The following basic routine includes movements of all major joints. The whole routine should take about 15 to 20 minutes. If time is limited, after going through body and breath awareness, pick a few movements that are the most relevant for you. Another suggestion is that one day you do the upper half of the body and the next day you do the lower half. One's personal limits must never be exceeded. Check with your doctor about what you can and cannot do.
It is important to align the body properly. Body awareness begins the process of physical relaxation. It is an important first step as a tense body will not be able to move properly, movements could be more limited, and risk of injury can increase. Breath awareness is also important as it starts calming the mind. As the mind starts becoming quieter, the body relaxes further. We are then able to distinguish more easily between tightness caused by stress or stiff joints and muscles. One responds more to relaxation, and the other to stretching.
Moving the body with the breath helps release stress. The respiratory system may be stimulated as lung capacity gently increases. The internal organs are toned and massaged. So the digestive system may also start working more efficiently. The action of gently squeezing and stretching different parts of the body may also improve circulation and drainage. Overall, there can be a general sense of well being. I hope you feel the joy in the movement of body and breath, a happy dance of freedom.
Sit close to the edge of a firm chair. Adjust the body so that the head, neck, and spine are aligned. Shoulders are dropped. Slightly elevate the chest bone so that the breath flows fluidly in the upper and lower belly. Feet should be placed on the floor or on some support, a hip-width apart, the toes pointing straight forward. The thighs should be parallel to the floor. Hands can rest on the thighs.
Without moving the body, direct the mental awareness to different parts of the body beginning with the head: head, neck, shoulders, arms, chest, belly, legs, pelvis floor, sit-bones, lower back, middle back, upper back, and the head. As attention is drawn to each part, feel it soften and relax.
Now become aware of the breath without trying to change it. Feel the natural, spontaneous breath wherever it is experienced in the body. Be aware of every inhaled and exhaled breath. It may be helpful to count the breaths backward from 10 to 1. The body will become more quiet and relaxed.
Neck: With the inhaled breath, slowly, moving with the flow of the breath, draw the head slightly back. Exhaling, moving slowly and fluidly with the breath, bring the chin down toward the chest. There should be no discomfort. Repeat two more times.
Bring the head back to its base position. Exhaling turn the head to look over your right shoulder, moving slowly and fluidly, avoiding any jerky movements. Inhaling bring the head back to the center. Exhaling, turn the head to look over the left shoulder. Inhaling, bring the head back to the center.
Exhaling, turn the head to the right. Continue breathing normally as you bring the right palm to the right temple. Press the right temple into the right palm and the right palm into the right temple, creating resistance. The head does not move. Bring the right hand down. Inhaling, bring the head gently back to the center. Exhaling, turn the head to the left. Breathing normally, bring the left palm up to the left temple. Press the left temple into the left palm and the left palm into the left temple. Then bring the left hand down. Inhaling bring the head back to the center.
Shoulders, arms, chest: Raise your arms so that the finger tips rest on the shoulders. Try to have elbows and arms in line with the shoulders with the upper arms resting along the sides of the body.
Inhaling, feel the breath lift the elbows up like the wings of a butterfly. Feel the upward lift along both sides of the upper ribcage and the shoulder blades. Lift the shoulders up toward the ears. Exhaling, feel the downward movement of the breath drawing down the shoulders, the shoulder blades, the waist and the elbows as the arms come back along the sides of the body. Repeat a couple of more times.
Relax the arms, resting the hands on the thighs for a few breaths.
Raise the arms above the head with the inhaled breath and interlace the fingers with the palms facing down. Keep the elbows bent and soft. Exhaling, gently pull the right hand down with the left hand. Feel the right elbow, chest, waist, and shoulder blade rising up. Keep the weight of the body evenly distributed on the two sit bones. Take a couple of breaths while feeling the expansion and contraction on the right side. Inhale and bring the hands back up above the head. Exhale and repeat the movement on the left side.
Relax the arms, resting the hands on the thighs for a few breaths.
Waist and belly: Inhaling, lift the chest bone very slightly. Exhaling turn right from the belly and let the chest and shoulders follow the belly. Look over the right shoulder. Make sure the weight of the body is evenly spread over both sit bones. Grab the edge of back of the chair with your right hand and hold the right corner of the chair with your left hand. Release the hold on the chair, relax the head, and inhaling turn the trunk back to the center. Exhaling, repeat the movement to the left. Repeat on both sides two more times.
