Transforming Fear to Joy

Yoga Actions for CHAIR YOGA VII — to REST & DIGEST

Chair Poses to REST & DIGEST

The vagus nerve is the prime component of the parasympathetic nervous system which regulates “rest-and-digest” or “tend-and-befriend” (loving kindness) responses.  

There is growing evidence that we combat inflammation, and thus ill health, by engaging the vagus nerve and improving “vagal tone.” Research specifies that such well-being can be achieved through the following four practices:
1) posture (yoga poses),
2) breath (pranayama & resonance breathing),
3) vocalization (chanting/ohming), and
4) behaviour (yamas/niyamas & meditation).

YOGA ACTIONS: In each of the following poses, ask yourself, WHAT AM I PRACTICING? 
1) Connection – friendliness (loving kindness to myself & others)? 

2) Resistance – apprehension, running away (fight or flight)?  

3) Ignoring – going away (freezing/paralyzed)?  

4) Regeneration – balanced continuation of the healing process?  (Safe Mobilization–active healing)

5) Healing – rest & digest?  (Safe Immobilization–passive healing)

NOTE: Safe Immobilization is the only state of being where healing is initiated.


  1. Lie face down with palms on chair seat.
  2. Keeping arms straight, exhale and lower forehead to floor or block.

Stay for 3-5 minutes
Release arms to floor & rest for 1-2 minutes.


  1. Place blanket or foam block at wall to support knee.
  2. Stand with hands on chair and bend R knee sliding R shin down wall until knee rests on foam.
  3. L ankle and knee are aligned.
  4. As quads and hips release, move sit bones closer to wall.

Stay for 2-3 minutes. Repeat on other side.


  1. Place two blocks at wall for feet. Toe mounds into blocks; heels into wall.
  2. Place chair so its upper back presses into your upper thighs, NOT public bone.
  3. Place bolster (OR 2 foam blocks) on chair seat to support front torso from collapsing.
  4. Clasp elbows to keep weight off of hands & to allow spine to lengthen.

Stay for 3-5 minutes


  1. Forehead (third eye chakra) rests on chair seat.
  2. Clasp elbows.
  3. Complete the Yoga Actions.

Stay for 2 minutes. Slowly return to standing –iIf wobbly or dizzy, place forehead into wall until blood pressure normalizes.


  1. Secure chair into wall. Start in All 4s.
  2. Place outer forearms into inner front chair legs to keep elbows from splaying.
  3. Firmly ground forearms (from 4 corners of hands through wrists to elbows).
  4. Exhale and press into forearms & toe mounds to lift knees off floor.
  5. Straighten knees releasing heels toward floor.
  6. Continually press into forearms to lengthen side body & hips away from shoulders.
    Stay here for several breaths.
  7. If you can keep body weight from collapsing into shoulders, walk thoracic spine to touch front edge of chair seat.

Stay for 10 breaths. Rest in BALASANA 1 M.
REPEAT 2 more times.


  1. Place front legs of 2 chairs on mat & against wall with enough space between seats for your head.
  2. Blue foam blocks or folded sticky mats on chair seats cushions the tops of the shoulders.
  3. From hands & knees in front of chairs, maneuver your head into place while clasping both front chair legs. Notice hand position.
  4. Exhale up into Down Dog & then scissor-kick heels to wall.

Stay 1-3 minutes. Release into Balasana to rest (1 minute).


  1. Place chairs far enough from wall so tail bone can slide past back edge of chair seat.
  2. Legs actively press heels into floor and toe mounds into wall.
  3. Bolster bridges both chairs to support back of rib cage, respiratory diaphragm and shoulder blades.
  4. Use enough support for the head so the chin can release toward the breast bone.
  5. Hands reach for/clasp back legs.
    Stay for 2-3 minutes.
  6. Clasp forearms overhead resting them on blanket.
    Stay for 2-3 minutes.


  1. Place bolster or double-folded blankets under pelvis and touching chair feet.
  2. Place calves on chair seat and open knees wide.
  3. Hook front ankles to chair sides.

Stay for 2-4 minutes


  1. Place 2 or 3 double-folded blankets under shoulders.
  2. Lie shoulders on blankets & lift sacrum off floor.
  3. Buttress vertical block to edge of blankets.
  4. Bring feet to chair edge or seat, inhale & lift pelvis to insert 2nd block horizontally under sacrum.
  5. 2nd block can be on medium or high height based on your capacity.
  6. Extend legs so calves and knees are supported on chair seat.
  7. Belt legs or allow outer calves to rest into chair sides.

Stay for 3-5 minutes. Release by taking top block & placing it behind head.
Gently lower sacrum to lower block and finally to floor.


  1. Create sling for head using belt around chair seat.
  2. Place belt behind occipital ridges at bottom of skull.
  3. Completely rest head into sling.

Stay for 5-10 minutes.

Picture of Author: Helen Maupin

Author: Helen Maupin

Helen is passionate about transforming fear into love — from her, for her, for all. She expresses her commitment to transformation through writing poetry, self-awareness and yoga books, co-designing organizations into adaptive enterprises and deepening her daily meditation and yoga practices.


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