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Use a chair as a prop to step up your practice, says Shameem Akthar

The chair as a yoga prop has been popularised by the Iyengar school of yoga. The more commonly used ones, somewhat modified, are steel, foldable ones. However, you can use any firm chair for most of the yoga asanas that use this type of prop. However, for specific poses that have been modified for this prop—such as the headstand (sirsasana), wheel (chakrasana), and inverted rod pose (viparitadandasana)—it is best to use a specifically designed chair. As with any prop, you must ideally have an expert to guide you. While using the chair, ensure the legs are firm. While using it for many poses, you may need to back it against a wall for further firmness, especially if the floor is slippery.

Some of the poses that complement the use of a chair are the plank poses, in their variations, such as the plank (setuasana) or the upward plank (purvottanasana). The advantage of using the prop is that it helps you lose your inhibitions over a tough pose without compromising on the muscular demand or intensity. In advanced versions, using the chair can make the pose even more intense. Other poses for which you may use the chair as a prop include the boat pose (naukasana), in which you can prop your feet on the edge of chair for balance; and the bridge lock pose (setubandasana), where you can raise your hips really high by resting the feet on the chair seat. Other groups of poses are forward bends and standing balances.


Modified upward plank pose (purvottanasana) with chair

Sit on the edge of the chair with your palms flat on the sides or front, depending on the chair seat space. Press into the palms. Focusing on the arms, lift hips high off the chair. Your feet should remain on the ground throughout. Hold for five seconds. Then, gently lower your hips back to the chair seat. Repeat five to 10 times. After a regular practice of this for few weeks, intensify the pose by lifting the hips high, then moving them off the chair seat forwards, holding them up for five seconds. Then, release back to the base. Do this a few times. Your breathing should be normal throughout.
Benefits: This pose helps build arm muscle tone, upper back strength, and mental and physical stamina, and boosts breathing.


Chitrapurtih (complete the figure)

Draw a figure partially on a board in front of you. Let the members playing the game look at the half-drawn picture clearly. Now, one by one, ask each person to draw the rest of the figure, but with eyes blindfolded. The one whose image is closest to a completed figure wins the game. For this, the person attempting the drawing must have an awareness of the space on the board and the spatial awareness of how the figure will fit into the board. The game challenges spatial awareness and the ability to be relaxed under stress.

Shameem Akthar is a Mumbai-based yoga acharya. If you have any queries for her, mail us or email at (Please consult your physician before following the advice given here)

Featured in Harmony — Celebrate Age Magazine
June 2017