Hips: Spread the legs a comfortable distance apart. Inhaling, raise both arms so that they are in line with the ears and shoulders. Depending on your comfort level, the arms can be straight or bent at the elbows. Lightly clench both hands while tucking the left thumb in the right fist and right thumb in the left fist. Exhaling bend forward from the creases in the thighs, keeping a straight back and then drawing both arms down toward the floor as if rowing a boat. Inhaling, bring the arms and the body back up. Let the eyes follow the movement of the hands. Repeat 5 times and then row in the opposite direction by exhaling, bending down and then inhaling and rising up.
Stretch the left leg out as you sit on the edge of the chair. Anchor the left heel into the floor. The right foot should be on the floor. Inhaling, turn the right knee out to the right side as the right foot partially lifts off the floor and rests on the outer edge. Exhaling, bring the knee back in line with the hip, and the foot back to the floor. Repeat 5 times and then switch legs.
Come back to the base sitting position.
Inhaling, lift the chest bone very slightly. Exhaling, wrap both hands around the right knee (or just above the back of knee, if that is more comfortable) and bring the knee up toward the chest as you slightly lower the chest bone and soften the back. Inhaling, lower the knee and bring the foot down to the floor and lift the chest bone up slightly. Repeat the movement for a total of 5 times with each leg.
Knee: Begin with the base sitting position. Stretch the right leg out and lift it comfortably off the floor. Bend it at the knee, gently swinging the knee toward the chair and then stretching the leg out again. Repeat the movement 5 times with each leg.
Ankles, feet, toes: Stretch both legs out and plant the heels into the floor. While inhaling, turn both feet up moving from the ankles. As you lift the feet, spread the toes (like petals of a blooming flower) toward the body. Exhaling, turn the feet down from the ankles toward the floor, and lightly clench the toes.
Relax: Spend a quiet couple of minutes being aware of the body and the breath. Close your eyes. With the inhaled breath, be aware of the body. With the exhaled breath, be aware of the body. Then observe how the body and mind feel. Slowly open your eyes and become aware of your environment.
Here we have modified the sequence of 12 positions of sun salutations for those with more limited movement on the chair. The modified sequence retains the fluidity of movement and breath to benefit the whole body. Chair sun salutations are gently invigorating and calm the body. Try them out to feel energized and balanced. In each movement, feel the inhaled breath move from the pelvic floor to head and the exhaled breath move from the head to the pelvic floor. In each movement, just go as far as you are allowed or what your level of comfort permits. Check with your doctor about what you can and cannot do.
If it is hard to coordinate the body movements with the breath, do the movements and let the breath just happen. But you must remember to breath and NOT hold the breath.
- Please begin with the base sitting position described in Chair Yoga. Bring the both palms together at heart level, elbows tucked in. Focus on the breath at the heart level.
- As the inhalation flows from the pelvis floor to the head, raise both arms so that they come alongside the ears. Slightly elevate the chest bone and chin.
- As the body begins to exhale down to the pelvis floor, keeping the arms gently stretched, bend forward from the creases of the thighs, lowering the chest toward the thighs. Try to keep a straight back. Lower the arms toward the floor or the thighs.
- With inhalation, raise the trunk up to an upright position. Support the right knee with hands clasped under it. Exhale as you bring it up toward the chest. Raise your chin and chest bone slightly. Inhale and lower the right foot to the floor.
- Exhale as you lift the left knee to the chest as in the previous step. Inhale and lower the left foot to the floor.
- Exhale and bend forward from the creases of your thighs as you place both hand on thighs. Inhale into the chest as you drop the shoulders and pull them back slightly. Tilt the chin upwards comfortably. Feel the stretch in your neck, chest, shoulders, and back.
- Exhaling, draw the belly in and soften the spine as it gently curves. Draw the shoulders forward and in. Bring the head comfortably down toward the chest. Feel the stretch in the neck, upper back and spine.
- Inhaling, bring the trunk back to the upright position.
- Exhaling, place the right elbow/wrist on the left thigh. Turning from the belly, turn the upper body (chest and shoulders) to the left. Inhaling, come back to the center.
- Exhaling, repeat the movement to the right side by bringing the left elbow/wrist to the right thigh.
- Inhaling, come back to the center and raise arms so they are in line with the ears.
- Exhaling, bring the arms down, palms together in front of the chest.
Relax the arms and allow the breath to settle.
Repeat two more times.
Be aware of the body with each inhaled and exhaled breath. Close your eyes and count 10 breaths backwards from 10 to 1, being aware of the flow of breath within the body. Observe how the body and mind feel. Then slowly open your eyes.