Yoga for Elderly: 13 Exercises to Practice and Its Benefit

Yoga is one of the best ways for the elderly to keep up with and improve their physical ability. Find out the suitable yoga poses for seniors.

by Emma Hall

Are you interested in yoga classes for older people? Yoga is extremely beneficial for seniors, improving strength, flexibility, balance and mental health. It is easy to get started, with classes in every major city and online. We have 13 easy yoga poses for you to try yourself today.

5 reasons why yoga is beneficial for the elderly

Yoga is a highly beneficial practice that can help to strengthen the body, sharpen the mind, and improve overall wellbeing. It is especially beneficial for elderly people because it is a more gentle form of exercise that can be tailored for different strengths and weaknesses. These are some of the key benefits of yoga for older people.

1. Yoga strengthens the body

While yoga might feel quite slow and gentle, the poses involved in a yoga routine work to strengthen the muscles, bones and joints. This is particularly important for older people. Bones lose density as we age, leading to problems such as osteoporosis. Joints also become stiffer and more difficult to move freely, especially for people suffering from arthritis and other mobility issues.

Yoga can prevent or slow the loss of bone density and relieve pain associated with osteoporosis. It also builds muscles around the joints in the ankles, knees, hips, back and wrists, all of which help support the body to continue moving.

2. Yoga improves balance 

Good balance is a key indicator of overall wellbeing. As we age, our balance and posture often deteriorate, leading to serious problems such as falls or difficulty moving around independently. Yoga encourages you to pose in positions you might not be in during regular everyday life, such as with legs wide apart or with your weight on one side. This builds balance and confidence in your body.

3. Yoga reduces back pain

Back pain is a very common complaint for older Australians. The muscles in the back can tighten over time, and as we age, it becomes more difficult to stretch and relieve this tension. Yoga stretches and strengthens your back muscles, improving flexibility and core strength. This helps to keep a good posture and reduces lower back pain.

 4. Yoga improves cognitive function

Yoga is originally a deeply spiritual practice, and slow breathing and meditation are a core part of this. People who regularly practice yoga have better memories and calmer minds. This helps with stress relief, mood problems, and problem-solving skills. Slowing down during a yoga routine can also help to manage blood pressure levels.

5. Yoga helps with sleep

Many older people report being tired during the day but struggling to fall asleep at night. A regular yoga routine can help to relax the body and quiet the mind before bedtime. The act of stretching can make the muscles more ready to rest and recover, leading to reduced insomnia.

4 steps of how to start practising yoga

Yoga requires no special skills or background knowledge to get started – just a willingness to learn and try new things. Before you begin, there are a few things you should prepare to make the most of your yoga practice. 

Step 1: Purchase yoga supplies

Many yoga studios and other places to do yoga will be able to supply you with the things you need. However, if you’d prefer to use your own equipment, you can purchase a yoga mat from a sports store. Any mat designed for yoga will do, but you can buy one with increased thickness to better support your knees and back. You may also want to buy some yoga blocks, which are brick-shaped blocks of foam or cork designed to support you in different poses.

Step 2: Wear appropriate clothing 

Yoga can be done in whatever clothing you feel comfortable in, but it is important that you are wearing something that allows you to move freely. Avoid clothing that is tight or restrictive. Yoga can warm up the body quickly, so you may want to wear layers so you can remove some if needed. You don’t wear shoes to do yoga, but you might like to wear slip-on shoes to go to and from class. 

Step 3: Find a local class

There are hundreds of places to practice yoga, from dedicated studios to small community classes, and even yoga on the beach or in the park. You can find a class that is convenient for you. Ask if they have specific classes for beginners or for older people. Always try to work with an experienced teacher who can modify poses for your specific health concerns if necessary.

Step 4: Try yoga at home

If you want to incorporate yoga into your daily routine but don’t have the time or capacity to get to a class regularly, you might like to try following along with a yoga video at home. All you need is your mat, a computer and some space to move. There are lots of videos available that are tailored specifically for older people practising yoga, and they even incorporate at-home props such as chairs to help with movement. Make sure that if you are doing yoga at home, you have water nearby, and you are able to access a phone if you do injure yourself and need to call for assistance.

Explore some options for yoga for seniors via YouTube videos.

4 steps yoga injury prevention

 Yoga is supposed to be a gentle, invigorating and enjoyable exercise practice. It is not supposed to hurt or leave you feeling sore and uncomfortable by the end of class. There are some tips to make sure you don’t get injured during yoga as follows;

Step 1. Don’t take a class that’s too hard for you

Some classes are designed for experienced yoga practitioners. If you’re unsure, talk to the instructor ahead of time and check if the class is appropriate for you.

Step 2. Avoid poses that don’t feel right

 If you know, you have some limitations in a particular area of your body – for example, your lower back – don’t do poses that put a specific strain on that area. It’s okay to skip a pose or go into a rest position until the class moves on.

Step 3. Ask your teacher to help you modify poses

Instructors are there to assist you, so don’t be afraid to ask if there’s a different way to do a pose that will work for your body.

Step 4. Don’t go longer or deeper just because everyone else is

Yoga is about centring yourself and focusing on your own practice. If other people are touching their toes or doing the splits and you can’t, that’s okay!

13 yoga poses for seniors

There are hundreds of yoga poses that you may try in a class. These are key to getting started, which are particularly beneficial for older people.

 1. Mountain pose

Mountain pose helps to centre and ground you. It is often one of the beginning poses before starting a yoga flow. Mountain helps with balance, stability, and deep breathing.

Stand tall with your feet hip distance apart and your arms by your side. Drop your shoulders and relax through your upper back. Draw in your abdominal muscles to activate your core. Relax your jaw and face.

