The Ultimate Yoga Resource Page for Seniors

Health and wellness is not just for younger generations. Yoga is a great way for you to boost your health and gain extra peace of mind.

senior doing tree pose at beach

BBB CSAA Consumer Affairs
Call Now For Our Tap Now For Our Special Offer
1-866-581-4540
#1 Medical Alert By
Modern Senior Magazine

By Sonja Wright 

Health and wellness is not just for younger generations. Seniors enjoy the benefits of a health and wellness practice too. Now that you’re over 65, it’s even more important to take good care of your body.   

Medical alerts keep you safe and help you stay independent. But did you know that you can help support your health with yoga? Yoga is a great way for you to boost your health and gain extra peace of mind.

Yoga exercises helps you gain better posture, balance and strength. With regular practice, you’ll improve your strength and flexibility while lowering stress. You’ll also decrease the risk of falls with your improved balance!

Before you start, remember: check with your doctor first. Your doctor will be able to let you know if there are any moves you should avoid doing. 

Table of Contents

In-Home Yoga Practices

Ready to get started? Check out these senior-friendly yoga sequences you can do at home. You’ll be able to expand your range of motion, and build better balance in no time.

Balance Your Back and Shoulders

These four poses will relieve pain and discomfort in the upper back and shoulders. Traditionally, yoga sequences are performed on a yoga mat or rug. Grab your yoga mat to provide extra comfort for sitting on the floor. Not able to reach the floor safely and comfortably? These poses can also be done while seated in a sturdy chair without armrests.

Before you get started with the postures, sit quietly with your eyes closed, breathing in and out the nose. Count to five on each inhalation and exhalation to help regulate the breath. After 1-3 minutes, exhale and open up your eyes. You’re ready to move on!

Side Bend Stretching

 

side bend in yoga

If you’re seated on the floor: Start seated cross-legged. Inhale through the nose. Exhale; bring the left arm over your head while you bend your body to the right. The right hand will rest on the floor. Bend over as far as feels comfortable. If you’d like a deeper stretch, lower the elbow and forearm down to the floor. Stay for 5-10 deep breaths. Inhale, return to sitting. Repeat to the other side.

If you’re seated in a chair: Inhale through the nose. Exhale; bend to the right with the left arm over the head. Rest the right hand on your right knee. Stay for 5-10 deep breaths. Inhale, return to sitting upright. Repeat to the other side.

Shoulder Stretching

 

shoulder stretching yoga

If you’re seated on the floor: Inhale, lift your arms over your head. Exhale, and cross your right arm in front of your chest. The left arm reaches around the outside of the right arm, and gives the right arm a hug. Use this hugging motion to move your right arm deeper into the stretch. Stay for 5-10 deep breaths. Exhale, release the arms, and repeat to the other side.

If you’re seated in a chair: Follow the directions above. No modifications needed.

 

 

Seated Twist

 

seated twist yoga

If you’re seated on the floor: Inhale, lift your arms overhead. Exhale take a gentle twist to the right, bringing your right hand to the floor behind you and your left hand to your right knee. Move into the twist slowly, letting your belly button turn first, then your shoulders, and finally your neck and head. Stay for 5-10 breaths, and then release. Repeat other side.

If you’re seated in a chair: Turn your body so that your right hip is parallel against the chair back. Take a deep breath in, and exhale take a gentle twist to the right. Let the movement start at your belly button, then shoulders, and finally move your neck and head. Bring the hands to the top of the chair back. Stay for 5-10 deep breaths. Release slowly, and repeat to the other side, turning so the left hip is against the chair back.

Forward Fold

 

forward fold yoga

If you’re seated on the floor: Stretch your legs out in front of you. Inhale, lift the arms over head. Exhale, fold forward, bringing the upper body over the legs to the floor. Make sure the hips stay on the floor. The knees can be bent to ease the stretch on the back of the legs. Take 5-10 deep breaths in this pose, before inhaling to move your body back up to seated.

