Senior Yoga Sequences

Senior Yoga Sequences: 14 Gentle Yoga Poses for Seniors

By Maurice

Senior Yoga Sequences

If you’re an older adult, you’ve heard someone suggested yoga at one time or another. Maybe you’re skeptical, especially if the first thing you think of is people contorting themselves into all kinds of pretzel-like positions.

For most people who practice it, yoga isn’t like that. It’s simply body positioning and body movement that they use for their health and their relaxation. Some serious practitioners use it as a meditative or enlightening discipline, but the physical, mental and emotional benefits of yoga are available to anyone who chooses to adopt a few of the poses.

Please click the button below to download a free PDF of the exercises in this article:

Keep in Mind:

Before starting any new exercise(s), we strongly recommend you follow the advice of the National Institute on Aging and consult your doctor.  

What Are the Benefits of Yoga for Seniors?

Yoga is suitable for everyone. Children can do yoga, and the oldest of the elderly can join in as well. It’s truly a lifetime activity.

It’s low-impact. You never have to do anything that yanks you, pulls at you or hurts you. Most of the standard yoga poses can be modified for those who have physical limitations. There are figures that can be done in a chair or even a wheelchair. If you have joint pain or reduced range of motion, it’s an ideal way to get the exercise that will help you feel better.

Yoga is mentally and emotionally positive. There are studies that indicate yoga can reduce stress, anxiety and depression, and even make those who use it more hopeful.

And of course there are the physical benefits. You improve your balance, flexibility and strength during every session, and you get to take those improvements along with you even after you pick up your yoga mat and go about your day. There’s evidence that yoga leads to better sleep, loss of unwanted weight and that it reduces the risk of falling or of developing chronic health issues.

You can practice yoga alone or in a group. Either is fine, but group yoga is a social activity that promotes camaraderie and lifts people’s spirits.

Best Yoga Sequences for Seniors

Yoga for seniors should feel good. You never need to stretch to the point where it hurts – only to the point where you feel some mild to moderate tension. A yoga session isn’t just a period for exercise. It’s a gift you give yourself. For the duration of your postures, you’re allowed to clear your mind, to put away all of the hassles of daily living and to take some time to focus on yourself. These minutes are all yours! Enjoy.

Gentle Yoga Poses for Seniors

A yoga session should always start gently and easily. Take a few calming breaths and let’s get started.

1. Mountain Pose

From looking at a picture, you might think this pose is nothing more than standing still. It would better be described and standing mindfully.

  • Stand up straight with your legs hip width apart and your arms by your side.
  • Build your posture from the feet up. Engage your ankle, legs, thighs and pelvis to support your upper body.
  • Let your shoulders fall back and relax.
  • Look straight ahead.
  • Imagine yourself growing tall, as if the crown of your head is reaching for the ceiling.
  • Hold the pose for 5-10 slow, deep breaths.

You can do this at the start of a session and also return to it after any standing pose. Also, you can stop for a minute during your daily life for a “mountain pose break.”

2. Lotus Pose or Easy Pose

Mountain pose is the basic standing pose, and lotus is the fundamental seated pose. It’s difficult for most beginners. Here’s how to do an easy version:

  • Sit cross-legged on the floor with your knees atop their opposite feet.
  • Lay your hands palms-up and relaxed on your knees.
  • Draw your shoulder blades back.
  • Lengthen your neck while looking straight ahead.
  • Hold for 5-10 deep breaths.

Most of us have seen pictures of full lotus. It might be the first thing we think of when we think of yoga. Try it if you like, but you have to be pretty supple.

3. Child Pose

This is a resting pose. You can go to it for a feel-good break any time you’re doing floor postures.

  • Kneel in a tabletop position.
  • Drop your butt back onto your lower legs.
  • Rest your forehead on the floor or mat.
  • Lay your arms back by your side. Alternatively, stretch them out beyond your head.
  • Hold the pose until you feel good and relaxed.

Standing and Balance Poses for Seniors

All yoga poses promote balance, but some, especially some standing postures, require special attention to balance.

4. Warrior 1 Pose

Often this is done in the act of rising from a floor pose, but you can also step into it from a standing position. It’s a challenging pose, so don’t worry if you can’t do it. Move on to another one.

  • Stand with your legs hip width apart.
  • Take a step forward with one foot. The bigger the step, the more challenging the pose.
  • Turn your back foot outward 45 degrees.
  • Shift your weight until the back leg is straight.
  • Raise your arms over your head.
  • Hold for several breaths.

5. Tree Pose

Another pose that can be challenging, but there are ways to make it easier.

  • Stand in mountain pose.
  • Raise one leg, bend the knee, and rest the foot on the other inner shin.
  • If that’s not hard enough, rest the foot on your inner thigh. However, don’t rest it on the knee. Always above or below.
  • It’s OK to sway. Trees sway in the breeze, and you may sway in this pose.

You can also do this with a hand on a wall or a table for balance.

6. Downward Facing Dog

This exercise stretches and tones the muscles in your lower legs.

