Have you ever felt motivated to live a healthier lifestyle but didn't know where to begin? Yoga has several benefits and can be done almost anywhere, at any time. Some assisted living and nursing homes even offer yoga classes to their residents. There are countless poses and maneuvers to try. We’ll explore 8 of them as we move forward.
Benefits of Senior Yoga
Yoga for seniors has many benefits. It can improve blood glucose and blood lipids levels. It can lessen fatigue, and it can improve your sleep. It has also been shown to decrease pain.
It has also been shown to benefit social functioning, or the ability to effectively participate in society. Like exercise, it also benefits one physically by improving strength and balance.
Below, you'll find yoga stretching exercises for seniors, so you can get started improving your health right away.
Where to Begin?
Regardless of your current fitness level, you can do yoga. Some of you will have participated in athletics before, some of you may have never considered yourself an “athlete.” Either way, yoga can benefit you. Everyone is a beginner to yoga at some point.
With that in mind, let's get started.
Begin by dressing in comfortable clothing. It will be easier to do the following yoga poses if your clothing is not too tight or too baggy. Shorts and a T-shirt work great if you don't have any athletic clothing.
Now that you're appropriately dressed, you'll need a space to do yoga in. Any open space with enough room to stand, extend your arms in all directions, and sit down will work. You don't need a gym membership to do yoga. A living room will work just as well for a place to do yoga.
A yoga mat is useful but is not necessary. A blanket can also work to add a bit of cushion and comfort to these yoga poses.
If you are new to yoga or aren't sure how good your balance is, you may want to grab a chair to hold onto for balance. You may stumble a bit at first, so be sure always to keep the surrounding area free from objects that may injure you if you run into them.
Rely on your chair for balance as much as you need to. You'll see improvement in your balance over time, and soon you may not need a chair.
If you are concerned with your ability to exercise or do yoga, consult your local healthcare practitioner for guidance.
Differences Between Yoga for Seniors and Younger People
There are a few differences between yoga for seniors and younger people.
Unlike some younger people, seniors can have an easier time being mindful during yoga. While youths and young adults may focus on obtaining an aesthetic body, seniors are more able to focus on relaxing and feeling at peace.
On the other hand, younger people do not have to be as cautious when performing yoga. Yoga for seniors should involve extra care to keep those involved safe. This could mean modifying the poses by using a chair or bending your knees during certain poses if you aren't as flexible. It also means avoiding poses that are too physically demanding or which agitate existing conditions.
For example, if someone experiences shoulder pain, they should avoid doing yoga poses that place stress on the shoulders, such as the downward facing dog pose.
During all poses, be sure to breathe and concentrate on what you are doing. Focus on how your body is moving and how your body feels. Mindfulness is an important part of doing yoga. Pay attention to what feels good and what doesn't feel as good. Concentrating on your body and breathing will help you relax by keeping your thoughts in the present moment.
These yoga poses should be comfortable while you hold them. If they are not comfortable, adjust your body slowly until they become comfortable.
If you are having trouble balancing during any of the standing poses, try holding onto a chair for stability as mentioned above. As you perform this exercise, your balance will improve. Once you are very comfortable balancing with a chair for support, you can then try the pose without a chair.
Relying on a chair still counts as doing yoga. These are not just generic “chair exercises for seniors.” You are still doing yoga even if you need a chair for assistance.
If you can't hold a pose for the full 20-30 seconds, don't worry about it. Just come out of the pose, regain your balance, and then get back into the pose at your own pace.
If you experience pain at any time during a pose, stop doing the pose or modify the pose to work for you. Feel free to modify poses depending on your flexibility. Gradually work your way towards better form. Not everyone is super flexible, just do what you can.
Yoga isn't a race. Take your time, and progress at your own pace.
This pose will improve your balance and posture and will strengthen your ankles and legs. During the exercise, focus on standing tall and on your breathing.
- Begin by placing both feet together, toes facing forward. Make sure your shoulders are not hunched. Slowly lift your shoulders up to your ears, then roll them back, and lower them.
- Now, place your weight on a single foot by leaning slightly to either side. Lift the heel of the weightless foot, leaving the toes on the floor for now.
- When you feel balanced and ready, raise your foot completely off the ground and raise it until you can grab your ankle.
- Moving slowly, place the lifted foot on the inner thigh of the standing leg. Aim to have your lifted leg resting above the knee of your other leg. If you are unable to grab your ankle, you can try to place your foot on your thigh without using your hand. Or, feel free to only lift your leg off the ground and hold this pose.
