How To Do Chair Pose For Beginners| New To Yoga? Watch Out For These Common Mistakes!

CHAIR POSE

chair pose
How To Do Chair Pose For Beginners| New To Yoga? Watch Out For These Common Mistakes! 20

Purpose

Here are some of the reasons why Chair Pose is good for you:

  •  Increases strength and stability in the lower body
  • Specifically strengthens and invigorates feet, ankles, thighs, hips/glutes and core
  • Improves range of motion of the shoulders
  • Can alleviate lower back discomfort by improving strength and efficiency of core support

Pose Guide

To do Chair Pose correctly, here are the steps:

  • Begin standing with your feet hip’s width apart.
  • Bend your knees and lower your body as if you are sitting down in an invisible chair. Eventually, your thighs will be parallel to the floor.
  • As you lower your seat, lift your arms over your head in a parallel position. This is similar to the “touchdown” motion in American football, with elbows straight and palms facing each other.
  • Lower your shoulder blades away from your ears and down toward your hips, widening your shoulders as you do so.
  • Keep the knees in line with the hips. Don’t let them splay out away from each other.
  • Keep your chin parallel with the floor and elongate the back of your neck to lift the crown (top) of your head to the sky.
  • Feel each inhalation expanding along each spine’s vertebra and out into the low back and sides. Let each exhalation draw the belly in to send the breath down into the thighs, legs and feet.
  • To release, return to standing while lowering the arms back down by your sides. Use your feet to initiate the action of standing, keeping the core engaged so as not to overtax the low back.

Practical Tips

Do This, Not That! Common mistakes beginners make:

1. Arching the back: 

It is common for beginners to stick out the tailbone and the chest during this Pose, creating an arch in the spine. This can give a false sense of balance and elongation in this challenging Pose. Arching the back can lead to strain over time, and even compression of the discs, especially in the lower spine. Tucking the tailbone slightly while drawing the belly in toward the spine and gently drawing the lower ribs in toward each other is the correct way to strengthen the core and protect the back during Chair Pose.

2. Raising the shoulders toward the ears: 

There is a tendency to raise the shoulders toward the ears when raising the arms overhead. This can make it seem like you are getting a long stretch through the arms. However, shrugging the shoulders up during this Pose puts more tension on the shoulders. Instead, lower your shoulders down away from your ears while lifting your hands toward the sky. You will feel the stretch in your arms rather than feeling the tension in the tops of your shoulders and neck.

3. Compressing the neck: 

It is common for beginners to stick out the chin and lift the face toward the sky in this Pose. Doing this can make it feel like you are stretching taller, but you are not. To get taller in this Pose, stretch your spine. Tilting the head forward and up compresses the bones in the back of the neck, paving the way for future pain and injury. The best position for the head is to lengthen the back of the neck, lifting the crown of the head toward the sky. Keep the chin slightly lowered so that it is parallel with the ground.

4. Incorrect alignment of the feet and knees:

Another common misalignment in Chair Pose is to have the feet or the knees wider than the hips. To avoid any uncomfortable pinching or sciatic Discomfort, it is important to stack the joints of the legs to create a stable foundation. Begin with the feet directly under the hips, and keep the knees hip’s width apart the whole time. If you have tight hips, the knees may try to widen out away from each other. See the modifications below for how to address this issue.

5. Weight in the toes:

Weight distribution in the feet can challenge beginners in Chair Pose. Be sure to evenly distribute your weight through your feet so that you are pressing through your heels as well as your toes.

Props and Modifications

You should consider a modification if you experience the following:

  • Discomfort in the hips or knees
  • Excessive back pain/discomfort or tension
  • A burning sensation or other Discomfort in the feet/ankles
  • Discomfort or restriction in the shoulders

1. Discomfort in the hips or knees:

If your legs are too weak to hold the Pose without stressing your joints, you can practice with your back against a wall to provide additional support while you gain the strength to perform it freestanding.

chair pose
Place a block between your knees to keep the inner thighs activated and the knees properly aligned.

chair pose
Alternatively, you can place a strap around your knees to hold them in place, as a more passive assist.

chair pose
You can also try supporting yourself with the assistance of a chair. 