  • Kneel on the floor or mat in a tabletop position.
  • Raise your hips in the air to form an inverted “V.”
  • Relax your neck and let your head hang.
  • Try to keep your palms flat, your elbows straight, your knees straight and your heels on the floor. If your heels don’t quite reach, stretch them toward the floor.

7. Upward Facing Dog

You can go right into this from downward facing dog.

  • From a tabletop position, point your toes backward so that the tops of your feet are on the floor.
  • Extend your elbows to raise yourself on your arms. You may raise your knees or keep them on the floor.
  • Extend your spine starting at the base and going to the neck. Stretch your neck to face upward.

Chair Yoga Poses for Seniors

Most yoga poses are standing poses or floor poses, but you don’t have to stand or get down on the ground to enjoy the benefits of yoga. Chair poses can be easy, but there are challenging seated poses as well!

8. Forward Chair Bends

The chair version of a popular standing pose.

  • Sit straight in a chair.
  • Inhale and raise the arms directly over the head.
  • Exhale and fall forward. If the hands go that far, rest the backs of them on the floor.
  • Relax into this position. Let the upper body sink. Take a few breaths.
  • Repeat the rising and falling motion several times.

9. Seated Eagle Pose

Another modification of a standing pose. You can do the full pose, or skip the lower body portion and do only the upper part.

  • If you’re including the “leg part” of the pose, cross your right thigh over your left. Otherwise leave your feet flat on the floor.
  • If you’re one of the agile seniors who can, tuck the right foot under the left calf.
  • Cross your left arm over your right at the elbow.
  • Bend your elbows and bring your palms to touch.
  • Lift the elbows and let the shoulder drop.
  • Hold 3-5 breaths.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.

10. Seated Pigeon Pose

This odd position opens the hips, helps you sit in different positions and may aid with digestion.

  • Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  • Lift your right reg and rest your right ankle on your left knee. Make your form as square as you can.
  • You may do the pose in this position. For a greater stretch, bend forward as far as you comfortably can.
  • Hold the position for about 5 deep breaths.

Yoga Poses for Seniors in Wheelchairs

Almost any pose suited for a regular chair can be done in a wheelchair as well. When doing wheelchair yoga, it’s a good idea to have a spotter on hand.

11. Chair Mountain Pose

Mountain pose is a great way to start a standing session, and it's a top kick-off for a wheelchair session as well.

  • Sit up straight in the chair.
  • Rest your hands near your knees.
  • Build the posture starting at the base of the spine. Straighten up and rise through the spine and chest.
  • Let the shoulders fall back and relax.
  • Look straight ahead.
  • Imagine that your head is rising with the crown stretching toward the ceiling.
  • Take about 5 deep, slow breaths.

You don’t need a wheelchair to enjoy this pose. Do it any time, in an office chair or sitting at a table.

12. Chair Hand Raises

A simple exercise to help maintain posture.

  • Sit in the chair with your hand on the outside of the arms. The fingers are straight, together and pointed toward the floor. Alternately, rest your hand on your thighs inside the arms.
  • Relax your shoulders and rib cage. Center your body on your sit bones.
  • Inhale and raise your hands straight over your head, or as straight as you can get them.
  • Exhale and lower the arms to starting position.
  • Repeat 5-10 times.

13. Chair Cat and Cow

Cat and cow is a luxurious spinal stretch normally done on the hands and knees, but it works in a chair as well.

  • Sit up straight in your chair with your hands on your knees or thighs.
  • As you inhale, roll your hips forward and arch backward, starting at the base of the spine.
  • Come up all the way through the upper back. Force the shoulder blades back. Extend your neck and look toward the ceiling.
  • On the exhale, start from the low back and move the spine in the opposite directions. Push your low back toward the chairback, round your upper back forward and drop your neck and head.
  • Do about 5 repetitions.

Final Yoga Pose for Seniors

Whether you’re standing or sitting, end with relaxation.

14. Savsana

Savasana, also called “corpse pose,” wraps up all the benefits you have just given yourself and helps you transition into your ongoing day. Some quiet background music enhances this pose.

  • Lie flat on your back with your arms slightly away from your side.
  • Tense every muscle in your body. Scrunch your face.
  • Now close your eyes, exhale and let everything relax.
  • Don’t try to control your breathing. Just breathe shallow.
  • Lie for about 5 minutes. Have a timer set or have someone tell you when you’re done.
  • Come back to life slowly. Open your eyes. Wiggle your fingers and toes. After a bit, get yourself up. You’ll feel refreshed.

If you’re in a chair, fold your hands together in your lap. When you tense, raise your shoulders and scrunch your face. Then let your shoulders fall down and back as you relax.

Conclusion

Yoga is a practice that truly is for everybody. For physically active seniors it’s a tool to refresh and restore the body so you’ll be in top shape for your next tennis game or round of golf. For the elderly who’ve had a hard time establishing an exercise routine, it’s an easy way to get going toward a better level of fitness. If you haven’t yet made yoga a part of your senior lifestyle, there’s never been a better time to start!


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