Yoga for Seniors: A Comprehensive Guide to Getting Started

Written by:

Gemma Clarke

Edited & fact checked by:

Jagpreet Kaur

Published date:

Estimated reading time:

yoga for seniors

Key Takeaway

Yoga for seniors offers a path to improved health, flexibility, and social engagement, regardless of age, with styles like chair and aqua yoga providing accessible options for starting or continuing a yoga journey.

“Am I too old for yoga?” is a question that is commonly heard by yoga teachers. The simple answer is no, you are never too old. This is where yoga for seniors comes into play.

Yoga for seniors is a category of its own. This is to ensure that seniors can get the right alignment in their bodies and build strength in all the right places. If you, or someone you love, falls into the ‘above 60’s’ age range, then yoga for seniors is the perfect place to get started on your journey to health, well-being, and longevity.

The World’s Oldest Yogi

Tao Porchon-Lynch was the world’s oldest yoga teacher at the age of 101. So if you are thinking it’s too late to start at age 70, Tao will be telling you that you’ve still got 30 vibrant years of yoga learning ahead of you.

This inspirational yoga instructor from America has taught the world that our bodies are way more capable than we think, and it truly is mind over matter when it comes to moving our bodies.

No matter what age you currently are, today is the perfect day to start your yoga journey and soak up the benefits of a life of flexibility and strength in mind, body, and spirit.

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Benefits of Yoga for Seniors

Yoga for seniors is often seen as a category of yoga classes because it focuses on gentle movements, improving range of motion, and building body strength. This will help to reduce the chance of injury from falls, but it will also help you to fare better from general wear and tear as you age.

Going to a senior’s yoga class is also a great social outing where like-minded seniors can get together on a weekly or monthly basis and share their ideas, thoughts, and experiences. Social gatherings are important for elderly people to keep them young in the mind and alive in the soul!

When you start practicing yoga, you are not only looking after your health and wellness now, but you are also creating stronger bone density, agility, flexibility, and muscle mass to enjoy the senior years of your life. Physical health is something that can be improved with yoga programs, as well as several other health benefits.

Some of these health benefits are:

  • Reduces chronic pain and can assist in pain relief
  • Improves mindfulness through mindful breathing
  • Will improve balance to reduce the risk of falls
  • Overcome mobility challenges as you age
  • Build core stability and strength for better posture
  • Relaxing yoga may result in better sleep
  • Can lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease
  • Great social commitment
  • Challenges the mind to keep trying something new!

There are many benefits to practicing senior yoga, but one should consult a healthcare provider before starting classes, just to get the all-clear from the doctor. If you are thinking of starting seniors yoga, it is also wise to chat with a yoga teacher before class to discuss any questions or concerns you may have about the practice.

Types of Yoga for Seniors

There are many types of yoga for seniors, but most yoga sessions aimed at this age group will focus on restorative yoga postures to relieve stress, strengthen muscles, and improve one’s current fitness level. If you want to mix it up, though, here are three unique types of yoga for seniors:

1. Chair Yoga for Seniors

Gentle chair yoga is a great style of yoga for those with a limited range of motion or poor balance. For this style of class, you will need to use a sturdy chair as a prop, preferably one with no arms. There are many online videos with gentle chair yoga classes that stay seated while holding poses that can improve one’s physical condition.

A sturdy chair can be used to find a great shoulder stretch as well as to relieve tension in painful muscles. If the yoga class becomes too strong, one can simply sit tall and focus on breathing exercises, making chair yoga a great choice for older adults with less established fitness levels.

Here is a great class with Yoga with Adriene to follow from your chair at home:

2. Aqua Yoga for Seniors

Water Yoga, or Aqua yoga, is another wonderful choice for seniors with joint pain or other chronic inflammatory conditions. Water yoga in warm water, which sits just below shoulder height, will soothe and relieve painful conditions, as well as create a good atmosphere for stretching painful muscles. Heated pools allow extra flexibility, and they also take away the pressure of gravity on the body, allowing the sensation of floating to make one feel light and free.

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3. Hatha Yoga with Body Weight Resistance

Yoga practices for seniors should focus on building core strength by using one’s body weight for resistance. Gentle yoga is practiced in Hatha-style classes where the focus is on long holds and flowing breaths. This slow style of class is also great for learning about alignment in the key poses.

With regular yoga practice, such as committing to a six-week program, older adults will see improvements in their strength simply by using their bodies in new ways.

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Three Basic Poses for Senior Yoga

If you are ready to try some simple yoga poses for seniors, we will start with three of the basics.