2. Sun salutation 

Sun salutations are designed as an invigorating way to start the day. They encourage movement through your arms, shoulders and back. 

Stand up straight with your feet hip distance apart. Stretch your arms up overhead with your fingers outstretched and pointing upwards. Keep your abdominal muscles strong. Relax your jaw and face.

 3. Cactus pose

Cactus pose is a different position to stretch your arms and back muscles. It encourages your back muscles to flex and strengthen. It can also improve posture and balance.

Begin in mountain pose with legs straight and shoulders relaxed. Lift your arms straight out, forming a T shape, then bend your elbows so your upper arms point out from the body and your forearms lift up towards the sky at a right angle. Spread your fingers wide. Now, push your arms back until you feel a stretch in your back like your shoulder blades are pushing together. Push out your chest. Keep your chin up and gaze forward.

 4. Tree pose 

Building strength in the legs and abdomen, the tree pose is excellent for improving balance and test your focus and mindfulness. Because it is a pose that uses balance, it can be helpful to do it standing next to a wall or another support to hold onto if and when needed. 

Begin by standing in a mountain pose, then shift the weight to one foot and slowly lift the other from the floor, letting it rest against your ankle. For a more challenging variation, you can bring the foot higher up the leg, to the calf or the thigh. Open your leg out to one side and move your hands to a prayer position in front of your chest.  

5. Cat and cow

This sequence of movements is designed to loosen the back and encourage awareness of the entire spine. It can relieve tension in your back and neck and also links with the breath to improve focus and stress relief. A variation can be completed in a chair if needed.

Begin on your hands and knees with hands shoulder-width apart and knees hip distance apart. Keep your back straight and head facing downwards. Slowly inhale as you arch your back and tilt your chin up. Moving slowly, exhale and pull your abdominal muscles inwards to round your back and drop your chin towards your chest. Repeat slowly and mindfully, in time with your deep breathing.

6. Downward facing dog

This pose is often referred to as a ‘home base’ in yoga flows, as a starting and ending point of many sequences of poses. It can improve flexibility, strength and balance and is a good stretch for the entire body. 

Start on your hands and knees, as in the cat and cow pose. Tuck your toes under and lift your knees off the floor, elevating your hips until your legs and arms are straight or almost straight. Your body should form a triangle shape. Avoid letting too much of the weight rest on your hands and wrists, and instead, use your core to pull your weight back towards your legs.

7. Forward fold

Also known as the ‘touching toes position’, this pose is designed to loosen and relax the upper body while stretching the hamstrings and calves. It is excellent for joint health and lower back pain.

Begin in mountain pose, then slowly bend from your hips to fold your torso over your legs until your hands touch the floor or as close as you can get. Your knees can bend slightly to take the pressure out of your joints. Allow your upper body to hang without straining; relax your shoulders, neck and head. Keep your feet planted firmly on the floor for balance and stability.

8. Warrior one

The warrior poses test your balance and the strength of your legs. You may like to use support to help. Warrior one activates your muscles and improves flexibility through the hips.

Beginning in mountain pose, take one big step backwards, so your legs are apart. Plant the back foot on your mat at a 45-degree angle, and keep your front foot facing forwards with the knee bent. Lift your arms up overhead, as in a sun salutation. Keep your back straight, abdomen strong, and shoulders relaxed.

9. Warrior two

From warrior one, you can move into warrior two. This pose further strengthens the muscles and joints through the hips and knees. Turn your torso from facing forward to facing the same direction as your back leg (so if your left foot is at the back of your mat, face your body to the left). Keep your front knee bent and back leg straight. Drop your arms from above your head to a T shape, with the same arm going in the direction of its corresponding leg. Turn your head to the front to look down your forward-facing arm.

10. Low lunge 

If warriors one and two are too difficult, you can also achieve a stretch through the hips with a low lunge. From cat / cow position, push your hands off the floor, so you are kneeling, and then step one foot forward to place it flat on the mat. Lean forward to shift the weight into your front leg, keeping your back knee on the mat. You can lift your arms above your head (as in a sun salutation) for more of a challenge.

11. Butterfly pose

Keeping your hips open and mobile is important as we get older. The butterfly pose stretches out the hip joint and encourages good posture.

Sit on the floor in a cross-legged position. Slowly move your legs outwards until your knees are pointing out and the soles of your feet are touching. For more of a stretch, you can gently pulse your knees up and down, like a butterfly’s wings.

12. Sphinx

This relaxing pose works the upper back muscles and can prevent older people from becoming hunched. It also strengthens the shoulders and arms.

Lie flat on your stomach and place your forearms on the mat with your elbows under your shoulders. Press down firmly to lift your upper body off the mat as high as you can. You may only be able to get your chin off the floor, or you could lift your whole chest.

13. Savasana

The rest pose, often enjoyed at the end of a yoga class, can be enjoyed by everyone. Savasana is a good position for meditation, breathing exercises, and resetting the nervous system.

Simply lie flat on your back with your arms by your sides and your legs straight out. Relax completely as you allow your muscles to loosen and your mind to rest. It is not uncommon to fall asleep in this pose!

How Homage can help

The Care Pros at Homage can assist you if you want to begin a yoga practice. We offer patient transport services to help you attend classes and companionship services, so you have a friend to go with. Reach out to us to find out more!

Yoga has many benefits for older people, and getting started is simple. Try the above poses to see the difference in your physical and mental well-being.


About the Writer
Emma Hall
Emma Hall is a professional writer with experience in healthcare and wellness. She loves to write clear and helpful articles about health, fitness and more. Emma lives in Melbourne and loves coffee, running, and her pet dog Bernie.
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