5 Best Beginning Yoga Exercises for SeniorsJune 3, 2021
Improved flexibility, muscle strength, and greater endurance are just some of the important benefits of yoga. If you’re starting a new practice, we’ve outlined some of the best beginning yoga exercises for seniors. You can explore these yoga poses on your own or join a group class.
1. Mountain Pose
Mountain is a foundational pose in yoga, and many other poses grow out of it. If you don’t know all that goes into the form, it can look like you’re just standing still. In this seemingly simple posture, your muscle engagement and alignment benefit your body and help you grow your practice.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart or flush together — depending on your strength and balance. To make sure to distribute your weight evenly across your feet, lift your toes. You should press down equally in your heels, the ball joint of your big toe, and the ball joint of your little toe.
Straighten your spine and dip your chin slightly to straighten through your neck. Draw your tailbone down toward the earth. Draw your shoulder blades together and down, so your shoulders fall away from your ears. You can press your hands together at the heart, in prayer position, or keep your arms down at your side, palms facing forward.
Don’t underestimate this subtle pose because it seems simple. Mountain pose is one of the best beginning yoga exercises for seniors.
Cat-cow is deeply beneficial for increasing flexibility in your spine. Start on your hands and knees in a tabletop position. Draw your belly button up and in toward your spine and pull your shoulders down and away from your ears.
As you inhale, push your chest forward and your tailbone upward and allow your belly to fall toward the ground (like the swayed back of a cow). As you exhale, tuck your sit bones in and arch your back upward (like a stretching cat). Repeat, following your breath.
If getting on your hands and knees isn’t comfortable for you, you can sit straight in a chair and arch and flex your back in the same way.
3. Warrior I & II
These lunging poses can be performed standing lunge or seated in a chair. For chair yoga, select a chair without armrests and turn sideways in a chair, stretch one thigh along the length of the seat and stretch the other leg behind you. For Warrior I, keep your torso facing forward, in the same direction as your bent knee, lift your arms vertically in the air with palm facing toward each other, and align your hips and shoulders. For Warrior II, maintain the lunge position in your lower body, stretch your arms horizontally out in front and behind you. Turn your torso the side and your gaze will drift forward over your front arm.
If you’re performing these yoga poses in a standing lunge, much of the posture is the same, except your foot on your back leg will be turned at a 45-degree angle. Keep a slight bend in your back knee for stability.
4. Pigeon Pose
Tight hips can cause issues in your knees and back. This posture stretches your hip flexors to encourage increased range of motion over time. Traditional pigeon pose is done on the floor, but it can be easily modified to work in a chair to make it one of the best beginning exercises for seniors.
Lay on the floor with your knees bent and your feet on the ground, hip-width apart. Raise your left foot off the floor and bend it over your right leg, so your left ankle lays on your right knee. Your left leg will be at about a 45-degree angle. Protect your knee by keeping your left toes flexed. Pull the right leg in toward your chest until you feel a good stretch. Then switch.
For chair yoga, sit straight with both feet on the floor and your legs at right angles. Lift one leg off the ground and bend it over the other leg, so your ankle is sitting on top of the opposite knee. Flex your toes to protect your knees. Stay straight through your back and lean forward until you feel a good stretch in your hip. Repeat on the other side.
This pose is a bedrock of any yoga practice. Usually practiced at the end of your yoga session while lying on the floor, the goal of this posture is to relax your body, senses and mind. Shavasana provides the health benefits of deep relaxation. If lying on the floor isn’t easy for you, you can perform this pose in a chair, with your eyes closed and your hands resting comfortably in your lap.
Quiet your mind. Let your breath flow easily. Loosen all the muscles in your body, including your face. Release the muscles between your eyebrows and at the base of your tongue. Stay in this relaxed position for one to five minutes.
Yoga is a beneficial addition to a senior’s holistic wellness. At Essex Meadows, we support residents in eight dimensions of wellness, so their lifestyle serves them — inside and out.