If you’re seated in a chair: Place a pillow or a folded blanket on top of a table. Inhale and exhale fold your upper body forward to rest your head and chest on top of the pillow or blanket. Stay for 5-10 deep breaths, and slowly move back up to seated on an inhale.

Congratulations! You’ve completed a set to help stretch and mobilize your shoulders and upper body. Start with practicing this set every other day, to decrease the chance of muscle soreness. After a week, build up to practicing every day. 


Back to top

Sun Salutations for Seniors

Add a level of vigor to your independent home yoga practice with Sun Salutations. Sun Salutations are an ancient way to salute the sun and warmup your body for daily activities. They are also the best substitute for days you’re not able to do a full yoga class.

Sun Salutations are easy to modify, making them a universal exercise that anyone can do. Before you get started, read through the list of postures below. These postures are staples for Sun Salutations.

Mountain pose yoga

Mountain pose. Stand at the top of your mat, with your feet hip width apart. Roll your shoulders back, and let your palms turn to the front with the arms by the sides. Mountain pose can also be performed with the arms overhead, as if you’re reaching for the sky.

forward fold yoga

Forward Fold (standing). From Mountain pose, inhale, and exhale fold the upper body towards the lower body. Let the hands reach the floor, bending the knees as much as you need to put the hands on the floor. Drop the head, and look towards your legs.

flat back yoga

Flat Back. From Forward Fold, inhale. Bring your hands to your shins, lifting the body halfway up in a straight line for your head to your tailbone. Keep the upper body parallel to the floor. Drop into Forward Fold to release.

downward facing dog yoga

Downward Facing Dog. Start on your hands and knees. Make sure the shoulders are over the hands. Inhale, and lift your hips up and back towards the ceiling where the wall and ceiling meet. Keep your hands where they are. Your body is in an upside-down inverted ‘V’.

plank pose yoga

Plank Pose. Start on your hands and knees. Tuck the toes under, and inhale lift the legs up and straight. The shoulders are over the hands. The body is in one straight line from head to heels. If there is too much pressure on the hands and wrists, come on to your forearms, aligning the elbows underneath the shoulders.

push -up yoga pose

Chaturanga Dandasana. Start in Plank pose, with arms underneath shoulders, and legs straight behind you. Exhale, lower down halfway, hugging the arms to the body. Don’t let your shoulders dip below your elbows! Chaturanga easily modifies into Knees-Chest-Chin.

knees-chest-chin yoga pose

Knees-Chest-Chin. From Plank pose, drop your knees to the mat. Exhale, and lower the chest and the chin down to the mat. Your back will be slightly arched, with your tailbone pointing towards the ceiling.

cobra pose yoga

Cobra Pose. Start lying on your stomach. Bring the hands underneath the shoulders. Inhale and press into your hands to lift your head, neck, and back, towards the ceiling. Only lift your back as high as feels comfortable.

upward facing dog yoga pose

Upward Facing Dog. From Plank pose, lower into Chaturanga. Bring the tops of the feet to the floor, and push into your arms to straighten the arms, bringing the chest forward, head up. Keep the legs up off the floor! Only the tops of the feet and the hands should be resting on the floor.

savasana yoga pose

Savasana. Savasana is deep relaxation. Lie down onto your back. Let your arms and legs stretch out long. Turn the palms up towards the ceiling. Close your eyes and breath normally, feeling the body relax into the floor.

There are four different levels of Sun Salutations given below, from easiest to hardest. All of the levels incorporate postures from the list above. Place your yoga mat in a sunny part of your home before getting started.

Level I

  • To begin: Stand in Mountain pose.
  • Breath in, lift your arms over your head. Exhale, bend from your waist and Forward Fold. Inhale into a Flat Back. Exhale and Forward Fold.
  • Inhale and come back up to standing, bringing the arms back down into Mountain pose.
  • Repeat 3-5 times, moving with your breath.
  • When you’re ready to finish, come back into Mountain pose. Lie down on your back and relax in Savasana for 3-5 minutes.

