Is Chair Yoga Good for Weight Loss? Tips, Exercises, and How to Start

An older man uses a chair for balance and support while stretching, showing that chair yoga is good for weight loss and mobility

Chair yoga can be an excellent modification for those who find seated yoga poses more accessible. But you may be wondering, is chair yoga good for weight loss? The short answer is that any kind of yoga can be beneficial for weight loss in a variety of ways, and chair yoga is no different.

With that in mind, let’s dive in! I’m Brandt Passalacqua, the Co-Founder, Director, and Lead Teacher of Breathing Deeply, a yoga therapy training school. I’ve benefited personally from using yoga for weight loss and studied these techniques extensively. This has led me to help numerous clients lose weight with yoga, as well as develop weight loss training for yoga therapists to help their own clients.

Whether you want to use yoga for your own weight loss or you’re a yoga instructor or yoga therapist who wants to help others, I’m here to share what I’ve learned.

Keep reading to learn more about chair yoga, how it helps with weight loss, example exercises, and tips to get started and achieve the best outcomes. If you’d prefer to work one-on-one with myself or one of the highly qualified yoga therapists I’ve trained, learn about our private sessions and contact us today. If you’re looking to get yoga therapy training yourself, check out our programs.

Table of Contents:

Introduction to Chair Yoga for Weight Loss

Before I answer the question, “Is chair yoga good for weight loss?,” I’ll share some introductory information for those who may not be familiar with chair yoga. If you already know the basics, feel free to skip ahead!

What Is Chair Yoga?

Chair yoga, in essence, is yoga performed while seated. It includes many yoga poses you’ll see in other styles of yoga, but they are modified to be practiced while sitting in a chair. Chair yoga retains the essence and benefits of traditional yoga, but adapts these practices for those who find traditional poses challenging or inaccessible.

Who Should Do Chair Yoga?

A young Black man and a young Black woman practicing chair yoga for weight loss

Chair yoga is inclusive! It’s ideal for a wide range of people and situations, including:

  • Senior citizens
  • Beginners
  • People with mobility issues
  • People who are overweight
  • People who work at desks
  • People looking for low-impact exercises

Benefits of Chair Yoga

Engaging in chair yoga offers a medley of benefits. These include:

  • Increased strength
  • More flexibility and mobility
  • Better balance
  • More stamina
  • Better mood and mental health
  • Better quality of sleep
  • Greater self-awareness and mindfulness

More and more studies emerge to support these claims. For instance, a 2023 study published in Healthcare (Basel) found that chair yoga improved fitness and daily life for elderly adults with knee osteoarthritis. Another study in the International Journal of Yoga suggested that chair yoga can safely and effectively improve mobility for older adults who are at risk of falling.

As we turn our attention to using chair yoga for weight loss, I’ll go into more detail about several of these benefits below.

Is Chair Yoga Good for Weight Loss?

If you’ve been thinking about trying yoga to lose weight but know you might be restricted to seated or otherwise modified poses, you may have asked yourself, is chair yoga good for weight loss? As I stated above, any kind of yoga can be effective for losing weight! Learn more below about why chair yoga can help you lose weight in order to wield these practices successfully.

Does Chair Yoga Burn Calories?

Yes, chair yoga can burn calories, but not as many as vigorous exercise. In general, yoga doesn’t burn as many calories as certain other exercises.

Burning calories, when paired with a calorie-deficit diet, can aid weight loss. But in Western countries, being overweight or obese is often due to poor dietary and mental patterns. Even when people try to cut calories and exercise, they may still struggle with these habits and, therefore, struggle to lose weight.

Calorie burn is not one of the main ways that yoga helps people lose weight. Instead, yoga thrives in its ability to support people in other areas of weight loss, detailed below.

Chair Yoga Can Improve Mobility and Functioning

Regularly practicing yoga can be a great way to improve your mobility and functioning. Studies, such as this one in Age and Ageing, show that yoga can help with mobility.