2. Excessive back pain/discomfort or tension:

chair pose
Use your hands on your knees or in the crease where your thighs meet your torso to give gentle pressure, encouraging the dropping of the thigh bones and the elongating of the spine.

Practice this pose with your back against a wall to provide a level surface to act as a guide for positioning your spine.

3. A burning sensation or other Discomfort in the legs, ankles or feet:

chair pose
If your calves and ankles are overly tight, you may find relief doing this Pose on your tiptoes, lifting your heels to shorten the pull on your calves and Achilles tendon.

chair pose
If you’re having trouble keeping your heart lifted (chest up) or working on developing more strength in your legs, sit on an imaginary bar stool instead of a chair. This would mean only lowering your seat a few inches instead of having your thighs parallel to the floor.

chair pose
Alternatively, you can place a rolled towel, book or block beneath your heels to alleviate strain on your feet, ankles or calves.

4. Discomfort or restriction in the shoulders:

Raise the arms only to shoulder height in front of you as if you are passing an imaginary box to a person in front of you. Be sure to keep your shoulder blades sliding down your back away from your ears.

chair pose
Alternatively, you may choose to leave your arms down at your side if you have difficulty raising them at all.

chair pose
Another option is to hold a block in your hands to keep your arms actively engaged and aligned.

Pointers

Answers to frequently asked questions

  • What muscles does Chair Pose work?
  • Is Chair Pose safe for knees?
  • Should I stick my tailbone out or tuck it under in Chair Pose?
  • When is Chair Pose contraindicated?
  • How far back or forward do I sit in Chair Pose?
  • Should feet be together or apart in Chair Pose?
  • What do I do if I feel pinching in my back in Chair Pose?

1. What muscles does Chair Pose work?

  • Chair Pose actively engages many muscles in the body. The most notable places to feel this Pose are thighs, glutes, core, arms and feet. There is a particular focus on the rectus femoris muscle (the middle of the front thigh) and hip flexors (muscles that bridge the front of the thighs and the torso), as well as the abdominal muscles and spinal extensor muscles (the long bands of muscles on either side of the spine).

2. Is Chair Pose safe for knees?

  • When done correctly, Chair Pose is safe for knees. Alignment is crucial to keep the knees stable and safe, and it all starts with your feet. Whether the big toes touch with a sliver of space between the heels or feet is hip’s width apart, the knees should align with the second toe and not splay out away from each other or buckle in toward each other.
  • If you choose to keep feet hip’s width apart, place a block between the thighs or imagine you are squeezing an imaginary block to keep the knees aligned. There should never be any pain, Discomfort or excessive tension in your knees. If you feel any of those sensations, modify the Pose to accommodate a comfortable level of effort. You can do this by experimenting with the modifications listed above.

3. Should I stick my tailbone out or tuck it under in Chair Pose?

  • The best practice is to find a neutral alignment in the pelvis (seat) when practicing Chair Pose. This means you are neither tilting your tailbone out nor tucking it under. When lowering the spine and drawing the belly in and up, initiating a slight tuck leads to a neutral spine for most people. 
  • However, suppose you have an anterior pelvic tilt (a backbending arch in your low back) or a posterior pelvic tilt (a rounding under your tailbone while at rest). In that case, you may need to adjust the seat slightly in the opposite direction to create the strength and flexibility required for a neutral pelvis.

4. When is Chair Pose contraindicated?

  •  Acute back, knee and ankle pain or injury would be contraindicated for Chair Pose. Once the acute phase has passed and a healthcare provider has given the okay, Chair Pose can be practiced with modifications until the injuries have been fully repaired. 