- Hold the pose for 20-30 seconds. Then, lower your lifted leg to the ground, and repeat the pose on the other leg.
Downward Facing Dog
This pose will improve your upper body strength, stretch the back, and improve concentration.
- Begin by getting on your hands and knees. Your hands, knees, and toes should be on the floor. Your hands and knees should be roughly shoulder-width apart and your back should be straight.
- At your own pace, slowly lift your knees off of the ground, lifting your hips into the air. Aim to achieve the pose as shown above, with a straight back and straight legs. If you cannot do this with straight arms and legs, feel free to keep your knees slightly bent. If you can, gently lower your heels to the ground.
- Hold this pose for 20 seconds to two minutes. If you can't hold it this long, just hold it as long as you can. To get out of the pose, slowly lower your hips until your knees are back to the ground.
Legs Up the Wall
This pose can help with circulation, and it can also help alleviate pain in the lower back and legs.
- Begin by moving your yoga mat, if you have one, next to an open section of wall. If you want, grab a pillow to place under your lower back for added support and comfort. If you don't have a wall or are unable to straighten your legs against the wall, you can also do this exercise with a chair. Simply lie down in front of the chair and place your legs, with knees bent, on the chair.
- Sit down on your yoga mat next to the wall facing to the left or right of the wall. One side of your body (leg and shoulder) should be touching the wall.
- Then, rotate in place as you lay back until your legs are on the wall and your back is on the ground.
- Straighten your legs up the wall if possible. If at any time you feel the need to take a break, simply bend your knees and place the soles of your feet on the wall. Extend them back up the wall when you are ready.
- Hold this pose for five to 20 minutes.
This pose will strengthen your legs, abdomen, and glutes. It can also improve your posture. This pose is simple. You can do it nearly anywhere and anytime.
- Stand with your feet facing forward next to each other, about hip-width apart. Have your hands at your sides, with your palms facing forward.
- Distribute your weight evenly across both of your feet. Keep your back straight and your shoulders in the correct posture.
- Hold the pose for a minute or more. Focus on your breathing and on keeping your posture perfect during the pose.
This pose can also be done sitting in a chair. Simply follow the same principles above regarding upper body posture and breathing, but now you're doing it while sitting.
This pose strengthens the back, legs, and ankles. It also calms the body and mind.
- Begin by laying on your back, with your hands at your sides and your legs straight.
- Bring your feet and knees up so that the bottom of your feet are on the ground and your knees are bent.
- Lift your hips up off the ground, making sure to keep the bottoms of your feet on the ground. Aim to have your thighs and back in a straight line. Be sure not to arch your back.
- Hold this pose for up to a minute, then relax and lower your hips to the ground.
It may help to have a pillow under your lower back for added support and comfort when entering and leaving this pose.
This pose stretches out the muscles in the legs and improves lower body range of motion.
- Begin by sitting on your knees. Have a chair next to your for balance if you want.
- Step forward with either foot, keeping the other knee on the floor. Place the top of your back foot on the ground if possible.
- Slowly lean forward towards your front knee, keeping your back straight. Only lean forward as far as you can.
- Raise your hands above your head if you are not using a chair.
- Hold this pose for up to a minute. Relax, shifting your body back to the starting position. Return to both knees and repeat the pose with the other leg forward.
This pose relaxes your body and mind, and it also reduces stress. The relaxation pose is simple.
- Lay on your back with your arms at your sides. Place a pillow underneath your head or knees if desired. The goal is to be as comfortable as possible. Once you are comfortable, pay attention to your breathing, and do your best to relax. Think about how each part of your body feels. Your feet, your legs, your arms, and so on. Let your mind wander and be at peace.
- Stay in this pose for five to 10 minutes.
Photograph by Jemasty (Wikimedia Commons) / CC BY-SA 3.0
This pose strengthens core muscles and improves posture.
- Begin by sitting down on the ground.
- Extend your legs out in front of you. Keep your legs straight and knees unbent if you can. Have your arms at your sides on the ground. Keep your back straight up, at a right angle to your legs. If you are unable to do this at first, try sitting with your back against a wall for support. If using a wall, keep your shoulder blades touching the wall, but do have your lower back come in contact with the wall.
- Focus on having good posture while doing this pose. Concentrate on taking even, controlled breaths.
- Hold this pose for one to two minutes.