Yoga helps to stretch and lengthen muscles, enhancing overall flexibility. It can also reduce stiffness, aches, and pains. For those who struggle with mobility, chair yoga gives you a way to safely start stretching and moving.

This, in turn, makes performing daily activities and other exercises easier, reducing injury risk. Over time, chair yoga may make it easier for you to walk longer or to start doing water aerobics, giving you greater mobility, fitness, and bodily function.

Yoga Reduces Stress

Yoga techniques involving movement, breathing, and meditation can all reduce stress—and all of these techniques can be applied with chair yoga. Studies continue to show this, including one published in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine that found yoga effective in reducing stress, anxiety, and depression.

Cortisol, the main stress hormone, surges during times of stress. Stress hormones can contribute to weight gain.

Yoga lowers your cortisol levels, reducing your stress. Feeling less stressed can also support other aspects of losing weight, such as forming healthier behaviors. When you’re stressed, it’s all too easy to fall back on bad habits like stress eating as a way to self-soothe.

Yoga Improves Self-Awareness and Mindfulness

Whether standing, seated, or supine, yoga encourages mindfulness. We become attuned to our bodies, emotions, and even our eating habits. Mind-body techniques like those found in yoga give us greater introspection and awareness of our bodies.

This can help you to:

  • Pay more attention to hunger cues
  • Eat more mindfully
  • Better interpret other cues, such as needing to sleep, take a walk, or step away from the computer if you’re stressed or low on energy
  • Avoid overeating or binge eating
  • Avoid late-night snacking

Yoga Facilitates Habit Change

Yoga also fosters healthy habit change, which is crucial for weight management. In the United States, we lack some of the healthy dietary patterns common in the East. This often means it’s necessary to rework our eating habits.

For example, many of my weight loss clients would wait until later in the afternoon to eat their first meal, then eat far more than necessary. Eating very regularly and at the proper times for you is often the biggest contributor to successfully managing your weight. This can include:

  • Eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner on a regular schedule
  • Eating a balanced, healthy diet
  • Avoiding overeating or binge eating
  • Avoiding late-night snacking

Yoga enables people to create new patterns more easily, contributing to habit change. Regularly practicing yoga can help you to regulate in general, as well as to regulate specific aspects of your life like eating on time or having protein or snacks during the day. Chair yoga can help you commit to changing your diet and other healthy lifestyle changes.

3 Example Chair Yoga Exercises

First, it’s important to explain that there’s no single set of chair yoga exercises that I can prescribe wholesale to anyone who wants to lose weight. You’ll get the best results from yoga if the techniques that you use are personalized for your unique body, circumstances, health, history, lifestyle, and goals. If this is something that interests you, consider working with a yoga therapist.

But if you’re curious to see how traditional yoga poses can be adapted or examples of chair yoga exercises that could support weight loss, I’ve included 3 below.

1. Seated Sun Salutations

A woman practicing Seated Sun Salutations as an example of chair yoga for weight loss

Seated Sun Salutations can be a great way to get started. These movements sequence in harmony with your breath as you inhale and exhale. With Seated Sun Salutations, you can foster calmness and mindfulness while:

With regular practice, Seated Sun Salutations can increase your flexibility, improve your mindfulness, and reduce your stress, all of which can support weight loss.

2. Chair Warrior II Pose

A person practicing Warrior II Pose modified for chair yoga

Warrior II Pose is a fusion of strength and grace. As a chair yoga exercise, it involves sitting sideways on a chair, extending one leg behind you, leaving the other leg bent at the knee before you, and stretching your arms parallel to the floor. When you’re done, don’t forget to switch sides!

This pose helps you to:

  • Align your body
  • Strengthen your legs, including your thighs
  • Stretch your shoulders, chest, hips, and hamstrings
  • Engage your back and lengthen your spine
  • Enhance your focus

By stretching and strengthening your body, you can improve your mobility and functioning over time, making it easier to get active and stay fit.

