For many seniors, aging comes with inevitable health problems. Stiff joints, aching backs and less energy are just some of the things facing seniors, not to mention potential concerns like heart disease, obesity and mental health disorders.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to help older adults manage (and improve) their health and well-being. A combination of healthy eating, routine medical care and exercise can help seniors feel healthier and stronger. Yoga offers a great way for seniors to get moving, practice mindfulness and improve their overall health.
Check out the infographic below to learn more about these great yoga poses for seniors.
- Upward Salute
- Eases back pain and stiffness
- Tree Pose
- Improves balance and coordination
- Child’s Pose
- Regulates digestion
- Hero Pose
- Encourages good circulation
- Mountain Pose
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Promotes comfort and relaxation
- Seated Spinal Twist
- Supports those with low mobility
The Benefits of Yoga for Seniors
Practicing yoga can help seniors combat an array of health struggles including osteoarthritis, poor balance, pain and even stress.
Here are some of the benefits for seniors who practice yoga:
Improved Joint Health and Mobility
In a study of senior women with osteoarthritis of the knee, yoga was found to significantly reduce pain after eight weeks of regular practice. In addition, the participants also reported improved sleep quality.
For seniors with stiff or painful joints and poor flexibility, yoga may be able to help improve mobility, relieve pain, strengthen muscles and prevent future injury.
Reduced Blood Pressure
For those with high blood pressure (hypertension), the risk of heart failure, stroke and kidney disease increases.
Oxidative stress, an underlying cause of hypertension, is an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body. This imbalance has been found to be lower in seniors who practice yoga. In fact, those who practiced for three months in a controlled environment had significantly less oxidative stress, reduced blood pressure and increased antioxidant levels.
Higher Pulmonary Function
A crucial part of yoga is deep breathing. For seniors with asthma or other respiratory problems, it can help to improve overall respiration quality.
A study of senior women sought to determine if yoga influences respiratory function and found that after 12 weeks of regular practice, heart and respiratory rate decreased significantly. The study concluded that yoga can improve lung function for seniors. Healthy lungs are crucial to a senior’s overall health –– the National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute states that chronic lower respiratory conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and senior asthma were the third leading cause of death in 2010.
Improved Mental Health
According to the CDC, 20% of adults ages 55+ live with some mental health concern. The most common concerns include anxiety and depression, often caused by social isolation. Research suggests that yoga has a positive overall impact on mood and mental health. In fact, just four weeks of yoga helped alleviate symptoms of depression, stress and anxiety for some participants.
Insomnia is common among seniors and can have a negative impact on quality of life and other health concerns, like depression, anxiety disorders and heart disease. However, research suggests that long-term yoga practice can benefit sleep quality and help improve the quality of life (QOL) scores for seniors.
How to Get Started with Senior Yoga
Practicing yoga in a group has definitive social benefits for seniors, especially those prone to feelings of loneliness.
Many assisted living centers and other senior living communities offer yoga classes to their residents. Additionally, private yoga studios may offer classes exclusively for seniors or those with disabilities. These classes are great for beginners or seniors at higher risk of a fall or injury. Yoga classes are also wonderful opportunities for seniors to socialize, make friends and reduce feelings of loneliness which can lead to depression and other mental health concerns.
Yoga can also be practiced at home – a supportive mat is all that is needed to start. Clear an open space on the floor, lay down a yoga mat or blanket and gather any other props needed, like foam rollers and blankets. A chair can also be used for support if the senior is unstable or at risk of falling.
How to Safely Practice Senior Yoga
As with any exercise, injuries can occur when practicing yoga. However, when done correctly, yoga can be a safe, fun way for seniors to exercise.
To prevent injury:
- Work with an expert: The Yoga Alliance has standardized guidelines for certified yoga instructors.
- Understand your limits: Avoid forcing your body into a pose if you feel pain or discomfort.
- Pace yourself: A slow, relaxing pace is easier and more beneficial for seniors who are just starting yoga.
- Adapt your flow: Many poses can be done from a seated or altered position for seniors with low mobility or imbalance.
- Make use of props: Chairs, medicine balls and foam blocks can be used to help seniors adapt poses to their specific needs.
- Wear loose clothing: Restrictive or non-flexible clothing can hinder movement and increase the risk of a fall or injury.
Even for those with low mobility or other physical limitations, adaptations can be made easily. For example, chair yoga is a great way to get the benefits of yoga without the risk of falling. In addition, specific poses can be modified to reduce instability or accommodate seniors who may not be as flexible.
For seniors looking for an enjoyable, relaxing way to improve their overall health and well-being, yoga may be a good solution. Research has found yoga to be beneficial for many health concerns, including cardiovascular and pulmonary function, flexibility and mental health.
Many assisted living centers and senior living communities have yoga programs dedicated to their senior residents and certified trainers on staff can help seniors practice safely and correctly.