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.
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oh, some people just put lots and lots of tape along the top and sides of chair– not sure if it’s electrical or duct but whatever
here’s the you tube video you’re looking for:
namaste !! cynthia
While we have a business making Iyengar yoga props, I found the cheapest alternative to the yoga chair solution was Walmart. The chairs sometimes come on sale and I literally yanked the backs off, filed down the screw holes and presto, a set of studio chairs.
Enjoying your blog, Eve.
I don’t remember ever seeing a video but these are the instructions that have been on the internet for awhile and have assisted many an Iyengar student in performing the necessary operation – there are two versions – hand tools or power tools, click on the one you want for the full instructions: http://www.iyengar-yoga.com/articles/steelchair/
So cool! Thank you! I’d never seen that page before.
I’m going to bookmark the site – looks like there’s lots of interesting articles there.
In the meantime, Grant found the YouTube video. I’ll try to get it either embedded on the page, or at least get a link to it.
But, Eve, does it have to be a chair? I have been using a firm padded stool, a cube about 2 ft x 2 ft x 2 ft–some might call it an ottoman. You have to put your arms out over your head, but is that not just as good as a chair?
It’s certainly better than not doing the pose, and I can see how you could get a good opening.
As you work more deeply into the pose, you eventually work to hold on to the front legs of the chair – usually by tying a strap around them and walking your hands toward the chair legs.
I think you’d miss some of that ability to go deeper if you don’t have a chair.
I got my chairs trimmed by a friend last year so I have yoga chairs in my little studio. I just forwarded your call for yoga chairs to a very nice person who definately has the equipments to do the task and might be interested to pick up the assignment. Perhaps, he will join the yoga community as well..crossing my fingers.
Keep me posted on that!
Just read about a Surrey company who is making food carts for local business’. It’s called Apollo Carts and the guy is a metal fabricator. See yesterday’s business section in the Sun. Good luck.
When I think local supplier, Halfmoon Yoga comes to mind. Have you presented the idea to them? I bought my chairs at Office Depot and I knocked the back out of them no problem (although the hammering was a problem for my ears) but then I was left with a piece of metal I didn’t have the ingenuity to make into something else. So, I had metal waste. It would be great if someone could just get these without the backs and supply locally.
By the way, that pose you will be speaking of next week, is definitely one I find happiness in, along with a sweet sense of calmness. Looking forward to the challenge next week!
I haven’t talked to Halfmoon Yoga about it – it’s worth a try.
I’m impressed that you knocked the backs out yourself – and there is metal recycling, so as long as the backs went in the blue box, they probably returned to use in a new form. At least we can hope.