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A Beginner’s Guide to Chair and Wheelchair Yoga

A photo of a woman meditating with closed eyes in a wheelchair with text that says "A Beginner's Guide to Chair and Wheelchair Yoga"
“A Beginner’s Guide to Chair and Wheelchair Yoga” was written by Bailey Gibbs and edited/reviewed by Rivah Goldstein, MScFN, RD and Jackie Silver, MHSc, RD.

Please note that the terms ‘wheelchair yoga’, ‘chair yoga’, and ‘adaptive yoga’ are used interchangeably in this article. 

Disclaimer: Please note that this blog post is for informational purposes only. We are not certified yoga instructors and we are not giving advice on how to do chair or wheelchair yoga. We are simply providing information and resources so you can learn more. Always speak with a medical professional before starting a new fitness routine.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links with which I may earn a small commission but at no additional cost to you. Affiliate links help bloggers like me to provide you with free content. All opinions expressed here are genuine. 

Chair/Wheelchair yoga is an excellent example of how our world is taking small steps to becoming more inclusive and accessible. This adaptive form of yoga allows people of different physical abilities to enjoy the relaxing and beneficial practice of yoga. Let’s dive into this beginner’s guide to chair and wheelchair yoga and learn all about its benefits!

Wheelchair Yoga vs Yoga: What is Yoga?

Yoga is a spiritual practice that many people enjoy and use to improve both their physical and mental well-being. Typically, yoga involves a mixture of physical poses, meditation, and breathing techniques. 

Accessible yoga teacher Kassandra Prus says that “the point of yoga is not the form but the function”. Ultimately, it is more important to focus on your breathing and being present than perfecting a pose. 

A woman is doing yoga outside - wheelchair yoga

What is Wheelchair Yoga? 

Wheelchair yoga, which can also be called adaptive yoga or chair yoga, makes yoga an accessible activity for physically disabled people. In adaptive yoga, traditional yoga poses are modified to be done while sitting in a chair or wheelchair.

What are the Benefits of Chair or Wheelchair Yoga?

Chair / Wheelchair yoga provides many of the same benefits that traditional yoga does. Yoga of any kind is great for both our physical and our mental health

Some of the physical benefits of wheelchair yoga include increased flexibility, better balance and improved strength. Interestingly, yoga has also been found to help relieve neck pain and lower back pain while also helping to increase range of motion in these areas. 

Yoga can be a helpful tool when it comes to stress management and it can also help us improve our overall mental well-being. It may even help with managing anxiety and depression

A graphic listing the benefits of wheelchair yoga

You may be wondering what makes yoga different from physiotherapy or a cardio class. Accessible yoga teacher Kassandra Prus says that “with yoga we want our breathing, body, and mind to be intertwined. In order to do this our mind has to be very present”. In other activities we may find our mind wandering or we may not put emphasis on our breathing. Yoga brings together our breathing, body, and mind making it a more unique and holistic approach. 

Who can benefit from wheelchair yoga?

Chair yoga is beneficial to many groups of people, including people that have chronic illnesses and neurological conditions. Even people that do not use a wheelchair can still benefit from the practice of chair yoga. 

You can also practice chair yoga in tight spaces such as airplanes or at your desk for a work break stretch! 

Some groups of people that may benefit from chair or wheelchair yoga are: 

Accessible yoga teacher Kassandra Prus notes that chair yoga is beneficial to those with chronic pain or chronic illness as it provides the support they need so they can focus on more important aspects of yoga such as “accessing [their] breath”. 

A group of people are doing yoga outside on a hill - wheelchair yoga

Chair and Wheelchair Yoga Resources

There are tons of online resources to help you get started with adaptive yoga. Whether you are brand new to chair/wheelchair yoga or have been doing it for years, there is something for everyone in this list of chair / wheelchair yoga resources. 

Chair and Wheelchair Yoga Apps

Down Dog Yoga 

Down Dog Yoga creates a completely customized yoga experience. Simply input your goals and preferences (i.e. chair yoga) and the app will create a customized playlist of classes for you. The classes are super easy to follow and the app will mix up your classes so that you never do the same class twice. You can also download classes so that you can practice yoga even when you’re offline. 

