Yoga for Seniors
Breath, Balance and Gentle Movements
Article At A Glance
We know that movement is essential for optimal health—and this may even be more true as we age. A healthy body is one that is active both physically and mentally, and as we grow older, we often need to nourish our body’s health more and more. This is why yoga for seniors is such a perfect practice—because it nourishes both the body and the mind.
Through practices like pranayama, meditation, and gentle physical asana, yoga for seniors harbors the potential to maintain fit, healthy, active bodies and sharp, clear, calm minds.
Yoga for Seniors: Try This Practice Daily for Optimal Health
Grab all your favorite props and come near a wall for this simple but effective yoga practice.
- Calm your body and your mind with this straightforward breathing technique.
- Find a comfortable seated position. You can sit in a chair, on a yoga prop, or cross-legged on the floor. Find any position that makes you feel comfortable. Rest your arms wherever they feel comfortable.
- Root down into your sitting bones and lengthen your spine as you reach up through the crown of your head.
- Either soften your gaze or close your eyes completely.
- Draw your awareness to your breath and notice its natural rhythm for a little while.
- When you feel ready, inhale deeply through your nose and visualize your breath descending from your nostrils to your lungs and even all the way down to push the contents of your abdomen forward.
- As you exhale, reverse the flow of breath and visualize it moving from your abdomen, up to your lungs, and out again through your nostrils.
- Take a few, long, deep breaths like this before moving on.
- Awaken the muscles around your shoulders and bring fluid movement into this joint space with some simple circular movements.
- From your comfortable seated position, continue to elongate your spine,
- Rest your fingertips over your shoulders and slowly roll your elbows backward in a circular motion. Repeat for a few deep breaths.
- Then, reverse directions and roll your elbows forward in a circular motion for a few deep breaths.
Seated Side Bend
- Warm up your spinal muscles with a gentle side bend stretch.
- From your comfortable seat, continue to elongate your spine.
- As you inhale, reach your right arm up to the sky.
- As you exhale, side bend and lean your torso toward your left as you elongate the right side of your body.
- Hold for a breath or two and then rise back up to sit and repeat on the opposite side.
Cat-Cow Pose (Marjaryasana-Bitilasana)
- This combination of poses is perfect in yoga for seniors as it helps you continue to move your spine.
- Come onto all fours into Tabletop Pose (Bharmanasana) with your shoulders stacked roughly over your wrists and your hips stacked roughly over your knees. You may want to pad your knees by rolling up a blanket or your yoga mat underneath them. You may wish to lower your forearms to the ground and rest your elbows roughly under your shoulders. Find a variation of this shape that feels comfortable for your body.
- As you inhale, relax the weight of your belly toward the floor and draw the tips of your shoulder blades toward each other. Expand and open your chest forward toward the top of your mat. Option to look up.
- As you exhale, press down against the floor and round your whole back body. Draw your navel toward your spine and your shoulder blades apart from each other. Option to draw your chin toward your chest.
- Continue to flow between these two shapes for a few deep breaths.
Continue to awaken the major joints of your body with some hip circles.
- From all fours, return to a neutral, lengthened spine.
- As you inhale, lift your right knee off the floor and open it out toward the side of your mat (like a dog peeing on a fire hydrant).
- Slowly draw circles with your knee, moving in any direction. Try to immobilize the rest of your body so the movement stems solely from your hip joint.
- After a few deep breaths, reverse directions with your circles.
- Then, repeat on your other leg.
Tree Pose at the Wall
As we age, our balance can become less stable. So an ideal yoga for seniors practice will help you to cultivate supported balance with a posture like Tree Pose (Vrksasana).
- Stand next to the wall with your right hip near it.
- Plant your feet roughly hips-distance apart and ground down firmly against the floor.
- Place your right hand to rest against the wall and rest your left hand on your hip.
- Focus your gaze on one, non-moving point in front of you and keep your eyes locked on that point to support your balance.
- Root firmly into your right foot and rise to the ball of your left foot.
- When you feel steady, lift your left foot from the floor and externally rotate your left hip by drawing your left knee toward the left side of your mat.
- Either rest the ball of your left foot on the floor and your heel onto your inner right ankle or place your whole foot on your inner right calf.
- Actively press your left foot and your right leg against each other to stabilize your balance.
- Root down into your standing leg and reach up through your whole spine.
- Hold for a few deep breaths before slowly releasing. Turn around so that the wall is on the other side of you and repeat on your other leg.
Revolved Belly Pose (Jathara Parivartanasana)
- Slowly start to unwind with a gentle twist on your back.
- Lie down on your back with any props that you’d like to make you more comfortable.
- Draw your knees in toward your chest.
- Release your arms down to the floor and either bend your elbows into a cactus shape or open your arms out in line with your shoulders in a T shape. Soften the weight of your shoulders toward the floor.
- Slowly draw your legs across your body toward the left side of your mat.
- Rest your legs onto prop(s) or the floor and relax the weight of both of your shoulders downward.
- Hold for a few deep breaths before slowly releasing and switching sides.
Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
To round out your yoga for seniors practice, use this gentle inversion as your final resting pose.
- Come to sit next to a wall with your right hip resting against it and your knees bent with your feet flat on the floor.
- Release your hands behind your hips and lean your weight into your arms so that you can lift your feet off the floor and slide them up the wall.
- At the same time, slowly begin to turn your body to face toward the wall and lie down on your back so that your legs are extending up the wall.
- You can slide your seat as close toward or far away from the wall as you like.
- Option to slide a prop under your hips and/or head for support.
- Rest your arms wherever they feel comfortable and relax here for as long as you’d like.
The Takeaway on Yoga for Seniors
Just as much as anyone else, seniors can greatly benefit from a yoga practice. With soothing breathing techniques, mindful meditation practices, and gentle movements, yoga offers a meaningful and powerful practice for older adults to center their body, breath, and mind.
So give this yoga for seniors practice a try, and perhaps even practice it daily to offer you optimal benefits for optimal health.