Level II

  • Repeat as Level I into Forward Fold.
  • Inhale, and step your right leg back into a lunge. Take a deep breath in and out.
  • Exhale step back into Downward Facing Dog. Hold for 3 breaths.
  • Inhale and step the right leg in between the hands.
  • Exhale step into Forward Fold.
  • Inhale into Mountain pose, relaxing your arms by your side.
  • Repeat to the left. You’ve completed 1 cycle. Move through 3-5 cycles following your breathing.
  • End in Mountain pose, and lie down on your back and relax in Savasana for 3-5 minutes.

Level III

  • Repeat as for Level II into Downward Facing Dog.
  • From Downward Facing Dog, inhale forward into a Plank Pose.
  • Low the knees onto the ground. Inhale, and exhale into Knees-Chest-Chin.
  • Inhale lift into Cobra Pose.
  • Exhale into Downward Facing Dog.
  • Inhale step right foot in between the hands.
  • Exhale step into forward fold.
  • Inhale back up into Mountain pose.
  • Repeat to the left.
  • End in Mountain pose, and then lie down on your back and relax for 3-5 minutes.

Level IV

  • Repeat as for Level II into Downward Facing Dog.
  • Inhale and move into Plank Pose.
  • Exhale and lower the body into Chaturanga. 
  • Inhale and lift up into Upward Facing Dog.
  • Exhale into Downward Facing Dog
  • Inhale and walk the feet in between the hands.
  • Exhale into forward fold.
  • Inhale come back into Mountain pose.
  • Repeat to the left.
  • End in Mountain pose, and then lie down on your back and relax for 3-5 minutes.


Back to top

At Home Yoga Flow for Seniors

This easy at-home practice allows you to workout while stretching your mind and balance. The flow of poses builds off the Sun Salutation practice. Start with the Sun Salutations to warm up and then move into deeper stretching. Read through the list of poses that will be in the sequence below before getting started.

 

child's pose yoga

Child’s Pose. Start by sitting on your shins. Make sure the knees and heels are together. Walk your hands forward in front of you, lengthening your back over your legs. Relax the head and neck, and place the forehead on the floor.

cow pose yoga

cat pose yoga

Cat/Cow. Start on your hands and knees. If your knees are sensitive, add a blanket on top of your yoga mat for extra cushion. As you inhale, drop your belly to the floor, arch the back, and look up.  This is Cow pose. As you exhale, round the spine, puff the shoulders to the ceiling and look at your belly button. This is Cat pose. Move between these two shapes at least ten times.

forward fold yoga

Forward Fold (sitting). Sit comfortably on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Inhale, lift your arms over your head, and exhale fold your upper body over your legs. Rest the hands on the legs, floor, or grab your big toes. Keep the knees bent if the stretch is too much for the back of the legs.

warrior one yoga pose

Warrior One. Start in a low lunge, with your hands on the floor. Turn the heel of the back foot to the floor. Rotate the back foot when your do this, so the toes point at a 45 degree angle to the edge of the mat. Keep the front knee bent and inhale lift the arms up over your head, bringing the torso up to center. The hips and upper body stay square to the front of your mat.

tree pose yoga

Tree Pose. Begin standing in Mountain pose. The right leg lifts up to rest the right foot on the inside of the ankle, shin, or thigh. The right knee points out to the right. For extra balance, place one hand against a wall or the back of a chair. Repeat to the left side.

bridge pose yoga

Bridge Pose. Start lying on your back. Bring the arms next to your sides. Bend the knees, and bring the soles of the feet flat on the floor. Inhale, and lift the hips up, keeping the shoulder and soles of the feet on the floor. Keep the head and neck relaxed.

figure 4 yoga pose

figure 4 yoga pose

Figure Four. Start lying on your back. Bend your knees, and bring the soles of the feet to the floor. Pick up the right foot, and turn the knee out to the side. Cross the right ankle on top of the left thigh. There should be a ‘4’ shape with the legs. Keep the right knee out to the side. For an extra stretch, pull the left leg closer to the chest keeping the right leg crossed over. Repeat to the left side.

supine twist yoga pose

Supine Twist. Start lying on your back. Bend the knees, and bring the knees into your chest. Inhale, and move the arms out to a ‘T’ shape, shoulder level and palms down. Exhale; drop the knees over to the left until the legs rest on the floor. Turn the head and gaze to the right, looking towards the right fingers. Stay as long as you want. To release, inhale bring the head back to center first, and then move the legs. Repeat to the right.

