Props for asanas have been used for centuries by yoga practitioners as illustrated in this 17 century painting of a yogini using a swinging chair for her meditation practice. The use of props in my own practice has deepened over the years. The chair in particular, turned out to be a yoga ally during a particularly challenging period of my life.Before moving to Maine Joseph had a surgery that required him to stay completely off his feet for three months. During this time  we closed our studio in Massachusetts and moved to Maine. I had to take on the full  responsibility  for his care, the logistics of closing our studio, and the packing and moving of all our possessions.

Once settled in our new residence, I set aside time early each  morning for my yoga practice. At first I found that I had very little physical energy. Not wanting to forgo my practice, I began practicing the postures with props, specifically a folding chair. The chair served as a support, allowing me to stay in poses for a longer period of time and reap the benefits of a regular practice without the muscular work. Using the chair also enabled me to do a full range of poses so that the practice was more balanced. Eventually, I regained enough strength and energy to begin performing the poses independently.

At the studio, I sometimes have the practitioners in my classes use the chair as a learning tool. It can help give them a better sense of direction and alignment in the poses. Its use can also help to understand a particular movement or part of the body which can then be more easily interpreted into the independent performance of the poses. The chair can help one fine tune the poses. This term we are planning to explore some new and interesting ways to work with the chair.

So whether you are trying to improve your health, perfect your own practice, or deepen your understanding of a pose, consider using a chair. Below I have included Baradvajasana I (Sage Twist Pose), one of the basic seated poses. Sitting on a chair allows one to extend the spine and twist without compromising the alignment of the spine.

Many thanks to B. K. S. Iyengar for his inspired yoga chair prop and it’s many uses.

Bharadvjasana I – sage twist

 

Baradvajasana I is one of the basic twisting poses.  Sitting on a chair allows one to extend the spine and twist without compromising the alignment of the spine.

Place a folded sticky mat on the seat of a chair.  Sit sideways on the seat with the right side of the body facing the back of the chair.

Place your feet hip width apart with the heels directly below the knees.  If the knees are above the level of the hips, place a folded blanket or two on the seat of the chair to lift the pelvis to the level of the thighs.  If the feet do not reach the floor, place support under them.

Inhale, sit upright and extend the spine. Maintaining the extension of the spine, exhale and twist to the right.

Hold the sides of the chair back.  With each exhalation, press the heel of the hand you are turning toward into the chair to move the shoulder of the same side back.  Simultaneously pull the backrest with the opposite hand to bring the chest forward.

On the last repetition, turn the neck and head to look over the shoulder you are turning toward.

To repeat the pose twisting to the left, sit with the left side of the body facing the back of the chair.