Chair Yoga: Modified Standing Postures For Psoriatic Arthritis
If you've been following along in our Poses for PsA series, you know that so far, we’ve explored 6 basic stretching postures within our chairs, as well as how to complete a Sun Breath while seated. But what about standing postures?
You may be asking yourself, “There are modifications for standing postures too?”
Guess what, there are! Most yogic postures can be modified to be done with a chair.
Linking movement with your breath isn’t only reserved for your yoga mat. In fact, we should be incorporating it into every aspect of our lives. Sitting, standing, in bed, on the floor, on an airplane, at the office - you can still receive the benefits that yoga has to offer, while sitting.
There was a period of time where I was not able to do any of these postures due to mobility problems caused by my psoriatic arthritis, complex regional pain syndrome and avascular necrosis. I solely completed yoga postures seated on my mat or in a chair.
Compared to some other sequences, these standing asanas are a bit more in depth, and may require a little more mobility. You must tune into your own body and realize what your limits are. If you have swollen joints, or are in a bad flare, maybe you skip these poses that day.
I can tell you this - whenever I’m low on energy and am experiencing that achy, flu feeling from my psoriatic arthritis, moving through a few chair yoga sequences can really positively impact my day.
The best thing about yoga is that it's a practice. It’s not a commanded performance. There is no perfect practice, there is no perfect posture, there is no finish line. Our practices change day to day, and that’s perfectly fine! That’s how it should be!
When practicing, it's important to focus on honoring ourselves in the here and now and giving gratitude for the postures that we CAN complete. Let’s not dwell on the movements we CAN NOT do.
So maybe you're not at the point where you can add these poses in yet. In that case, go back to my previous chair yoga poses (6 Chair Yoga Poses For Your PsA & Poses For PsA: Sun Breath) and practices those. You’ll work your way up in no time.
For those who are looking to incorporate standing poses into their practice, I’ve put together 2 small sequences with modified standing postures. Try them out and see what you think!
Sequence 1: Anjaneyasana + Virabhadrasana 1
Warrior 1 can be a difficult posture because it is very hard on the hips. Don't be upset if you find this pose to be challenging. Go back and work on seated pigeon, to help open up your hips, before completing these modified standing postures.
Anjaneyasana / Crescent Lunge
In most of these standing postures, we’ll be straddling the chair to help support us. This will take some pressure off of our joints, but will still allow us to work our muscles.
Straddling the chair, we’ll come into a high lunge position. Your front knee is bent over your chair, while you're back leg is working towards straight. Your front foot is completely pressed down into the ground, while you’re up on the ball of your back foot. In this posture, we want to think of our feet as on train tracks. They’re not in alignment like they would be on a balance beam.
Put your hands on your hips put, scissor your legs together as much as you can, and square your hips to the front of your mat (or the chair!). This adjustment will help you obtain the correct alignment.
You can keep your hands on your hips or, with an inhale, raise your arms up towards the ceiling. Stretching your fingertips up towards the sky. Shrug your shoulders up towards your ears, then move them back and allow them to melt down your back. You don't want your shoulders as earrings, so make sure that they are moving away from your neck!
Virabhadrasana 1, Credit: Julie Cerrone
Virabhadrasana 1 / Warrior 1Transitioning from Anjaneyasana, we’ll make our way into Virabhadrasana 1, better known as Warrior 1. Well keep the basic shape that we have just completed, but for this asana,** bring your back foot down onto the ground**. Your foot is slightly angled out to the corner of your mat. Imagine your feet are still on train tracks, so you shouldn’t be able to draw a straight line from your front foot to your back.
Bring your hands back on your hips and square up to the front of your chair. You can keep your hands on your hips or raise those arms up towards the ceiling.
Within these postures, make sure you’re still taking deep belly breaths. Check in with your breath and ensure you’re not breathing from your chest. Remember, we link our movements with our breath!
Do what you can, but work your way up to holding these modified standing postures for 5 full breath cycles.
Sequence 2: Virabhadrasana 2 + Viparita Virabhadrasana + Utthita Parsvakonasana
Virabhadrasana 2 , Credit: Julie Cerrone
Virabhadrasana 2 / Warrior 2In a typical Virabhadrasana 2, or Warrior 2, our** back foot is turned out on an angle**, with our front foot pointed straight forward. The heel of the front foot is in alignment with the arch of the back foot. The back leg is straight, while we bend into our front knee. Our knee is stacked over our ankle, never allowing our knee to pass over our toes.
You can do this similarly seated in the chair while straddling it. You back foot is pressing down on the mat, angled slightly, while your front foot faces forward. Allow your front leg to bend and be supported by the chair underneath you.
Your hips and chest are open to the side and your arms are extended in a T position. Remember that you don't want your shoulders up in your ears, so make sure that your shoulders are moving back and down.
Work to extend through both sets of fingertips as if someone were pulling at both hands. Your gaze is gently over the middle finger of your front hand. Imagine that there was a string coming from the top of your head and someone was pulling you up towards the ceiling. This will straighten out your back, allowing your spine to become long and straight.
Breathe into your front knee, but also remember to bring awareness to your back foot. You should have equal weight in both feet.
With an inhale, grow taller towards the ceiling, and on an exhale, see if you can bend a little bit deeper into your front knee. Ease into it, as you’re putting a bit more pressure on your knee than you were with the other chair yoga poses.
Work up to holding this posture for 5 full breaths.
Viparita Virabhadrasana, Credit, Julie Cerrone
Viparita Virabhadrasana / Reverse WarriorKeeping your legs exactly how they are for Warrior 2,** slide your back arm down your straight leg and extend your front arm up and over your body**. Really extended through your top fingertips, opening up through your front side body. This is a wonderful posture to open, lengthen and feel your power.
Do what you can and honor your body. Work on extending this posture to 5 full breaths, just like we previously did for Warrior 2.
Utthita Parsvakonasana, Credit: Julie Cerrone
Utthita Parsvakonasana / Extended Side Angle
On an inhale, tighten up your core and spiral back up to Warrior 2. Take a moment to adjust your body to make sure you’re in proper alignment.
Then, rest your front forearm down onto your bent knee, and shoot your back arm up and forward. Your goal is to make a straight line from the tip of your fingertips to the back baby toe edge of your back leg. Turn the pinky edge of your hand in towards your body to get a nice rotation of that top arm.
Try your best not to collapse all of your weight into your forearm on your front knee. It should be gently resting with your core doing all the work!
Same for this posture, see if you can work up to holding it for 5 breaths.
Once you’ve moved through these 3 asanas, switch your legs and complete the sequence on the other side.
Take these tips and postures that I’ve been giving you and have fun with them! Get out your chair, put on some music and move with your breath. Here’s an example of a flow I moved through and then posted to Instagram.
Remember to take your time, and honor your pace. Who cares if Yoga Girl is doing crazy handstands on Instagram or if your best friend is going to hot yoga twice a week. All that matters is what you can do.** It's not about getting the perfect posture or creating the perfect sequence. It's about moving with your breath.**
It's about helping calm down your fight or flight mode within your body.
It’s about creating peace of mind and a state of relaxation.
_Honor yourself. Honor your journey. _
I’m proud of you for trying!
_Julie Cerrone is a Psoriasis HealthCentral Social Ambassador, certified holistic health coach, ePatient advocate, yoga instructor, autoimmune warrior and the blogger behind**It's Just A Bad Day, NOT A Bad Life. Helping chronically fabulous patients realize they can live their best life possible, Julie stresses the importance of finding your own personalized treatment plan. Check out her**Elimination Diet 101 eCourse_which will help jump start creating your own plan.