The Benefits of Yoga for Seniors
Updated: Nov 25, 2020
The Benefits of Yoga for Seniors
Yoga classes for older adults are a great way to increase stability, flexibility, mental clarity, and balance as part of a healthy lifestyle. If you’ve seen yoga instructors doing headstands or intimidating poses, don’t take it as a sign that yoga isn’t for you. Yoga can be a deeply restorative practice, even for those with arthritis or mobility issues. The history of yoga is rooted in a practice that combines mental, physical, and spiritual wellness for a more empowered life. This means your yoga practice will be unique to you and can be modified for your own age and ability. Yoga is a wonderful way to refresh an ageing body and renew your spirit. In this article, we’ll explore yoga benefits for seniors, including alternative yoga therapies like chair yoga or modified yoga poses for seniors, and where to find the best online yoga classes for seniors.
The 3 best yoga poses for seniors
If you’re over 60, you’ve likely noticed that your body responds differently to exercise than it used to. The most important lesson with yoga or any wellness practice for seniors is to listen to your body. If you’re paying attention, you’ll know when you need to modify a yoga sequence to suit your own limitations. If you take an online yoga class and feel like the poses are too hard on your body, feel free to transition into one of these five poses for some deep, restorative breaths. That’s the great thing about yoga; there’s no room for judgement, and it’s all about what is right for you and your body.
1. Child’s Pose
The child’s pose is a way to decompress and calm your body, mind, and spirit. This is a kneeling pose.
Begin kneeling on your yoga mat with your knees hip-distance apart, and gently lower the front half of your body to the mat.
Lengthen your tailbone as you relax forwards. If you have sore knees or other concerns, you can modify this pose by folding a blanket in half under your knees or leaning forward onto bolsters rather than folding all the way to the floor.
This pose should always feel good, so find a way to make it work for you.
2. Bridge Pose
The bridge pose is a strengthening pose that helps align your spine. Lie on your back with your knees hip-distance apart. Your feet should be directly under your knees.
Breathe in as you elongate your arms by your side and press your palms to face down onto the floor.
As you exhale, tighten your abdominal muscles and press up, tilting your hips so that your pelvis lifts, followed by your spine.
If you feel comfortable, try holding this pose. If it’s too difficult, try staying in the first pose and try gently tilting your pelvis as you practice flexing and releasing your abdominal muscles. Work on this until you’re strong enough to lift your buttocks off the floor.
3. Modified Tree Pose
The modified tree pose may be one to work up to if you are new to yoga. But even if you don’t feel capable of holding this pose right away, practicing it is a great way to build up balance and an awareness of your body. You can also modify this pose by holding onto a countertop or chair for balance.
Stand with your feet firmly planted and your legs together. Place your palms together as if saying a prayer.
Slowly raise your right leg off the ground, rooting down through your strong, grounded leg. If this is difficult, just practice lifting and dropping this leg–for the first few weeks, this may be as far as you can go.
When you are ready, lift your right leg slightly off the ground (your toes can touch the ground) and let your heel touch the inside part of your left ankle.
Breathe in deep and see how long you can balance like this. Then switch legs.
5 health benefits of yoga for seniors
Yoga offers a range of benefits for people of all ages, but it’s also a great way for seniors to preserve strength and protect their health as they get older. Yoga can increase your mobility, help with stability, and improve confidence. If you’re healing from a loss, looking to challenge yourself, or just curious about yoga, this could be a great time to try something new. Yoga can help with mindfulness and healing as you look ahead to what’s next. Here are some of the benefits that make yoga a great practice for seniors.
1. Improved self image
Research shows that yoga classes reinforce a healthy sense of self, and can assist in building self-esteem in older adults. Yoga practitioners are more likely to speak confidently about physical ability or their body than those who do not practice yoga. They’re also more likely to feel good about the contributions they make to society.
2. Reduced heart rate and blood pressure
Yoga can help lower blood pressure, reinforce heart health, and even slow down cellular ageing. Hypertension or high blood pressure can put you at a higher risk for a stroke, so it’s important to welcome activities that help lower your blood pressure. Certain poses like backbends can be dangerous if you have high blood pressure, so ask your doctor what’s right for you. If you’re looking to reduce your blood pressure with yoga, try this great yoga sequence for seniors with hypertension and flow your way to a healthy heart.
3. Treating chronic pain
Because yoga can be modified to suit a range of abilities and skill sets, it can be a great partner in rehabilitation. The way yoga treats chronic pain in older adults is not just physical; through breathwork and conscious movement, we become more aware of how our bodies are intricately connected to our emotional and spiritual well being. Studies have shown that this combination of movement and breathing can be incredibly healing for those with chronic back pain.
4. A solution for urinary incontinence
Yoga helps us maintain and regain control of our bodies by strengthening and isolating muscle groups in the conscious movement. This makes it a viable solution for concerns like urinary incontinence; by building up the muscles that are responsible for involuntary leakage, yoga for seniors is a great solution for urinary incontinence. Yoga can strengthen the muscles that will give you back the control you’ve been missing.
5. Stress reduction and sleep improvement
When yoga is practiced mindfully, it forces us to be present in each moment, breathing through discomfort to relax and release. Studies have shown that therapeutic yoga can reduce stress, decrease exhaustion, and enhance the quality of sleep in older adults. It’s important to make it a regular part of your day or week to reap these benefits, as consistency seems to be key in managing stress and sleep.
How to begin yoga for seniors
It’s important to recognize that every yoga class may not be right for you. Consider alternative classes that suit your level of skill, ability, and flexibility. Here are some other ideas to help prevent injury and maximize yoga benefits for seniors:
Consider taking classes that are specially curated for seniors. Injuries are incredibly common among older people who practice yoga, but they don’t need to be. The biggest mistake senior yoga practitioners make is to try to do something that is not within their body’s zone of comfort. Start with a chair yoga class or a beginner yoga class, especially if you’ve never taken a yoga class before.
Remember that yoga is inclusive. The beauty of this ancient practice is that it stems from spiritual practice. It isn’t a contest or a sport where you’ll need to compare or compete with whoever is in the yoga class with you. Yoga is all about your experience and your body, and bringing that good energy to the world around you.
Talk to your doctor before you sign up for a yoga class, and inform your yoga instructor of any injuries so they can help offer modified poses that are suitable for older adults trying yoga.
Try searching for “Yoga over 70” or “Gentle Yoga Poses” to learn about all the yoga classes available for seniors.
Look for Hatha Yoga classes; these are generally slow, posture-based classes that teach breathing and conscious movement at a gentle pace.
If you’re looking for a laugh and love animals, try searching for “Goat Yoga” as well. It’s worth checking out.
Some hospitals or medical rehabilitative programs may offer special classes or resources, like yoga for cancer survivors or yoga for those with body pain. The popularity of yoga allows for many interpretations and applications that are suitable for any senior looking to introduce yoga into their life.
Looking to reap some of the mental health benefits of yoga but not sure your body is ready? Sign up for a free mindful meditation class to connect to your body in a meaningful way.
Take free online yoga classes for seniors with Boomerang
Our online community offers a wealth of free resources, including classes, discussions, and more. You’ll find free online classes to inspire, challenge, stay active and educate yourself, no matter where you are in your journey. But there’s more than just free yoga at Boomerang. We have classes that help with coordination, teach you how to avoid holiday burnout and stress, free online meditation classes, creative offerings like acting classes, jewellery making, and more.
Join our weekly discussion group, and look out for upcoming classes to learn new skills, ask questions, try new ideas, and make new friends. Sign up for Boomerang to see all of our workshops and take a free online yoga class for seniors!
This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or its affiliates.