Whether you’ve practiced yoga before or not, this is a workout that you can do well into old age. Yoga is a gentle exercise routine for both young and old people with flexible, low-impact moves that can build both your physical fitness and mental balance.
The best yoga poses for seniors depend on individual needs and abilities. Generally, seniors require low-impact moves and less complicated poses like the cat-cow pose, warrior I, and sphinx, among others. But overall, you can get a modified version of almost any yoga pose to suit the needs of a senior.
In this article, we’ll not only list the best yoga poses for seniors but also explain how to do the poses. We’ll also point out the health benefits and other advantages of these workouts. Let’s go.
This may look like a really simple pose, but it has a few details that you’ll want to pay close attention to. The chair pose is one of the active yoga poses that’s great for cardio health. It strengthens your ankles, calves, thighs, and spine while stretching your chest and shoulders.
- Begin by standing upright with your feet hip-distance apart.
- Inhale and swing your arms up above your head with the palms facing each other.
- As you exhale, bend your knees while keeping them hip-distance apart. Go down with your chest leaning slightly forward until your torso forms a right angle with your thighs at the hips.
To know if you’re doing the right thing, imagine yourself about to sit in a chair, that’s how this pose should feel and look like.
- Keep your inner thighs parallel, your shoulder blades firm, and your weight grounded through your heels.
- Hold the pose for about 5 to 10 breaths.
- To come out of this pose, inhale and straighten your knees, then exhale as you bring down your arms to your sides.
Beginner Tip: If you find it hard to balance or hold this pose, you can support yourself against a wall. With your back to the wall as you get into position, adjust your pose until your tailbone just touches the wall, which therefore offers you some support.
Here’s a longer video to help you with this pose:
Seated Forward Bend Pose
This is a very calming pose and can help relieve stress. With the seated forward bend pose, you get a good stretch right from your calves, upwards to your hamstrings (the back of your thighs), and to your spine.
- Begin in a sitting position with your legs extended straight in front of you and your feet flexed.
- Inhale and bring your hands up over your head to sit up tall. Straighten out your spine.
- Exhale and begin bending forward from the hips (not the waist).
- Keep your torso straight, without collapsing your chest. Inhale and lengthen your spine.
- Exhale again and go down even further.
To ensure you come to this position correctly, imagine your belly aiming to rest on your thighs rather than your face coming to your knees.
- With every inhale, lengthen your spine, and with every exhale, bend down further.
- At your maximum point, hold on to your ankles using your hands.
- Hold the pose for about 5 to 20 breaths.
- To get out of this pose, inhale and slowly get back to an upright position.
Beginner Tip: If you can’t reach your feet/ ankles, use a strap around the soles of your feet and hold on to the straps. Also, if the back of your thighs is straining too much, you can sit on a folded blanket or any other padding to get some lift and support.
This is a combination of two poses, the cat pose, and the cow pose.
For the older adults with stiffness (especially of the back), the cat-cow pose can really help release that tension by massaging the spine. With this pose, you can also tone your abdomen and improve blood circulation.
- Begin in a “tabletop” position on your mat on all fours. Your knees should be a hip-width distance apart and your hands shoulder-distance apart. Make sure your shoulder, elbow, and wrist are in line and perpendicular to the ground. Keep your fingertips spread out wide. Your head should be in a neutral position with eyes looking down.
- Get into the cow position now. Inhale as you push your belly towards the floor. Lift your tail bone and your head up and look at the ceiling.
- Smoothly move into the cat position next. Exhale as you arch your spine towards the ceiling. In the process, let your head slowly hang down.
- Repeat this cycle from cat to cow position at least four times then get back to the neutral tabletop position.
Beginner Tip: If arching your upper back is a bit difficult for you, get someone to place their hand between your shoulder blades. This can help you activate the area to be able to round your back better.
This is the fundamental position for all yoga standing poses. Mountain pose helps with posture and balance. It’s ideal for maintaining that proper upright posture, especially in seniors who may notice some slouching as they grow older.
Mountain pose is not a mere standing position, but it’s a pose focused on aligning your body. In this yoga pose, you need to be aware of each and every part of your body and how they work together to bring about that upright position.
- Stand tall with your big toes touching and your heels close together. If your ankles are uncomfortably close, you can separate your heels slightly.
- Actively ground your feet through your calves. Engage leg muscles. Firm up your thighs and lift your kneecaps.
- Lightly tuck in your belly to tone the abdomen.
- Keep your spine straight in its natural alignment.
- Relax and widen your shoulders.
- Let your arms hang naturally on your sides.
- Keep your neck long but don’t tuck down or lift your chin.
- Once you’ve aligned all body parts, hold the pose as you take 5 to 10 breaths.
Beginner Tip: To ascertain your alignment, you can stand with your back against a wall.
Tree pose is targeted at maintaining coordination and balance. It’s one of those poses that requires high concentration, so as a result, it helps enhance your focus both on and off the mat.
Tree pose also helps tone and build strength in the legs.
- Stand upright with your feet firm on the ground and your weight equally distributed. Let your inner ankles and inner knees touch gently.