The poses are simple and easy to modify depending on how your body feels. Place your yoga mat in a space free of furniture and decorations. Tip: Use the wall for the balancing poses as extra support.

  • Start in Child’s pose.
  • Inhale, move onto your hands and knees for Cat/Cow.
  • Exhale, move into Downward Facing Dog.
  • Exhale, step into Forward Fold.
  • Inhale, come up to standing. Practice 2-3 rounds of Sun Salutations here, at the level you’d like. End in Downward Facing Dog.
  • Exhale, step your right foot in between your hands. Inhale into Warrior I. Hold this posture for 5-10 breaths. Exhale, and lower the arms down and step back into Downward Facing Dog. Repeat to the left.
  • Practice another round of Sun Salutations. End in Mountain pose.
  • Using a wall for balance, move into Tree pose.
  • From Tree pose, move into sitting on your mat. Stretch the legs straight out in front of you. Inhale, and exhale move into Forward Fold. Stay as long as you’d like. Inhale, come back up to seated.
  • Exhale; lie down onto your back. Bridge pose.
  • Inhale, Figure 4.
  • Inhale; bring your legs together, feet off the floor. Exhale; drop the knees to the right for Supine Twist. Inhale; bring the knees back to center. Repeat to the left.
  • End in Savasana. Relax for 5-10 minutes.   


Back to top

Yoga Classes

You enjoy your home yoga practice, but want to experience a group class setting. There’s a myriad of different forms of physical yoga that exist today. Class styles and levels vary, so it’s important to know what you’re looking for in a yoga class before you put down your mat on the studio floor.

If you’re new to yoga or want a relaxing workout, try:

  • Gentle or Hatha Yoga. Gentle and Hatha Yoga provided the basics of a yoga practice in a slow-paced environment. Proper alignment and breathing help ready the body for more advanced postures. These classes are great for seniors and students new to yoga.
  • Iyengar Yoga. Similar to Gentle Yoga, Iyengar Yoga moves slowly, with an emphasis on correct alignment. Blankets, straps, and bolsters are used as props to aid in correctly aligning the body. But don’t be fooled—long holds in poses means you’ll receive a full body workout.  Iyengar Yoga is named after Sri. B.K.S. Iyengar who specialized in correcting posture in every pose.

If you want to relax and melt away stress, try:

  • Restorative Yoga. A perfect class for seniors, Restorative Yoga is all about relaxing. Poses are aided by the use of props, and are then held for 5-10 minutes to allow the body time to relax. Try Restorative Yoga to relax stress away.
  • Yin Yoga. The previous yoga styles help strengthen and tone the muscles of the body. Yin Yoga focuses on gently stretching the muscle tissue and ligaments to increase flexibility and reduce body injury. Yin Yoga is great to release fatigue and stress in the body.

If you want a challenging and vigorous workout, try:

  • Ashtanga Yoga. Created by Sri. Pattabhi Jois, Ashtanga Yoga is broken into different series. Students proceed to the next series only after mastering the previous series. A challenging, but rewarding, physical practice, each series takes 2-3 hours to practice.
  • Bikram Yoga®. Founded by Bikram Choudhury, Bikram Yoga consists of 26 postures performed in a room heated to 105 degrees. The heat, combined with the specific posture series, flushes out toxins from the body. Bikram Yoga uses the intense physical conditions to help increase mental concentration.
  • Kundalini Yoga. As taught by Yogi Bhajan, Kundalini Yoga is unlike any of the other Yoga styles. Classes consist of kriyas, movement series designed to elevate the kundalini energy at the base of the spine and clear the auric field. Kriyas use physical movement, chanting, and silence to clear the mind and renew the senses.
  • Power Yoga. Created by Beryl Bender Birch, Power Yoga is a strength building practice. Loved by athletes and fitness gurus for its emphasis on a workout, Power Yoga is a staple in Yoga studios from coast to coast.
  • Vinyasa Yoga. Vinyasa Yoga is a vigorous practice. Breath and movement are synchronized together to create a flowing practice. Expect to feel refreshed and rejuvenated after this practice! Vinyasa is the most common yoga style practiced in the United States.


