4 Surprisingly Challenging Chair Yoga Poses to Strengthen Your Core

Plank Pose ( Phalakasana) with the added support of a chair

Article At A Glance

Practiced in a chair, yoga does not necessarily have to be gentle. These four challenging poses can really help kick up your core strength and build endurance.

Chair Yoga isn’t typically considered to be the most challenging form of practice. Most associate this practice with simple, gentle movements. And while Chair Yoga poses can certainly be simple and gentle, they can also be surprisingly challenging too.

If you’re looking to strengthen your core while practicing Chair Yoga, there are a number of postures that you can practice that may just surprise you. You can use a chair as a prop to help you build strength and stability within your center.

Move the Floor: Adapt These Powerful Yoga Poses to a Chair

For these Chair Yoga poses, you’ll only need a chair without armrests, but you may also want to have a yoga mat to rest the chair on top of.

1. Chair Boat Pose (Paripurna Navasana)

Boat Pose to strengthen the core is a challenging chair yoga pose

Boat Pose is a classic core-strengthening yoga posture, and it can be practiced in a chair with just about the same difficulty level as on the floor.

  1. Come to sit on the chair.
  2. Slide your sitting bones forward in the seat so your back doesn’t touch the backrest behind you.
  3. Rest your hands on the seat of the chair for stability and balance.
  4. Root into your sitting bones and lengthen your spine toward the sky.
  5. Lean your weight back ever so slightly so you can lift your feet off the floor.
  6. Squeeze your legs toward each other and float your legs up, keeping your knees bent so your shins come roughly parallel to the floor.
  7. Activate your feet strongly—press out through your heels and the balls of your feet and spread your toes.
  8. Continue to lengthen your spine and press your chest forward toward your thighs.
  9. Hold here for a few long, deep breaths before slowly releasing. Repeat as many times as you’d like.

2. Chair Extended Boat Pose

A core strengthening version pf Boat Pose practiced in a chair

Extended Boat Pose is an even more challenging variation of Boat Pose because your legs are straight, therefore, creating a longer lever of weight for your core to support. This is a great Chair Yoga Pose because the chair can help to support you as you lean back.

  1. Start in Chair Boat Pose (instructions above).
  2. Lean your torso back to touch the back of your chair as you simultaneously stretch your legs forward in front of you.
  3. Continue to squeeze your legs firmly toward each other and activate your legs as you kick out through your feet.
  4. Three-dimensionally, draw in around your waistline as if you’re tightening a corset and draw your navel in and up. Keep all of this core activation with a sense of subtlety so you can also maintain depth in your breath.
  5. Hold here for a few long, deep breaths before slowly releasing. Repeat as many times as you’d like.

3. Chair Plank Pose (Phalakasana)

Using a chair for support to practice the core strengthening pose Plank Pose a great chair yoga pose

As another foundational core-strengthening posture, Plank Pose helps to build all the musculature around your center. But it can be very challenging to practice when you don’t already have the core strength to support it.

A Chair Plank Pose, however, helps bring the floor closer to you to stabilize this shape as you build strength.

  1. Come to stand in front of your chair, facing toward it.
  2. Fold forward slightly to place your hands on the seat of your chair, roughly shoulders-distance apart. You may wish to grip your fingers around the seat of your chair to feel really stable.
  3. Slowly walk your feet away from your chair toward the back of your mat until you create a long plumb line from the crown of your head down through your heels.
  4. Kick your feet toward the back of your mat, squeeze your legs toward each other, three-dimensionally cinch in around your waist, press firmly against your chair to integrate your shoulders, and lengthen the back of your neck.
  5. Hold here for a few long, deep breaths before slowly releasing. Repeat as many times as you’d like.

4. Chair Side Plank

Chair Side Plank is a strong core workout

Another wonderful Chair Yoga pose to build strength in your core is Chair Side Plank. Again this posture is a slightly more accessible variation of a classic core-strengthening yoga posture.

  1. Come to stand with the chair on your right side.
  2. Fold forward slightly to place your right forearm onto the seat of your chair. Align your shoulder roughly over your elbow.
  3. Place your left hand on your hip and slowly walk your feet away from the chair toward the back of your mat until you create a long diagonal line from the crown of your head down through your feet.
  4. Roll onto the pinky side of your right foot and the big toe side of your left foot as you spin your torso open toward the left side of your mat. Option to stay with your legs staggered or to stack your left foot on top of your right.
  5. Squeeze your legs together and root down firmly into your right forearm and your right foot to lift your hips up away from the floor.
  6. Three-dimensionally cinch in around your waistline and hug your belly button in and up toward your ribcage.
  7. Option to stretch your left arm up toward the sky and option to look up.
  8. Hold here for a few long, deep breaths before slowly releasing. Repeat as many times as you’d like.

A more challenging version of Side Plank practiced using a chair- a chair yoga pose

Build Strength and Endurance in Yoga Practice at Any Level

Chair Yoga doesn’t always have to be gentle. You can use Chair Yoga to build strength, stamina, and endurance. And these four Chair Yoga poses are just the beginning of the many ways you could build core strength while utilizing a chair in your yoga practice.

Leah Sugerman, E-RYT 500, YACEP, yoga writer

Leah Sugerman is a yoga teacher, writer, and passionate world traveler. An eternally grateful student, she has trained in countless schools and traditions of the practice. She teaches a fusion of the styles she has studied with a strong emphasis on breath, alignment, and anatomical integrity. Leah teaches workshops, retreats, and trainings, both internationally and online. For more information, visit www.leahsugerman.com.

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