The simple Chair Forward Bend, one of our five essential office yoga poses, is a safe forward bend for almost everyone. Because you’re bending your legs at the knees, you’re reducing the tension on your hamstrings and therefore allowing your pelvis to have more flexibility at your hip joints. In addition, because you’re resting your arms and head on a chair or desk and you’re not hanging in space, your lower back muscles can release more completely and relax more deeply. (Some of the seated forward bends with straight legs can aggravate lower back pain or disc problems because they pull so strongly on your back muscles and encourage the discs to move toward a posterior position, and you can sometimes over-strain your ligaments when you overdo.)
This forward bend can provide you a quiet moment in your busy day, and allows you to access the deep rest of conscious relaxation without lying on the floor, especially if you focus on your breath while you are in the pose. In addition, folding forward creates a feeling of safety and comfort for many people. And supporting your head enhances the soothing quality of the forward bend, so the Chair Forward Bend may even have a quieting effect on your mind and your emotions, cooling negative emotions such as anger and anxiety.
Of course the pose can be done anywhere you can find a table and chair, such as an office or a dining room, or you can do it with two chairs when there is no table available. (Nina used to practice this pose quite frequently when she worked full time for a software startup company for a few minutes of respite during a hectic day.)
Baxter prescribes it for:
- eye strain
- anger and/or anxiety
- sensory overload
- lower back tightness (if it feels good to you)
- hip tightness and increased mobility in hip joints
Cautions: If you have a history of chronic low back pain or other back problems, be careful going into this pose, checking as you move into it to ensure your back feels okay. If moving into this forward bend causes a flare of discomfort, you should eliminate it from your practice. See "Featured Series: Low Back Care" for poses to help with back pain. You may also want to avoid this pose if you have severe arthritis in the hips or abdominal discomfort, but in general it is a very safe pose. If you have depression, forward bends may cause you to brood or to become more depressed. In this case, keep your eyes softly open, rather than closing them. If that doesn't help, avoid forward bends until you feel ready for them.