Seniors should absolutely try to incorporate yoga in their daily activities.
Why? Because yoga’s effects can help one strengthen their health! According to the American Senior Communities and HuffPost (HuffPost cites third-party studies), yoga has the following benefits for seniors:
- Stronger bones. Yoga can prevent or delay the onset of osteoporosis – a condition where the bones turn weak or brittle. Thanks to its low-impact nature, yoga is also safe and painless for those with existing osteoporosis.
- Reduced stress and lower risk of depression. Yoga may provide you with a way to get distracted from your day-to-day issues and release tension from your body. Yoga could also reduce stress by helping you breathe easier, lowering your blood pressure and heart rate, and improving your general physical condition.
- Improved sleep. Thanks to its relaxing qualities, yoga may help you sleep better.
- Enhanced flexibility, mobility, and balance. Yoga doesn’t require physical strength, but it does demand a certain level of balance and accuracy. Regular yoga sessions could therefore help you improve your mobility, balance, and flexibility.
- Ache relief. By addressing weaknesses in one’s body, yoga may treat body aches. Yoga can be especially helpful for senior women who experience painful menstruation.
With that, yoga should be a good replacement for more intensive strength training, cardio, or other activities that may be inaccessible for some pensioners.
Yoga can also be done in the comfort of one’s home, which is for senior citizens with limited mobility.
Yoga For The Elderly – Which Style Would Work The Best For Seniors?
Yoga exists in many styles or systems – some more suitable for seniors than others.
According to Jeff Logan, a master teacher in Iyengar (a form of yoga) and owner of Body+Soul Yoga in Huntington, N.Y., yoga styles are fundamentally the same. What generally differs between them is the pacing, sequencing, to what degree other elements (such as chanting) are incorporated, and the overall level of difficulty.
If you have never done yoga and aren’t sure where to begin, you should look for introductory yoga classes in your area. You may also look for special-need classes – any reputable yoga studio will have them.
Anyway, here are a number of yoga styles that you should try.
Ashtanga is a more fast-paced, athletic style of yoga where you practice a set of six poses. Ashtanga always begins with the sun salutations – poses that are very demanding on one’s balance and core strength.
This yoga variety is done five days a week, so it would be a more suitable selection for people who want to challenge themselves.
Bikram yoga is traditionally performed in rooms heated to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. You will shed a lot of water while going through Bikram’s series of 26 poses!
Seniors who don’t thermo-regulate well may have issues with Bikram. On the other hand, people with mobility issues may benefit from a heated room because the heat can reduce the likelihood of injuries.
Chair or seated yoga
Performed seated, chair yoga is an amazing choice for individuals with mobility or balance issues. Since it requires minimal physical involvement, seated yoga is a superb place to start if you are looking to first try something slow-paced.
Hatha typically emphasizes relaxation and breathing. Some people find it highly meditative, and the fact that it’s more slow-paced than other yoga styles makes it a good choice for the elderly.
Iyengar is one of the most popular systems of yoga in the West. Iyengar yoga puts a great emphasis on alignment and proper form, which naturally slows the poses down.
Props – such as blocks, straps, or incline boards – are commonly used in Iyengar yoga to allow beginners and seniors to better perform the poses. Combined with the slowness of this style, props make Iyengar yoga quite elderly-friendly.
Power yoga focuses on postures that promote strength and flexibility. Traditional power yoga isn’t the best option for seniors due to its demanding nature and fast pacing. But if you’re looking to challenge yourself or find relaxed yoga variations too easy, power yoga may be a great next step.
Restorative yoga is wonderful for the elderly because it incorporates slow movements. Certain postures in this yoga style may be held for two to five minutes! Props are actively used in restorative yoga, which makes it more accessible to seniors.
Yin yoga is yet another slow-paced yoga style, but unlike other similar systems we’ve already had a look at, it heavily incorporates traditional Chinese medicine. Typically held between 45 seconds and 2 minutes, Yin postures are intended to stimulate body channels known as meridians in Chinese medicine.
Beginning Yoga For Seniors – Poses For Starters
Let’s start with simple yoga for seniors – more precisely, a few chair yoga poses proposed by Healthline.
(Note: All GIF’s and info below is credited to Healthline.com)
Seated Mountain (Tadasana)
Tadasana slightly engages your core and allows you to work on your posture.
Here’s how this movement is performed:
- Take a deep breath and sit up straight. Focus on extending your spine. Your knees should be bent at 90 degrees, so that the knee joints are directly over your ankles. Leave a little space between your knees (enough to fit your fist through).
