Chair Yoga for the Core: Build a Strong Center for Optimal Health
The torso, or core, is the powerhouse of the body. After years of practicing and teaching Pilates and yoga, I know how important this region of our body is. Even if you’re stuck in an office all day or have little time for exercise, you can work the torso. Chair yoga for the core consists of moves you can do to tone your abdominals, lengthen your spine, and strengthen your entire torso region. You do these exercises using your chair as a prop!
Why Practice Chair Yoga for the Core?
Without a firm core, our spine is weak and our abs are weak and flabby, making us prone to back pain. Excessive sitting has been linked to excess body fat in the torso. Weight gain in the midsection puts us at risk of all sorts of issues, from herniated discs to type 2 diabetes to higher cortisol levels. Elevated cholesterol and a greater risk for heart attacks is associated with abdominal weight gain as well.
The good news is, you can stay a step ahead of all these risks by practicing chair yoga for the core right at your desk or in any chair!
Our torso can also hold a lot of pent-up energy. Remember that proper breathing is key. Breathing deeply into the sides, lower back, front body, and waist can really make a difference in our mood and stamina.
Chair yoga for the core includes some of my all-time favorite stretches—those that work the spine and torso region. Joseph Pilates’ famous quote, “You’re only as young as your spine is flexible,” really holds true.
The more we can tap into the energy in our core and use it to support our spine and torso, the younger we feel and the more energy we have. So many postures require initiating the move or holding the move from the abdominals.
The first step in chair yoga for the core is to imagine you have a cylinder or straw rising from the very base of your spine. Next, draw energy up the center of the straw. Start at the pelvic floor and move up through the transversus abdominis. This stabilizes the entire body.
Benefits of Chair Yoga for the Core
Many activities depend on a strong core, from the simple act of bending to put on shoes to the most athletic endeavors. Housework, gardening, and even sex require a strong core. Chair yoga for the core helps you learn to engage your abdominals correctly. With the abdominals engaged, you’ll find a natural lift and length without having to force anything.
Chair yoga for the core will help you gain strength in the torso and freedom in the spine. Also, you’ll be able to sit with ease and poise.
Why the Core is So Important
Your core muscles stabilize your body. Core exercises can improve balance and lessen your risk of falling. Weak core muscles also contribute to slouching and poor posture.
Good posture trims your silhouette and projects confidence. More important, good posture lessens strain on the back and allows you to breathe deeply. A strong midsection and torso help you stay focused, lean, and healthy.
Ready to learn how to do chair yoga for the core? You’ll find instructions and illustrations on how to do core yoga in a chair in chapter 6 of my book, Chair Yoga: Sit, Stretch, and Strengthen Your Way to a Happier, Healthier You.
Kristin McGee is a celebrity yoga and Pilates instructor in New York City. She is currently teaching yoga with Peloton. She is the star of over 100 videos, seen in several magazines and tv shows and is a spokeswoman for many brands and causes she believes in. A proud mom to three, she sure keeps herself busy!
The choice of the top photo to accompany this title is both dangerous and lacking in compassion. Most people looking for chair yoga have mobility and health restrictions. Even healthy people looking for desk yoga could be injured if inexperienced and trying this on an unstable folding chair. It is also very difficult to come into this position keeping in good alignment for the wrists. Those with mobility/health restrictions are not going to feel encouraged or supported in their search for some movement that will meet their needs. This is the kind of thing that distorts the beauty of yoga philosophy that is the antithesis of showing off difficult poses and of comparison. Please consider the responsibility you have as a well known instructor to help people be safe and self affirming through yoga.
I completely agree, Karen Jyothi. Thank you for speaking what I was feeling as well. I’ve been teaching chair yoga for many years and one of the barriers I often find of people who want to try chair yoga is thinking they have to at a certain proficiency before even starting a yoga practice. Yoga meets you exactly in your level of ability and invite you to deepen flexibility and strength. This picture is quite intimidating for those that are looking for accessible yoga.