If only we lived in Melbourne, Australia.
Then we could go to EMP Industrial, makers of Pilates and yoga equipment in the nearby suburb of Malvern, and buy backless yoga chairs whenever we liked, for as little as $28 for a bulk purchase of 20 or more.
Sure, they have funny looking white feet on them, but we could live with that. Especially since EMP even posts a couple of interesting chair poses on its website.
But here in Vancouver, birthplace of Lululemon, home to an Iyengar yoga community for more than 35 years, with an estimated 1,200 people currently attending weekly classes, the choices are a lot slimmer.
What they boil down to is this: buy the chairs and take the back out yourself, or find someone who will do it for you.
Why does this matter?
It would be one thing if it were just a question of having a chair that worked a little better than a standard folding chair with the back still in place. And there are a lot of poses in the 50 or so done with chairs that would work just as well with a sturdy chair at home.
But the one pose you can’t do with a standard folding chair is a pose that everyone needs to have in their yoga repertoire: Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana (two-legged inverted staff pose) preparation in the chair.
More than any other pose, this one can open our upper backs, teach us how to do back bends without moving only from the lower back, and, best of all, lift our spirits and alleviate depression, all without demanding that we have the strength or agility for unsupported back bends.
Not coincidentally, It’s also next Thursday’s Five-Minute Yoga Challenge.
But how can you do the pose without the chair?
If you’re tiny, you can probably slip in between the seat and the back if you have a folding chair that still has its back.
If you’re not, then we have a problem.
I can no longer find the somewhat intimidating YouTube video on how to take the back out of a chair. Please let me know if you search and have better luck.
So I asked Grant Richards, an Iyengar teacher who I heard had done the deed. He said, “It’s not a big deal. Just a big hammer or tempered (cold) chisel and a drill with a grinder head attachment.”
The chairs sell for about $60 for four – less than $20 each including tax.
Chairs without the front rung, which would allow you to do supported plow pose with your head under the chair and your thighs on the chair seat, might be more expensive. So far I haven’t found a source for them, other than a studio in Austin, Texas, and a U.S. website, YogaChairProp.com.
Jeff Shultz, whose company, Texas Tall Chairs, makes the chairs for the Austin studio, doesn’t ship to Canada because of import fees charged to the recipient on arrival. (His website will be up soon.)
YogaChairProp.com does ship chair to Canada, but one backless chair costs $60, plus $20 shipping., A bulk order of 12 or more chairs costs $40 each, with a shipping cost, per chair, of $20. They also make tall chairs ($130 each, plus $30 per chair shipping), a boon for anyone too tall for the one-size-fits-some standard chair.
To my mind, $80, plus a possible import fee, is a little steep for a yoga chair, especially since it’s best to have two. (Really, they take up almost no space when they’re folded, and besides, you never know when a group of people might pop over and you’ll be looking for more chairs.)
Surely someone in these parts wants to make a small side business out of supplying them, even if tall chairs are a step too far.
So if you know someone who might be interested, please pass this along to them, and ask them to get in touch.
And if you don’t, but would be willing to post this request to your Facebook page on the off chance that someone knows someone who would be interested, please do.
Yogis all over the Lower Mainland will thank you.