Sukhasana (Easy Sit)

For this pose, start seated on your yoga mat, and cross your legs. If this is causing any tension in your hips or lower body, you can prop your hips up on a folded blanket or cushion for extra height. If this is still too tight on your hips, you may like to do the chair yoga variation and sit your hips on a chair with your right ankle crossed in front of your left ankle and allow your knees to fall out wide.

Close your eyes and straighten your upper body, raising the crown of your head toward the sky above. Let your shoulder blades soften down your spine and simply sit and breathe, absorbing the wonderful health benefits here. Close your eyes and enjoy this posture for as long as is comfortable.

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Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

It is important to practice both seated and standing poses in yoga, so another essential pose is Tadasana, also known as the mountain pose. For this pose, stand with your feet hip-width apart, grow your spine tall, and imagine that you are a mighty, strong mountain. Your arms can be by your sides, with your palms facing forward, or you can bring your palms together at your heart center in Anjali Mudra (prayer position).

If you want to practice having better balance, you may like to close your eyes here and see how still you can be in this yoga pose. Older adults may find that closing their eyes is challenging, so ensure that they are near a wall or something to hold onto if necessary to prevent injuries from falls.

Tadasana is an essential pose in any yoga routine that can lead to other standing poses such as Tree Pose (Vrksasana) or Aeroplane Pose (Dekasana) as you progress your practice down the track.

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Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II)

When you are ready to activate your inner warrior, it is time to move into Virabhadrasana II. For this pose, take your right foot to the front of your mat and stack your right knee above your ankle. Take your left foot land it parallel to the back of the mat, and straighten out the left knee and leg. Outstretch your arms wide, with your right arm moving toward the front of your mat and the left arm toward the back. Press into your toes, stabilizing the body, and make sure that you do not lean forward with your chest. You want your shoulders stacked above your hips. Repeat this on both sides of the body.

This pose builds strength in the lower body and can help to relieve lower back pain over time. It will also build strength in the muscles and increase bone density in the legs. Every time you practice yoga, add a warrior pose to not only strengthen your physical body but also to add power to your mind and inner courage to your yoga routine.

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How to Continue Your Seniors Yoga Journey

Over time and with confidence, older adults can progress to more challenging poses such as downward-facing dog or a vinyasa-style yoga class. (Although I wouldn’t go as far as to suggest Bikram yoga, because Bikram yoga is a little too strong and aggressive for most seniors.).

But, if you are just starting out with your very first yoga practice as a senior, take it slow and be gentle with yourself. Get familiar with some teachers online with one of the many yoga videos available, or introduce yourself to some teachers in your local area.

A great place to start is chair yoga, for you have the support of another object, plus, there are many yoga videos so that you can follow to practice a chair yoga routine. Or, perhaps try aqua yoga for a more adventurous and exciting practice.

If you are doing hatha yoga, ensure that you have a nice and thick mat to cushion your bones and joints in some poses. You may also like to use yoga props, such as blocks, blankets, and bolsters to support you in your practice.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What type of yoga is best for seniors?

Older adults should stick to more gentle yoga poses, or a chair yoga sequence to help build essential strength before progressing to more difficult yoga poses. Many yoga studios will offer specific classes such as chair yoga for seniors or yoga for older adults that will cater to those with a little less strength, flexibility, or range of motion than your average yogi. If you are unsure if a class is suitable for you, ask the teacher before you begin and they will be happy to provide you with modifications and props that will support you in the class.

Who is the world’s oldest yogi?

Tao Porchon-Lynch was the world’s oldest yoga teacher at the age of 101. She discovered yoga in 1926 when she was eight years old in India and studied with, B.K.S. Iyengar, K. Pattabhi Jois, Swami Prabhavananda, and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, among others.
She teaches us that we are never too old to begin a yoga practice!

How much yoga should a senior be doing each day?

A little bit of yoga every day is a great way to stay flexible in your mind and your body. To do this, you can simply watch 5-minute online yoga videos for seniors, but to grow your practice and improve your skills, you can make a commitment to attend a weekly class in your local area.
If there are no classes for seniors in your area, you can always invite your friends over for a chair yoga session at home!

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About Gemma Clarke

Gemma Clarke is a certified and experienced yoga & meditation instructor. She has been practicing meditation since 2014 and teaching since 2018. Gemma specializes in yoga and mindfulness for emotional wellbeing, and she has taught in Thailand, Cambodia, and the UK. Gemma is passionate about sharing her expertise and experience with meditation to inspire others to live more mindfully, becoming happier, healthier, and calmer. Follow me: Instagram | LinkedIn

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