Yoga cultivates a mind-body connection, combining stretching and strengthening postures with deep breathing and relaxation.
Because the poses (called asanas) can easily be modified or adapted to suit an individual's needs, yoga is safe for seniors of all fitness or ability levels. In fact, it can be an excellent way to keep your body strong and healthy without the joint stress that comes from other activities like weightlifting or jogging. And it's never too late to begin: You can start yoga at any age. (Just be sure to clear it with your doctor before you get going.)
Here are some of the benefits of Yoga for seniors:
Better balance—Many yoga poses for seniors focus on strengthening the abdominal muscles and improving your core stability. That can help you become steadier on your feet and reduce your risk of falls.
Improved flexibility—Yoga movements can be fantastic stretching exercises for seniors. Holding a pose for several breaths encourages your muscles and connective tissues to relax and loosen, which helps to increase your range of motion.
Enhanced breathing—The breathing control practices of yoga (known as pranayama) can expand your lung capacity and improve your pulmonary health.
Stronger bones—If you're worried about brittle bones and osteoporosis, try yoga. For older women and men, a consistent yoga routine that includes weight-bearing postures can help bolster bone strength.
Reduced anxiety and stress—Through meditation and mindful breathing, yoga encourages you to focus on the present and find a sense of peace. That can lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and help ease symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Better sleep—Yoga can help alleviate sleep disturbances, which are common complaints among seniors.
Traditional Yoga for Senior Citizens
Hatha—Poses are typically about stretching and breathing, not boosting your heart rate or getting your leg up behind your head. That's why many people believe that hatha is the best type of yoga for beginners.
Vinyasa—This is a general term for yoga styles that involve matching breathing with a series of continuous movements that flow from one to another. Pacing can vary, butroutines are often very fluid and quick. Vinyasa emphasizes the transitions between postures as much as the poses themselves. Vinyasa yoga is hard in the sense that it tends to be physically vigorous, but seniors who are reasonably fit may enjoy the challenge.
Ashtanga—Fast-paced and physically challenging, ashtanga comprises a predetermined set of poses that are performed the same way every time. It's an intense, acrobatic activity that boosts your heart rate and circulation, which is why some people say that ashtanga is the best type of yoga for weight loss. While it is not generally recommended or beginners, some older adults find it to be greatly beneficial.
Kundalini—Known as the "yoga of awareness," kundalini can be appealing to seniorswho are keenly interested in the spiritual as well as the physical components of yoga. Itcombines physical postures, breathing exercises, meditation, and chanting.
A Non-Traditional Option: Chair Yoga for Seniors
Not everyone is comfortable with the up-and-down movements of traditional yoga. In chair yoga, seniors who have mobility challenges or balance issues can enjoy the benefits of yoga without having to get down on a floor mat. A huge number of poses—from spinal twists and hip stretches to chest openers and forward bends—can be modified to be performed from a chair.
Basic Yoga Positions for Beginners
Mountain—The most basic standing pose, mountain pose helps you improve your posture and balance.
Tree—The tree pose is great for building lower body strength and improving
balance. Modified versions can be done while either leaning on or sitting in a chair.
Downward-facing dog—This pose opens the chest and stretches out the calves, hamstrings, and lower back. If you have wrist problems, you can modify this pose by keeping your forearms on the ground.
Cat-cow—These are classic yoga movements that promote flexibility in the spine and strengthen the abdominal muscles. Cat-cow can also be done from a chair.
Plank—The plank pose essentially involves getting into a push-up position, but not actually lowering yourself. It's excellent for developing core stability and upper body strength.
Triangle—In addition to working the hamstrings and hips, this pose also strengthens your core. It can help ease sluggish digestion and relieve lower back pain. You can also do the triangle pose while seated.
Warrior I—This pose opens the chest and hips and strengthens your calves, ankles, and thighs. If reaching up is too difficult, keep your hands on your hips.
Child's pose—Frequently used as a resting position, the child's pose stretches the spineand hips as well as the lower back. It's a good way to relax, relieve tension, and calm your mind.