- Bring your hands together to the level of your chest into a prayer position.
- Slowly shift your weight to the right foot as you begin lifting your left foot off the ground. Keep your right leg straight but not locked at the knee.
- Bend your left leg at the knee then bring it up as you bring the sole of this left foot to the inner right thigh. You can use your hands to hold your left ankle and bring the foot into position.
- Let your left sole rest either below or above the knee on the inner right thigh and not directly on the knee.
- Once you are in position, focus your gaze on one stationary point in front of you.
- Hold the pose as you take 5 to 10 breaths.
- Slowly lower your left foot and do the right side next.
Beginner Tip: To gain more balance, you can support yourself against a wall. Also, since placing your foot against the inner opposite thigh may be difficult at the beginning, you can start with placing it against the opposite ankle, then later the inner opposite leg then eventually the inner opposite thigh.
As the name suggests, this pose helps to release abdominal gas. You also massage your intestines and other abdominal organs while strengthening your back and toning arms and legs.
- Begin this pose by lying flat on your back with your legs stretched out and feet together and your arms to your sides.
- Breathe in, then as you exhale, bring your right knee towards your chest and hold it in place with your hands. Press the thigh into your abdomen.
- With the next exhale, lift your chest and head off the ground and touch your right knee with your chin.
- Hold that position as you take about five deep breaths. Whenever you exhale, tighten the grip around the knee. Relax the grip when you inhale.
- Release the pose as you exhale. Relax in the lying position.
- Repeat the pose but with the left leg this time. Complete the cycle with both legs together.
Beginner Tip: If you are unable to clasp the knee drawn in with both arms, you can draw the knee to the side instead. Draw it towards the same-side armpit instead of directly over your chest.
Extended Puppy Pose
This is the perfect combination between downward facing dog and child’s pose. It can actually be used as a variation of either. And since we won’t cover the downward dog and child’s pose here, you may want to look at these video tutorials demonstrating how to do these two poses.
Extended puppy pose stretches your spine, shoulders, arms, and upper back.
- Begin on all fours in a tabletop position with your shoulders aligned above your hands and your hips above your knees. Position your knee at hip-distance apart and your arms at shoulder-distance apart. The tops of your feet should be placed on the mat.
- With your knees in place, begin walking your hand out to the front while slowly lowering your chest.
- Gently lower your forehead down to the ground or onto a folded blanket. Relax your neck.
- Actively stretch your arms. Keep the palms pressing on the ground with your elbows and forearms off the ground.
- Reach your hips towards the ceiling. Stretch your spine through your outstretched hands while pulling your hips towards your heels. Maintain a slight curve in your lower back.
- Hold the pose for about 1 minute.
- To get out of the pose, lift your head up, walk back with your arms and back to the tabletop position.
Beginner Tip: Place a yoga block or a rolled-up blanket lengthwise between your thighs and calves. This will help activate your hip muscles and leg muscles and facilitate a longer pose. It can also ease the tension on the lower back.
Warrior I is a pose that stretches the front side of your body. It tones the thighs, belly, and stretches the chest. It also increases flexibility and enhances blood circulation.
- Begin in an upright standing position. Your feet should be hip-distance apart and firmly grounded.
- Step your right foot forward about 3 to 4 feet away. Your right foot should be pointing to the top of the mat. Tilt your left foot about 45 to 60 degrees to the right. Align your right and left heel.
- Bend your right leg at the knee such that your shin is perpendicular to the floor. Keep your left leg straight.
- Raise your hands above your head and actively reach with your fingertips. Your shoulder blades should press inwards.
- Stretch your chest by lifting your ribcage away from the pelvis. Press down at the left heel to ground yourself.
- Your head can remain in a neutral position or you could lift up your chin and gaze at your thumbs. All this while, keep your arms parallel to each other or with palms pressed together.
- Hold the pose for about 30 seconds to a minute.
- To get out of the warrior I position, inhale, press back into the left heel, straighten out the right knee as you reach up with your arms. Bring back the right foot to the standing position. Let down your arms.
- Repeat the pose on the opposite side.
Beginner Tip: One of the challenges beginners face is managing to keep the back foot grounded. You can use a sandbag to raise the back heel.
Warrior II is a yoga pose that enhances stability and concentration. It’s ideal for stretching your legs, groin, and chest while at the same time toning your abdomen, ankles, and foot arches.
Warrior II opens the chest area and so improves breathing and circulation. The hip-opening position also serves to strengthen the thigh muscles and buttocks.
- To begin, stand in the mountain pose with your feet hip-distance apart and your concentration focused on your breathing.
- Exhale, then step your feet apart about 3 to 4 feet. Align the left and the right heels.
- Turn your right foot 90 degrees such that it points to the front of the mat. Your left foot (which is at the back position) should pivot inwards. Tilt it slightly inwards about 45 degrees to find your balance.
- Raise your arms to the sides to shoulder height. Maintain the arms parallel to the floor with palms facing down. Actively reach out from fingertip to fingertip as you open your shoulders and chest.
