One of the main things I love about yoga is that it's for every body. From toddler years to the golden years, yoga is accessible to all and offers many benefits when practiced regularly, especially for older adults.
Aside from improving flexibility, mobility and balance, establishing a regular yoga practice also offers many other physical benefits, including strengthening and energizing the body, reducing the perception of physical pain, as well as maintaining bone and joint health and muscle mass.
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Additionally, yoga can aid with improving mental health by helping calm the brain, relieve stress, ease insomnia and fatigue and improve focus and concentration.
Whether you know an older adult who can benefit from starting a yoga practice or are one yourself, here are some of the best yoga poses for seniors to do — with or without props. Aim to practice them two to four times a week to help with feeling better physically and mentally.
While all of these poses are great poses for older adults to do regularly, it's always best to talk to your doctor before attempting anything new. Remember to focus on your breath and do what feels good to your body in order to enjoy the benefits of these amazing poses.
1. Seated Spinal Twist (Utthita Marichyasana)
- Sit on a chair so that the back of the chair is at your left side.
- Place your feet parallel to each other on the floor.
- Turn your torso to the left, aiming to hold the sides of the chair with both hands.
- Use your hands to help you ease into the twist by pulling on the right hand and pushing the right hand into the chair.
- Inhale and exhale in this pose for 5 to 10 breaths.
- Release from the twist and repeat on opposite side.
2. Seated Eagle Arms (Garudasana)
- Sitting on your chair, reach your arms out in front of you and bend your elbows to 90 degrees, aligning them with your shoulders.
- Face your palms to each other and wrap your left arm underneath your right elbow and bring your left arm up until your forearms are parallel to your body.
- Wrap your left wrist around your right wrist, placing the palms together. Or get as close to this as your mobility allows.
- Draw your shoulders down and away from your ears.
- Slowly breathe in and out for 5 to 10 breaths.
- Release your arms and repeat with the opposite arm on top.
If you have tight shoulders, you'll benefit greatly from this asana, as it helps open the space between your shoulder blades to enable deeper breathing and can also help relieve pain from tension-induced headaches.
3. Standing Supported Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
- Standing in front of the seat of a chair, place your hands on your hips and slowly fold forward, hinging at your hips.
- Stack your forearms on top of one another on your chair and rest your forehead on your arms. If this is too intense, stretch your arms out in front of you, allowing your head to rest between your arms.
- Keep your spine lengthened and stay in this pose for 5 to 10 breaths.
- To come out of this pose, return your hands to your hips and lift your back as you stand.
This forward fold creates a sense of relaxation by soothing and calming the body, while strengthening and stretching the hamstrings.
4. Tree Pose (Vrksasana)
- Begin standing tall in Tadasana or mountain pose with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your sides.
- Spread your toes and root down through all four corners of your feet.
- Breathing in, focus on a point in front of you, keeping your right leg strong and steady as you begin to lift your left leg and place the left foot against the right calf.
- Use the edge of your chair for support if needed.
- Draw your shoulders down your back as you activate your core and bring your palms together in front of your heart.
- Hold for 5 to 10 breaths, release and repeat on opposite side.
This standing yoga pose provides the benefits of cultivating good posture, improving balance, remedying flat feet and improving focus.
5. Cow Pose (Bitilasana)
- Come onto all fours with wrists under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
- Spread your fingers as you root down through your hands.
- Tilt your pelvis forward and arch your back, lifting your chest forward and your glutes up toward the ceiling. Set your gaze forward.
- Hold for 5 to 10 breaths and release.
Cow pose is a wonderful asana that opens your chest and throat, while also aiding in digestion.
6. Cat Pose (Marjaryasana)
- From cow pose (see above), fully inhale as you arch your spine upward.
- Tilt your your hips toward your back, tailbone pointing to the floor.
- Set your gaze down on your mat or tuck chin to chest if mobility allows.
- Hold for 5 to 10 breaths and release.
Typically done in conjunction with its counter pose, cow, cat pose targets the abs, while increasing spinal flexibility and gently massaging and warming up the spine.
7. Butterfly Pose (Baddha Konasana)
- Sitting with your feet out in front of you, bend your knees to bring the soles of your feet together evenly from toes to heels. Feel free to sit on a booster or blanket.
- Support yourself by wrapping your hands around your feet or placing your fingertips on the floor behind you.
- Hold for 5 to 10 breaths before straightening your legs.
Sometimes referred to as cobbler's pose, this gentle hip opener helps soothe sciatica and relieve stiffness in the pelvic area.
8. Shinx Pose (Salamba Bhujangasana)
- Lie on your stomach, bending your elbows at 90-degree angles and placing your hands in front of you.
- Keep your hands and forearms flat on the ground.
- Rest your forehead on the ground and extend your legs behind you.
- Press your forearms into the ground and slide your hands back to lift your head and open your chest. Align your elbows with your shoulders and spread your fingers wide.
- Inhale and exhale slowly as you pull your chest forward.
- Hold for 5 to 10 breaths, then slowly lower your torso back down to come out of the pose.
This heart opener will encourage you to breathe deeply into your chest and upper back, while providing a gentle backbend that can help minimize lower back pain.
9. Corpse Pose (Savasana)
- Lie on your back and bend your knees, keeping your feet flat and rooted to the ground.
- Place a bolster, folded blanket or pillow underneath your knees to provide additional support if you'd like.
- Relax your arms at your sides with your palms facing upward and slowly extend your legs out one at a time.
- Draw the shoulders down and away from your ears and close your eyes.
- Stay here for 5 to 10 minute, breathing in and out slowly through your nose.
The final asana of just about every yoga class, this classic pose rejuvenates both the mind and body, providing total relaxation.