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.
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:
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.
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.
5. Tree Pose
Another pose that can be challenging, but there are ways to make it easier.
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.
7. Upward Facing Dog
You can go right into this from downward facing dog.
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.
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.
10. Seated Pigeon Pose
This odd position opens the hips, helps you sit in different positions and may aid with digestion.
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.
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.
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.
Final Yoga Pose for Seniors
Whether you’re standing or sitting, end with relaxation.
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.
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.
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!