Cost: This app has free features with the option to purchase different memberships within the app.

Yoga for Beginners – Mind + Body 

This app is great for people that are new to wheelchair yoga and want to learn the basics. They offer a 10 day chair yoga for beginners program that will introduce you to the practice of chair yoga and help you learn some of the more basic chair yoga postures. The classes are easy to follow and the app will record your progress. 

Cost: This app is free but has some in-app purchases. They have a large selection of free classes or you can subscribe to premium for $76.99 USD a year or $24.99 USD a month. The only benefit to premium is that it is ad free and you can get a custom yoga plan made for you.

Peloton App

The Peloton App has a library of about 30 chair yoga classes  that range from 5-30 minutes in length, which you can find in the “Yoga Anywhere” category of yoga classes. Peloton is known for having very energetic and motivating instructors and their chair yoga instructors do not disappoint in this respect. I (Jackie) personally love the chair yoga classes on the app and have done them all!

Cost: Peloton offers a 30 day free trial so you can test out a few classes before subscribing. Once the trial is over, memberships range from $16.99 CAD to $30.00 CAD per month.

A woman is looking at her phone while doing yoga - wheelchair yoga

Wheelchair Yoga Websites 

Yoga for Amputees

Yoga for amputees’ mission is to provide health and wellness to amputees by using the healing practice of yoga. Y4A has two amazing accessible yoga teachers that provide weekly accessible zoom yoga classes. These classes are specifically designed for those living with limb loss and are open to all skill levels. 

Accessible Yoga Studio

The Accessible Yoga Studio offers an online community that celebrates differences and makes yoga accessible for all. They offer live and recorded weekly yoga sessions, educational workshops and community events. They have a wide variety of classes, ensuring there is truly something everybody can enjoy!

Mind Body Solutions

Mind Body Solutions focuses on the overall  experience of yoga rather than focusing on a person’s physical accomplishments. They offer live online adaptive yoga classes six days a week and they also have a large bank of recorded chair yoga classes that can be viewed at any time. Mind body solutions is completely free and a great resource for people of all skill levels. 

Adaptive Yoga Specialist

The Adaptive Yoga Specialist offers live adaptive yoga classes via zoom every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. They also have a large catalog of recorded classes that can be viewed at any time as well as a blog where they post all kinds of content related to accessible yoga. Give the classes a try with a 7 day free trial and then enjoy unlimited access for $60 a month. 

Yoga Moves MS

Yoga Moves MS provides adaptive yoga classes for those with neuromuscular conditions such as MS and Parkinson’s Disease. They offer a wide variety of virtual classes to meet everyone’s skill level. Classes are offered six days per week and include chair yoga as well as a combination class that combines chair and mat yoga. A Yoga Moves Ms class involves mindful breathing practices, meditation and yoga postures. 

Kassandra Prus

Kassandra Prus is a Toronto based accessible yoga teacher, yoga educator, and yoga therapist. They offer one-on-one yoga therapy sessions where they will get to know you and your needs and create a customized yoga therapy plan for you. Kassandra also offers a 20hr Chair yoga training program that focuses on teaching you function over form and includes a 90 minute one-on-one session with Kassandra to help tailor a chair yoga plan for you. 

A woman is meditating with closed eyes in a wheelchair - wheelchair yoga

Wheelchair Yoga Youtube Tutorials

Wheelchair Yoga Books

Chair Yoga: Sit, Stretch, and Strengthen Your Way to a Happier, Healthier You

The author of this book is Kristin Mcgee who is a fantastic Peloton yoga instructor! This book offers 100 chair yoga poses for all skill levels that are taught with photos and step-by-step instructions. I (Jackie) read this book a few years ago when I was getting started with my own chair yoga practice and I take lots of Kristin McGee’s yoga and pilates classes on the Peloton app.

Chair Yoga For Dummies

This book is the perfect introduction to building your own chair yoga routine. It guides you through how to adapt traditional yoga poses to yoga poses that can be done in a chair. You will learn specific chair yoga poses and receive guidance on creating your own custom chair yoga plan. 

Chair Yoga: Accessible Sequences to Build Strength, Flexibility, and Inner Calm

This book begins with an overview of chair yoga and its benefits. From there it provides 4 complete chair yoga sequences and customizable routines. Its easy-to-follow format will surely boost your chair yoga confidence!

