of how your body moves, and where you’re practicing—whether it’s a mat, a chair, or in bed—you can do these practices. They represent the next limbs of ashtanga yoga, taking us into a deeper relationship with ourselves.
When practicing chair yoga, it’s usually best to find a solid, strong chair without arms. To make sure you don’t fall over, the chair can be against a wall or on a yoga mat to increase traction. Be careful not to lean too far forward in case you might fall out of the chair. You can keep your feet further out in front of you, and have your legs wider apart to create a strong base of support.
Also, notice that in chair yoga the body isn’t starting from a neutral position like we are in most mat practices. You’re starting from a flexed hip and flexed knee position. (That means you’re bending forward at the hips, and backward at the knees). The flexed hip position tends to cause a slight rounding in the back, decreasing the lumbar curve. That means that you need to be cautious about forward bending, since your spine may already be slightly in flexion, or rounded.
Also, your pelvis is the foundation for the entire upper body when you’re seated, and the sit bones are generally a fixed point in any chair yoga pose. That means that the pelvis can’t move as freely as it might when you’re lying down or standing up. The fixed pelvis is another reason to be sensitive to the lower back and the sacroiliac joint (where the spine connects to the pelvis) in chair yoga.
Learn to design yoga classes where all students can practice together regardless of age, size, ability, or experience level in the upcoming Accessible Yoga Training with Jivana Heyman and guests! Online training offers expanded possibilities and flexibility as we explore foundational aspects of equity and accessibility in yoga.
The Accessible Yoga Training Online will meet:
September 13-27, 2021
Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays
9am-12pm Pacific | 12pm-3pm Eastern
(5pm-8pm London, UK)
$600-$800 USD Tiered Pricing
Partial scholarships and payment plans available
Registration opens September 3rd!
Jivana Heyman, C-IAYT, E-RYT500, is the founder and director of Accessible Yoga, an international non-profit organization dedicated to increasing access to the yoga teachings. He’s the author of Accessible Yoga: Poses and Practices for Every Body (Shambhala Publications, November 2019), co-owner of the Santa Barbara Yoga Center, and an Integral Yoga Minister. He lives with his husband and two children in Santa Barbara, California.
Jivana has specialized in teaching yoga to people with disabilities with an emphasis on community building and social engagement. Out of this work, the Accessible Yoga organization was created to support education, training and advocacy with the mission of shifting the public perception of yoga. In addition to offering Conferences and Trainings, Accessible Yoga offers a popular ambassador program with over 1000 Accessible Yoga Ambassadors around the world.
Jivana coined the phrase, “Accessible Yoga,” over ten years ago, and it has now become the standard appellation for a large cross section of the immense yoga world. He brought the Accessible Yoga community together for the first time in 2015 for the Accessible Yoga Conference, which has gone on to become a focal point for this movement. There are now two Conferences and over thirty-five Accessible Yoga Trainings per year, as well as a strong underground yoga community supporting them.
Over the past 25 years, Jivana has led countless yoga teacher training programs around the world, and dedicates his time to supporting yoga teachers who are working to serve communities that are under-represented in traditional yoga spaces.