3. Chair Extended Side Angle Pose

A man performing Extended Side Angle Pose while seated as part of a chair yoga routine

If you’re building a sequence of chair yoga exercises for weight loss, Extended Side Angle can fit right in with the previous pose. Starting from the Chair Warrior II Pose, swing your extended leg back in toward the bent leg and bend it as well. Gently reach one arm to the ceiling while the other descends toward your feet, resting on your calf if you can’t reach the floor. As with Warrior II, remember to switch sides.

Chair Extended Side Angle Pose can facilitate weight loss by strengthening and stretching your muscles to support mobility and function:

  • It strengthens your legs, including your hamstrings and thighs
  • It stretches your legs, hips, sides, and back
  • It opens your chest and shoulders

How to Get Started with Chair Yoga for Weight Loss

Want to get started? I’ll answer a few common questions you may still have about using chair yoga for weight loss.

How Often Should You Practice Chair Yoga for Weight Loss?

Consistency is key, but keep in mind that anything is better than nothing! See what routine will best fit your schedule, ability, and goals.

  • If possible, I would recommend practicing yoga at least 3 times per week. If you can do it every day, that’s great!
  • As a starting place, you might do 15-minute or 20-minute sessions. But longer sessions, such as an hour, are generally more beneficial.
  • You can also break it up over time or with different activities. For example, you could do 20 minutes of movement and 30 minutes of breathing, meditation, or other techniques. Or, instead of doing 50 minutes all at once, you could do 15 minutes before work, 20 minutes during your lunch break at your desk, and 15 minutes after work.

Over time, you can tailor the intensity and duration of each session to fit your goals. Remember, it’s okay to start small at first!

Support Weight Loss with Good Eating Habits

Part of the yoga concept is a regular lifestyle. While some people treat yoga simply as a fitness routine, using it to also support healthy habits will yield greater benefits for weight loss.

There are many healthy patterns you can develop to support weight loss, but good eating habits are some of the most important. Simply eating a balanced breakfast, lunch, and dinner at regular times while practicing yoga 3 times per week can be enough to make a difference.

Can You Practice Chair Yoga at Your Desk?

Yes! You can effectively practice chair yoga poses at your desk. It’s a great way to combat a sedentary lifestyle, break the monotony, stretch, and reduce work-related stress. All you need is a sturdy chair and a little space.

How to Set Up Your Space for Chair Yoga

Setting up for chair yoga is simple. All you really need is a chair! When possible, consider these tips to make the most of your yoga practice:

  • Choose a quiet, clutter-free space.
  • Pick a stable, armless chair.
  • Place your chair on a yoga mat or carpet for added stability.
  • Avoid distractions so you can concentrate better.

Work with Our Expert Yoga Therapists

Many of the clients I’ve worked with have tried unsuccessfully to lose weight and keep it off in the past. Often, their struggles come down to the fact that they were only focused on one or two pieces of the puzzle, such as exercising or dieting. But I’ve seen time and time again that the best results come from a sustainable, holistic approach that takes your body, mind, and habits into account.

Yoga is an ancient, multi-faceted practice designed to promote physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. It can be an incredibly practical, safe, and effective way to treat different health conditions, including overweight and obesity. But it takes a skilled yoga therapist, who receives more training than a yoga teacher, to successfully apply yoga techniques to specific conditions.

I have been honored to help thousands of clients on their healing journeys, including many weight loss clients. I am also proud to make these services more accessible by offering them in a live, one-on-one, online format. I hope you will learn more about our yoga therapy and contact us today if you are interested.

If you are a yoga teacher or yoga therapist who would like to receive training to help others with weight loss and a whole host of other health conditions, please take a look at our programs and apply today.

Info Session

Brandt talks about common questions applicants have about the Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapy Program. Tune in to get the full program details.