5. How far back or forward do I sit in Chair Pose?

  •  It is not so important how far back or forward you are sitting in Chair Pose. It is more important than the legs are aligned and actively supporting the upper body. Generally, the sitting position will be a result of what feels the most balanced and stable.

6. Should feet be together or apart in Chair Pose?

  •  Practicing Chair Pose with the feet hip’s width apart may provide better alignment and more stability for some, while others prefer big toes touching with a small space between the heels. Try both options to see what feels more natural with your body’s anatomy.

7. What do I do if I feel pinching in my back in Chair Pose?

  • Use one of the modifications listed in the section above to alleviate any discomfort or restriction in your back during Chair Pose.

Additional Resources for beginners

Beginner Yoga Workouts

Yoga For Beginners Guide

Yoga For Back Pain

You may also like: Forward Fold for Beginners|Your Ultimate Guide For Inflexible Beginners

Related Articles

⚠️ WARNING!⚠️

We want to keep you safe!

Please consult your physician, assess your fitness level, and follow all safety instructions before beginning any exercise program, nutrition plan, and/or using any equipment.

Body By Yoga provides a variety of exercise programs, some of which are physically demanding and high-intensity in nature. For this reason, you must listen to your body, use common sense, take breaks, and hydrate as needed to avoid injury. If at any time you feel any discomfort, pain, dizziness, light-headedness, shortness of breath, or nausea, stop exercising immediately and consult your physician. Incorrect or excessive training can result in serious injury or death.

When doing any outdoor workouts or activities, be aware of your surroundings and avoid anything that could hurt you or disrupt your exercise, especially when walking or running in public areas such as sidewalks and streets.

If you have any unique or special medical conditions, such as if you’re pregnant, have diabetes or asthma, or if you have a history of knee, ankle, hip, shoulder or spinal (back or neck) problems, you must consult your physician to understand all potential risks and complications of using our exercise programs, nutrition plans, and/or equipment, and receive approval from them to proceed before beginning. Failure to do so could result in significant injury to you and others (including, if applicable, your unborn child). By engaging in any exercise program, nutrition plan, and/or using any equipment, you assume all dangers, hazards and risks of injury or death.

SAFE USE OF EQUIPMENT

FITNESS EQUIPMENT PRESENTS HAZARDS WHICH, IF NOT AVOIDED, COULD CAUSE SERIOUS INJURY OR DEATH

Certain programs may utilize equipment, such as yoga mats, yoga blocks, yoga straps, chairs, foam rollers, and other equipment which, if not used correctly, could lead to serious injury or death. Carefully review all safety, care and use instructions and manuals prior to beginning.

For your safety, you must:

Use any equipment shown in the workouts only as demonstrated, using proper form.
Inspect any equipment for wear or damage prior to each use and refrain from using any equipment that appears damaged, worn or defective.
Keep children, pets and any other obstacles away from equipment and exercise area at all times.
Always use a secure, proper, and stable anchor for any equipment that requires hanging or attaching.
Always exercise caution during use of any equipment to make sure you do not lose your grip or control, such as making sure your hands are not wet or sweaty.
Ensure exercise bands are firmly secure and assembled to prevent slipping, snapping, recoiling and injury to yourself or anyone else.
Ensure your workout bench and pull up bar is stable, strong enough to hold your weight and does not move during use. If you do not think you can safely perform exercises with your bench or pull up bar, or you do not have the proper equipment, you should do the modifier exercises instead.

To the fullest extent permitted by law, Body By Yoga and its parent, affiliate, and subsidiary companies will not be liable to any person or entity for any injury, death, damage or loss caused or alleged to be caused directly or indirectly by any exercise programs, workouts, nutritional supplements or plans, equipment (including without limitation the Body By Yoga mat and Body By Yoga blocks), advice or any other products, services or materials.

By checking the box and clicking “Accept”, I acknowledge I have read, understand, and agree with this warning.