A Guide to Yoga for Seniors

Yoga is often dismissed as a practice for young and agile adults, something that is out of reach for seniors with limited mobility. In fact, yoga can be adapted to suit the individual and their particular needs. 

In this guide, we’ll show you how to practice and what kind of benefits yoga provides.

Benefits of Yoga for Seniors

Once you get a grip on some of the basic principles, yoga is very easy and straightforward. You don’t have to worry about striking complex poses and you don’t need glistening six-pack abs or an athletic frame. 

More importantly, even the most basic yoga can provide a wealth of benefits, including:

It Provides Regular Exercise

Seniors are advised to perform 2.5 hours of moderate exercise a week and to stretch when possible. Yoga ticks both of these boxes, making the muscles limber and getting the heart pumping. 

It is Relaxing

Yoga is like exercise and meditation rolled into one. It calms the mind and warms the body, and after a ten-minute session, you should feel the burden of stress lift off your shoulders. Daily practice can make a massive difference to your health.

It Strengthens the Core

A strong core is key for reducing your fall risk while limiting the risk of serious harm when you fall. It helps with balance and agility, making you stronger on your feet and allowing you to stabilize yourself when you trip or stumble.

It May Improve Your Heart Health

The soothing effects of yoga, along with the moderate activity, may reduce your blood pressure and decrease your risk of developing heart disease and many other chronic conditions.

Tips for Performing Yoga as a Senior

To stay safe and maximize your benefits when performing yoga as a senior, take a look at all of the following tips:

Look into Yoga Classes

Gyms across the country have regular yoga classes and some of these are aimed at seniors. SilverSneakers, for instance, is a Medicare fitness program aimed at over-65s that provides access to countless classes, covering everything from yoga to resistance training and more.

Chair yoga is worth considering as well. As the name suggests, it’s a type of yoga that you perform while sitting on a chair. Although it sounds like a lazy form of exercise, it actually works, and it doesn’t place any unnecessary strain on your lower body. You can perform chair yoga if you have leg or back problems.

Go with a Friend

Having a friend alongside encourages you to take those classes and stick with the schedule. It gives you a little accountability, as you won’t want to let your friend down. Without that accountability, you’re more likely to call it quits at the first sign of distress.

Prepare Your Space

To safely perform yoga at home, you need a space clear of distractions and obstacles. Ideally, it should be somewhere you can sit, stand, lie, and stretch without bumping into tables and ornaments. The more space you have, the less chance there is of you hurting yourself.

If you have pets, shut them out of the room, as they could think you’re playing and try to join in. A yoga mat can help, but as long as you have a non-slip surface you should be okay.

Wear Comfortable Clothing

Yoga pants are not a requirement, but you should definitely stick with loose-fitting or flexible clothing. They should be cool and light because thick and heavy clothing will limit your movement and leave you hot, sweaty, and uncomfortable. 

Stay Hydrated

Although yoga is a relatively relaxing form of exercise, it still requires a lot of movements and may lead to exertion and sweating.

Seniors are more prone to dehydration and will sweat more when exercising. Keep a bottle of water on standby and take sips during and after.

Watch YouTube Videos

YouTube is a free and high-quality educational resource. Gone are the days of overpriced VHS tapes and DVDs. These days, you can get entire yoga classes for free. You can watch them on your TV or your mobile device, and the instructor will guide you.

Look for yoga classes tailored specifically toward seniors, as it’s a pretty diverse subject and one that covers everything from basic sitting and standing stretches to intricate poses.

Keep it Simple

You don’t need to cycle through a dozen different poses to benefit from yoga. The main benefits are provided by the stretching, not the transitioning. 

If you’re new and struggling to get to grips with all the different poses, just find two or three that you like and stick with those. As long as they work all of your muscles or the muscles that you still have control over, you’ll get the same benefits.

As your muscles limber up, your balance improves, and you become more adept, you can start adding more poses to your routine.

Set Aside a Time for Regular Exercise

Schedule a regular time/day to practice yoga. It helps to have a fixed schedule, otherwise, procrastination will set in and you’ll give up. 

If you’re going for weekly or bi-weekly classes at your local gym, supplement your practice with regular home workouts. 

Meditate Afterward

Meditation is an easy, effective, and side-effect-free way to reduce your levels of stress and anxiety. If you’re over the age of 65 and have never meditated in your life, it can feel like an impossibility, but yoga helps. Once you’ve completed a session, you’ll be relaxed, at ease, and perfectly prepped for a short mindfulness session.

Finish your practice by sitting straight, lying flat, or sitting in a chair, and rest your hands on your knees, or by your sides if you’re lying down, while focusing on your breathing.

Inhale and exhale slowly. If your breath is slow and steady, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Imagine that you’re inhaling light and goodness and exhaling darkness and toxicity. Clear your mind, and every time a negative thought takes over, shelve it and forget it.

It may help to keep your eyes open ever-so-slightly, otherwise you may fall asleep. A relaxing scent like incense is recommended, and if you’re still struggling, download mindfulness guidance apps on your phone.