- Exhale. As you exhale, push yourself into the chair. Roll your shoulders down your back, pull your belly button toward the spine, and relax your arms at the sides.
- While performing the pose, keep your feet firmly pressed into the ground.
Do this pose after each of the poses described below.
Warrior I (Virbhadrasana I)
- Sit up with your back straight.
- As you inhale, lift your arms out to your sides and then above your head, bringing the hands together.
- Lace your fingers with each other, keeping the thumbs and index fingers out. Your index fingers should be pointing into the ceiling.
- As you exhale, pull your shoulders away from your ears and slide your shoulder blades down. This will engage the muscles that hold your shoulder joint together.
- Maintain this position and take at least 5 deep and even breaths before letting your arms slowly go down.
Seated forward bend (Paschimottanasana)
- Sit up straight.
- Focusing on keeping your spine extended, bend down over your legs. For extra support, you may keep your hands on your thighs and slide them forward as you bend.
- Go as low as you can while maintaining an extended spine.
- Take 5 (or more if you can) even breaths in this pose to stretch your back muscles. Healthline also writes that the seated forward bend helps with digestion.
- Inhale as you lift your torso back.
Eagle Arms (Garudasana Arms)
This pose helps you relax your shoulders and upper back. It also allows you to flex and stabilize your shoulder joint.
- Sit up straight.
- As you inhale, stretch your arms out to the sides.
- Exhale. As you exhale, bring your arms in front of you, keeping your right arm under the left, and then grab your shoulders with the opposite hands, as though giving yourself a hug.
- If you are flexible enough, you may let go of your shoulders and wrap your forearms around each other, until the fingers of your right hand rest in the left palm.
- Inhale and lift your elbows a few inches.
- Exhale and roll your shoulders down and away from your ears.
- Take a few breaths, repeating the elbow lift and shoulder roll.
Reverse arm hold
The reverse arm hold helps you stretch your shoulders and chest, allowing you to improve posture and manage stress along with breathing difficulties.
- Sit up straight.
- Inhale. As you inhale, stretch out your arms to the sides, with the palms down.
- As you exhale, roll the shoulders slightly forward, which will turn your palms to face backward.
- Bend your elbows and swing your hands behind your back.
- Take hold of your hands any way you can (by the fingers, hands, wrists, or elbows) and start gently pulling your hands away from each other.
- If you gripped an elbow or wrist, note its side.
- Maintain the position and take 5 slow and even breaths.
- Reclasp the other wrist or elbow and do another 5 breaths.
Simple seated twist (Parivrtta Sukhasana)
Twisting poses are often called detox poses because they help with digestion and circulation.
- Sit up straight in the chair.
- As you inhale, extend your spine and raise your arms to the sides and up.
- Exhale. As you exhale, gently twist your torso to the right and lower your arms. Rest your right hand on the top of the chair back to help yourself get into the twist. Your left arm should rest at your left side.
- Look over your right shoulder. Use your hand on the chair to help you maintain the twist – do not twist further back.
- Take 5 breaths, let go of the chair, return to the starting position, and repeat on the other side.
To avoid injury, don’t force yourself into a twist – do everything gently.
Single-leg stretch (Janu Sirsasana)
- Once again, sit up straight. You may get closer to the edge of the seat to make the pose easier to do. But make sure that you are still supported by the chair.
- Stretch your right leg out and rest its heel on the floor, pointing the toes up. Rest your hands on the outstretched leg.
- As you inhale, extend your spine.
- As you exhale, bend over your right leg, sliding your hands down it as you go lower. Go as deep as you can without pain or yanking. If you can, grasp the back of your calf or ankle.
- Maintaining this position, inhale and exhale slowly 5 times.
- After the 5th exhalation, release the pose and inhale as you lift your torso back up.
- Repeat with the left leg.
Yoga Resources For Seniors
- Yoga for Healthy Aging: A Guide to Lifelong Well-Being.
- Chair Yoga: Sit, Stretch, and Strengthen Your Way to a Happier, Healthier You.
- Relax into Yoga for Seniors.
- Yoga for Seniors with Jane Adams.
- Gentle Yoga: 7 Beginning Yoga Practices for Mid-life.
- Jane Fonda: AM/PM Yoga For Beginners.
- Yoga International (online platform for yoga practice).
- Alo Moves (online platform for yoga practice).
- Yoga Finder (yoga studio locator).
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