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news News Tuesday, May 26, 2020 Tuesday, May 26, 2020 9:34 PM - Tuesday, May 26, 2020 9:34 PM

Chair yoga poses to strengthen your body and mind

Five ways to incorporate stretching into your day

Chair yoga poses to strengthen your body and mind

Many people view stretching as something to be done either before or after a high-intensity workout, but regularly lengthening and strengthening your muscles through stretching provides numerous benefits. And the best part is, you’re never too young to start.

“Stretching is important for children, especially in this technological day and age where children are being more sedentary. Their muscles can become imbalanced from spending long periods of time sitting, and that can lead to pain or injuries, even in younger ages,” said Kanoe Hook, D.P.T., a physical therapist with the Shriners Hospitals for Children — Honolulu rehabilitation services team.

“As therapists, we design individualized programs based on the child’s specific needs,” Kanoe said. “For example, when we encounter patients with back or knee pain contributed to tight hip musculature, we can use yoga poses to lengthen or strengthen muscles. It is one of the tools we utilize in our tool belt to aid in the best possible outcomes for our patients.”

Yoga’s benefits extend outside of the hospital setting as well. Incorporating short stretch breaks throughout the day can improve work performance and reduce certain health conditions, especially for those who spend long hours in front of a computer screen. “It is important to take breaks from your computer every half hour to reduce eye strain and prevent repetitive strain injuries,” Kanoe said.

One move Kanoe recommends as an excellent beginning stretch for both children and adults is the seated crescent moon (see below). “Just a minute or two of this stretch will help you return to your seat with a taller spine, a clearer head and sharper focus,” she said.

Here, Kanoe shares five modified yoga poses children and parents can incorporate into their daily routines. Using a chair makes yoga more accessible for those with mobility and health restrictions, and offers an extra layer of support and balance. These moves are safe to do throughout the day as needed, but it is always best to consult with your primary care physician prior to starting any new exercise program.

Seated crescent moon

  • Sit tall on your chair.
  • Lift your arms overhead and interlace your fingers, with your pointer fingers pointing to the sky.
  • Lean to the right, taking 2-3 deep breaths. Gently lean to the left, taking 2-3 deep breaths. Return to a neutral spine.

Seated simple twist

Before trying this pose, remember not to force your back or body to twist past its natural stopping point.

  • Inhale deeply and raise your hands up to your sides.
  • As you exhale, gently and slowly twist your body to your right while lowering your arms. As you twist your upper body to your right, place your left hand on the right armrest and your left right hand on the back of the chair. This helps you with the twist without deepening it.
  • Hold for 2-3 deep breaths.
  • Repeat on opposite side.

Seated chest opener

  • Sit at the edge of the chair with your fingers interlocked behind your back.
  • While keeping your shoulder blades together and your back straight, push your arms up behind you until you feel a stretch in your chest.
  • Hold for 2-3 deep breaths before releasing.

Seated lunge

  • Sit upright with one leg and buttock fully on the seat of the chair, and the other leg and buttock suspended off the seat behind you.
  • Place the hand closest to the chair back firmly on the seat. Reach the opposite arm up overhead and side bend slightly toward the back of the chair.
  • Hold for 2-3 deep breaths.
  • Repeat on opposite side.

Seated piriformis stretch (aka figure 4 stretch)

  • Sit at the edge of the chair with your feet flat on the ground. Place your right ankle on your left knee. Keeping a straight back, lean forward until you feel a stretch through your buttocks.
  • Hold for 2-3 breaths.
  • Repeat on opposite side.

Seated crescent moonSimple twistChest openerLunge

Pictured: (left to right) Seated crescent moon, seated simple twist, seated chest opener, seated lunge, seated piriformis stretch.