Back to top

What to Expect in a Yoga Class

You’re ready to take your first yoga class. But you’re not sure what to expect. Don’t worry! Yoga classes are a fun and welcoming experience for seniors. Many classes start with the instructor saying a few words about a theme or intention for the class. They may share a story or read a poem to help bring you into a meditative state of mind.

Your instructor may engage everyone in a few rounds of chanting “Om.” Om is the vibrational frequency of sound that the universe rests on. By chanting Om, you’re using sound healing to quiet your mind. There are no religious affiliations with chanting Om.

After the opening introduction and chant, the class will progress through warm up postures and breathing practices, to help prep the body for more vigorous postures. Some common poses that you can expect to do in almost every class are Child’s Pose, Cat-Cow and Downward Facing Dog.

Yoga classes end with Savasana. Savasana is a time of deep relaxation, to allow the benefits of the practice to be absorbed into the body. Instructors will often play soothing music here, or they may read another passage or poem. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself falling asleep! You’ll still gain all the benefits of Savasana while catching up on some much-needed rest. 


Back to top

The Importance of Breath

Throughout the yoga class, your instructor will be placing special emphasis on the breath. Without proper breath support, you’re only gaining a quarter of the benefits from your yoga practice. The breath, or prana energy, revitalizes the body. It’s the supporting structure of any yoga practice.

Think of it this way: breath is the one constant in our life. Breathe is what gives us life. Yet we barely pay attention to our breath. The one thing we take for granted is one of the most important things in life.

By practicing proper breathing, you’ll improve your health and wellnes while becoming more aware of your body. You’ll also be less stressed or angry. When you do feel yourself triggered by an angry emotion, start focusing on your breathing instead. The more you can hit your feelings with breath, calmer you will feel and the sooner they will dissipate. 


Back to top

“My Yoga Teacher Mentioned Something- What Was It?”

Yoga teachers often reference other holistic health and wellness methods and texts outside of yoga. The following are some of the most common references that you will hear yoga teachers make.

  • Chakras. Chakras are centers of energy that spin within our body. These chakras, or energy centers, are seen as great wheeling discs of energy. There are seven main chakras that live within each one of us. These seven discs of energy reside along our spinal column. Each one directly correlates to one of the seven major nerve centers that spread through our body from our spinal column.
  • Meridians. Part of ancient Chinese medicine, meridians are energetical pathways through which qi (a circulating energetical life force) flows through the body. Meridians permeate throughout our body, with 12 major meridians ruling over all.
  • The Bhagavad Gita. Part of the great epic the Mahabharata, the Gita tells the story of a great battle and of the warrior Arjun who carries on a dialogue with Krishna before the great battle. The Gita represents the inner struggle we all have between what is right and wrong.
  • The Yoga Sutras. Written by the great sage Patanjali thousands of years ago, these threads of wisdom dictate how to lead a yogic life. Teachers may read a sutra as a theme or inspiration for the class.
  • Mudras. Mudras are sacred hand gestures that are practiced to help channel the energy in specific ways within the body. Mudras are most commonly practiced during meditation. 


Back to top

Meditation: The Great ‘M’ Word

Yoga itself is a meditative experience. The natural flow of the postures combined with proper breathing produces a calming effect on the mind. However, many yoga classes also include a portion for meditation designed to help you go further in quieting your mind.