Adaptive Yoga

This book will walk you through a variety of chair yoga poses in detail. It will teach you how to enter, hold, and exit a pose while also explaining how different chair yoga poses benefit different health conditions. 

Wheelchair Yoga Equipment to Help You Get Started

The only equipment you need to get started with adaptive yoga is a chair (ideally a chair without arms). However, if you are looking to add more poses and diversity into your yoga routine there is some other equipment you could add. Check out some of our favorite adaptive yoga equipment below!

Yoga mats

B YOGA Everyday Mat for Men & Women

This 4mm B Mat Everyday yoga mat is designed for performance and comfort while also being eco-friendly. The mat is super durable, made of biodegradable products that can be recycled, and is non-slip. This mat can be great for under your chair if you are afraid of it slipping! 

Amazon Basics Extra Thick Exercise Yoga Gym Floor Mat with Carrying Strap

This AmazonBasics Yoga mat is a highly reviewed and affordable option. The yoga mat is lightweight and comes with a carrying strap making it easy to take with you on the go. 

Retrospec Solana Yoga Mat

This extra thick yoga mat is another great option. This mat is 1” thick providing you with extra cushioning and comfort. It also comes with a nylon carrying strap so you can take your mat with you to a yoga class or the park!

Yoga Bolster/Yoga Blocks

Retrospec Sequoia Yoga Bolster Pillow

This yoga bolster can be added into your routine to relieve muscle tension, provide extra support.  As an added bonus the outside cover is completely removable and machine-washable. 

Tiiyar Yoga Block and Strap Set

This double pack of yoga blocks and yoga strap are great to help you improve flexibility and range of motion. Yoga blocks can help you learn new poses and are great for seated postures. The yoga strap is perfect for increasing your range of motion in chair yoga poses.

Gaiam Yoga Block

These yoga blocks are another great choice to help you work on your alignment and increase strength. They are lightweight and have a non-slip surface for easy gripping.

Conclusion:

We hope you enjoyed this beginner’s guide to chair/wheelchair yoga and that you learned about the benefits that chair yoga has to offer. Yoga can be accessible to everyone and is a great way to relax while also getting in some physical activity! 

Are you excited to add chair yoga into your fitness routine? Already given wheelchair yoga a try? Comment below!

Looking for more articles for people with physical disabilities?

Check out:

Bailey Gibbs is standing in front of a flower tree in a black tshirt, smiling

About Bailey

Hi there, my name is Bailey, and I’m excited to be a part of the Jackie Silver Nutrition Team creating educational blog content. I am currently working towards a Bachelor of Science (Hons.) in Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of Western Ontario, graduating in the fall of 2024. I previously studied at the University of Waterloo where I obtained a BSc. (Hons.) in Psychology. At my core, I want to help people by combining my knowledge of nutrition with mental health and I aim to work as a clinical dietitian. In my spare time, I enjoy long nature walks and spending time with my cats!

About Jackie

Jackie is a Toronto-based Registered Dietitian whose mission is to empower and support the neurodivergent and physically disabled communities through nutrition. Jackie runs a virtual private practice and blog which has simple recipes and health information tailored to these communities. She loves cooking, exercising, traveling, journaling, and spending time with family and friends.

Check out her full bio here →

Rivah is wearing a striped shirt and a blazer, smiling

About Rivah

Hello! I’m Rivah, a registered dietitian passionate about helping teens and adults with neurodivergence and mental health conditions. Additionally, I support individuals with chronic disease management, plant-based diets, and mindful eating. My counseling approach is weight inclusive, client-centered, and evidence-based where we create realistic nutrition goals, prioritizing physical, mental, and emotional health.  In my free time, I enjoy reading, cooking, and outdoor activities.

Check out her full bio here →

2 thoughts on “A Beginner’s Guide to Chair and Wheelchair Yoga”

  1. Avatar

    “Wheelchair yoga offers a wonderful way to experience the physical and mental benefits of yoga practice regardless of mobility challenges. It promotes strength, flexibility, and inner peace, making it an inclusive and empowering journey toward well-being.”

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