Chair Yoga + Meditation
In this 30-minute sequence, we will move the spine in its 6 directions, practice 3-part yogic breathing, and then spend 10-15 minutes following the breath in a gentle shamatha meditation.
This is a nice way to move the body and settle the mind without leaving your chair! For example, try it at work or on a plane.
Chair Yoga + Meditation Transcript
And let’s bow in. Good morning. It’s good to see all these faces. If you don’t know me, I’m Emma Sartwell. I graduated from the Divinity program in 2014, and now I teach the Integration Lab in that program. And I also have a counseling practice called Somatic Spiritual Counseling.
Welcome. Is that a dog or a cat? Good to have our four-legged friends here. So, I’m thinking this morning we’ll just do a little bit of chair yoga or seated yoga, a little bit of breathwork, and then spend about half the time sitting. Sound good? All right.
Let’s just start with the head and neck, maybe slowly moving to the left, getting a little stretch in the right side of the neck. Take a big breath into there. And turning the other way. Big breath into the left side of the neck. And then bring the head up, taking a breath into the front of the throat, and bringing the head down. Big breath into the base of the skull, back of the neck. And then from here, rolling your chin sort of in a smiley face along the front of your chest, in your collarbones. Make sure you’re still breathing. Letting your shoulders drop away from your ears. And even it out and come back to center.
And then we’ll lift the head back up. And just notice if there’s any new sensations in the head or the neck, any new blood flow or oxygen flow. And then we’ll roll the shoulders a few times, roll them up and back. Maybe up on the inhale and down on the exhale. And if there’s any little sighs or sounds that want to come out of these shoulders, feel free. And roll them the other way. And then bring them into a nice neutral position, just finding where that is. And then interlacing the hands, and bring them straight overhead, so your ribs and your belly get a little stretch. And breathe into your armpits here.
And then the spine moves in six directions, so we’re going to try to hit all of them. We’ll start by slowly bending over to the right, and take a deep breath into the left ribs. And notice if it feels different if you come forward with your left elbow or open up back with your left elbow. To me, it feels really good to let the left elbow come back and open the chest. And take some breaths there. And then we’ll go to the other side. Breathing into the right ribs, and letting the right elbow come forward. And where does the breath want to go there? And rolling it back. Opening up through the chest and the heart. And then we’ll come back to center for one more big overhead stretch. Just let your spine get as long and tall as possible, opening up little spaces between the vertebrae. And then, on an exhale, just drop your arms. And feel into the ribs and the arms. Notice any blood, any life force moving through there.
And bringing your hands onto your knees, we’re going to do a little bit of seated cat-cow. So, that looks like this: like inhale, extend, open up through the front; exhale, contract, curling inward. Inhale, open. Exhale, close. And just do this a few times at your own breath pace. And notice which one your body prefers right now. And once you notice that, just stay with that pose for a few breaths. Do you prefer the open and extended, or curling inward? And notice what happens in the rest of your system when you give yourself your preference. And then taking the opposite pose for just a moment, balancing out, and coming back to neutral.
And then the last way the spine moves is a twist. So, bring your left hand to your right knee, and your right hand somewhere behind you, so you’re twisting, looking over your right shoulder. And don’t push. Just a gentle twist. And taking some deep breaths here. And coming back to your center slowly, and bringing the right hand to the left knee, left hand somewhere behind you. And peering back over your left shoulder. Looking into the ocean or into the wall or whatever is behind you. Taking deep breaths here.
And then slowly coming back to center, feeling into your spine, your torso. How does it feel after a little movement? And then just notice if there’s anything your body would like from you before we sit still for a few minutes. Maybe there’s some shakes, some little micro-movements. Finding a comfortable position. Noticing the place where your body is supported: by the chair or the cushion. And really dropping into that seat. And from here, we’ll take a few three-part breaths, which means inhaling through the nose into the belly, and then into the ribs, and then into the chest. Holding for a moment, being full, and then exhale: chest, ribs, belly. Inhale: belly, ribs, chest. Exhale: chest, ribs, belly. And make sure, when you’re inhaling, that your body is expanding. Some of us have the habit of when we inhale, we clench our belly. But in this practice, we’re going to inhale, expand the belly, expand the ribs, expand the chest, and then exhale, chest, ribs, belly. And doing that three-part inhale and exhale on your own time.
Belly, ribs, chest. Chest, ribs, belly. And then drop the three-part breath and come back to your normal breath. And just notice how your breath feels after doing that for a few minutes. And then choose one place where you can feel the breath. Maybe it’s belly, ribs, or chest. Or maybe it’s at the nostrils. Maybe it’s somewhere else. One place where it feels really good to feel the breath. And once you have that place, we’re going to use the feeling of breathing in that place as the object of meditation. So, that just means gently resting your awareness on this part of the body like a feather on a bubble. And when your mind wanders away, we notice that and gently bring it back to this place.
And if your mind has gotten on a train, just allowing it to come home to the body.
Just allowing the body space to breathe itself, and allowing the mind to rest in that space.
So, gently, we’ll start to relate to the outside world, noticing if you hear any sounds, picturing the room that you’re in in your mind’s eye. And then slowly allowing light and color into your vision. And notice if there’s any little movements that your body is asking for now. And thanking your body for being here today, thanking your breath for enlivening you.
And thank you all for practicing with me. Let’s bow out, and then I’ll unmute everybody, and you can say hello and goodbye and any check-ins you want to share. Okay.