For many people, the thought of meditation is scarier than the thought of yoga. While it can be challenging to learn how to move your body in a yoga class, it’s downright terrifying to think about sitting still and quieting your mind. People would rather run a marathon than sit down with themselves for an hour! With these three simple steps, you’ll be able to sit comfortably with yourself, no marathon required.

  • Have patience. When starting anything new, be patient. Mediation is no different. Forgive yourself for not completely quieting your mind on day one.
  • Be consistent. Try to practice your meditation at the same time each day in the same place. It takes 40 days to make or break a habit, so give yourself the gift of being consistent for 40 days.
  • Create comfort. Choose a meditation technique that feels comfortable for you. If it’s painful to sit for long periods, start out with a walking meditation. Adapt the meditation practice to your life, not your life to the meditation practice.

Meditation is especially important for seniors, as it reduces pain and stress levels. Meditation will also decrease depression, high blood pressure, anxiety, and sleep issues.

Meditations techniques are as diverse as yoga styles. What works for someone else might not work for you. Meditations styles include chanting, focusing on a thought, sound, or color, internally chanting, walking, dancing, breathing, and many more. Within these varying types of meditation will be one that’s right for you.

Check with your yoga studio to see if they offer specific meditation techniques for beginngers, or a meditation circle. Your yoga teacher is also a great resource for meditation advice. They’ll share what worked for them, and can recommend what they think will work best for you. And don’t forget: always let your doctor know what new changes you’re making to your lifestyle. 


Back to top

A Brief History of Yoga

Yoga is still a relatively new concept to the Western world. It’s also a multi-dimensional word. The word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit meaning “yoke” or “union.” Yoga can also mean, “bringing together” or “threading together.” In fact, the meaning of yoga extends far beyond our understanding of the physical practice.

A common misconception about yoga is that it’s another one of those cults. Yoga is not a cult. It’s not a doctrine, religion, or brainwashing. Yoga is a lifestyle practice. People can live a yogic lifestyle no matter what religion, race, or culture they come from. The teachings of yoga are universal in basic human acceptance and kindness.

Yoga has been around for thousands of years. However, did you know that what America knows as yoga is only a small part of a much larger system? Yoga as a physical practice is one branch of an 8-limbed path of yoga derived from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

The sutras are threadings of wisdom that have been woven together to create the Yogi way of life. The Yoga Sutras were created by Patanjali, who was one of the first great sages of yoga. The Yoga Sutras are considered the ‘bible’ of yoga, for from them we can draw out the entire goal of yoga.

From these sutras emerged the 8-limbed path of yoga. Within the larger scale of the 8-limbed path of yoga, the physical postures are referred to as Asana. When you do attend a yoga class, you are actually practicing Asana, the physical portion of the 8-limbed path of yoga.

The lifestyle of yoga is composed of eight different constructs. Together, these eight constructs form the lifestyle practice of yoga.

  • Yamas (how you act towards others)
  • Niyamas (how you act towards yourself)
  • Asana (physical movement practice)
  • Pranayama (breathing practices)
  • Pratyahara (command of the senses)
  • Dharana (concentration on the mind)
  • Dhyana (connection to the mind)
  • Samadhi (inner peace)

The beauty of the yoga lifestyle practice is that there is no right or wrong way to start implementing these constructs in your life. You don’t need to jump in with all 8 constructs at once. Beginning a physical yoga practice is a great way to start. 


Back to top

Why People Come to Yoga

If you find yourself trying to invent ‘the perfect reason’ to go to yoga, stop. There is no right or wrong, perfect or imperfect reason to go to yoga. You don’t need to be young and flexible to practice yoga. You’ll gain flexibility as you practice.

Seniors come to yoga from all aspects of life. One of the many beauties of yoga is that you don’t have to have a certain background to practice. Yoga is welcoming to all.

With a steady practice, you’ll strengthen your balance and independence. Along with a medical alert, yoga is a great practice to add to your aging-in-place arsenal.

Yoga can ease the way into your golden years while reducing stress in your body. So what are you waiting for? Get started on the road to a healthier you today. 


Back to top