- Exhale and bend your right knee to bring the shin perpendicular to the floor. If you are flexible enough, also align your thigh parallel to the floor. Keep the knee aligned above your ankle.
- Your back leg remains straight. Press down through the outer edge of the same back foot.
- Keep your upper body perpendicular to the floor. Avoid the urge to lean forward or on either side. Tone your abdominal muscles by drawing your belly in.
- Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- To get out of the warrior II position, inhale, straighten your right knee, come up as you bring your arms down.
- Reverse your feet positions and repeat the pose on the other side.
Beginner tip: If you aren’t as flexible to do the full version of this pose, you can shorten your stance and straighten your front leg. Try and get to a comfortable position as you work on your flexibility.
Sphinx is a gentle backbend pose, so it is ideal for seniors with stiffness or back pain, which is pretty common in old age. Since the pose includes arms support, seniors can comfortably do this yoga pose, especially at the beginner level.
Sphinx strengthens the spine and opens the chest and lungs improving circulation and breathing. Abdominal organs are well stimulated in this pose.
- Begin by lying face-down on your belly with your legs side by side and extended behind you. Keep your legs at hip-distance apart. Your arms are on your sides.
- Press the top of your feet on the mat while actively reaching behind you through your toes.
- Next, bring your arms forward. Position your elbows below your shoulders and your forearms flat on the floor and parallel to each other.
- Inhale and lift your upper body and head off the ground while pressing on the floor through your forearms. Get into the backbend position.
- In this position, press your pubic bone into the ground, keep elbows close to your side, drop your shoulder blades, and draw your chest forward.
- Hold the pose for 5 to 10 breaths.
- To get out of this pose, exhale as you slowly lower your chest and head. Position your arms back to your sides and turn your head to one side. Lie quietly for a while.
Beginner Tip: This may be a gentle backbend, but to those who may still find it a bit challenging, you can get support for your belly lift. Just place a rolled-up towel on the floor in a U-shape slightly above your pubic bone with the legs of the U under the sides of your tummy.
This is one of the really common yoga poses. If you’ve just started out practicing yoga, be sure you’ll encounter this pose during your first few classes.
The triangle pose with a strong foundation strengthens the legs. The position of the lower part of your body in this pose serves to stretch your hamstrings, groin, and hips. Seniors are most prone to having hip problems and so this pose may help ease the discomfort.
The open chest and shoulders help improve breathing and circulation. And overall, the triangle pose enhances balance and stability.
- Begin in mountain pose with your feet at hip-distance apart.
- Step your feet wide apart (about 3 to 4 feet). Turn your right foot 90 degrees out, so your toes point to the front.
- Turn your left foot inwards just a bit. About 45 degrees will do.
- Ensure your right and left heels are aligned.
- Lift your arms to the side to shoulder-height. Reach out from fingertip to fingertip for a nice open chest.
- Lower your right hand down to the right ankle or shin. Meanwhile, your chest opens as you also raise your left arm with the fingertips pointing to the ceiling.
- Exhale as you let your right hand rest on either your right shin, ankle, or even on the floor. Choose whichever is most comfortable for you. Keep your sides long and your left shoulder stacked on the right shoulder.
- Turn your head slowly to face up as if looking at your raised left fingertips.
- Ensure your right knee is not hyperextended.
- Hold the pose for about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- To get out of this pose, press down through the left heel, lift your torso and slowly lower your arms. Then turn to the left and repeat the pose with your left leg at the front.
Beginner Tip: It’s totally fine to rest your lower hand higher up your shin if that’s more comfortable for you at the beginning. You can even use a yoga block to help you extend that lower hand.
Bridge pose stretches the chest and shoulders, thereby enhancing breathing and blood circulation. The spine and neck also get stretched while you strengthen the hamstrings, buttocks, and back.
The heart is above the head in this pose and so it’s considered as a mild form of inversion.
- Begin this pose by lying on your back with the back of your head and shoulders touching the ground.
- Bend your knees. Keep your legs parallel to each other and at a hip-distance apart. Press the soles of your feet firm on the ground.
- Your arms are flat on your sides with the palms facing down.
- Exhale, press your palms and feet to the floor and begin lifting your hips upwards to the ceiling. Resist the urge to separate your legs at the knees. To ensure your thighs and legs remain parallel, you can hold a block between them. Do not squeeze your glutes.
- Hold your buttocks off the ground. Bring your hands underneath your pelvis and clasp them together. Stretch out your arms by reaching your knuckles towards your heels. Press your forearms into the mat.
- Hold this pose for about 5 to 10 deep breaths.
- To get out of the pose, put out your arms to the sides, support yourself with your hands, slowly walk your shoulders out as you lower your body back to the ground.
Beginner Tip: You can create a restorative version of the bridge pose by placing a yoga block underneath your sacrum for some support.
Savasana (Corpse Pose)
This is a relaxation pose often done at the end of a yoga session. It seems simple, but the corpse pose can be challenging because you are trying to relax while remaining fully aware of your surroundings.
- In a quiet and neat environment, lie down on a mat with your back to the floor.
- Keep your spine straight and your shoulders touching the ground.
- Position your arms on your sides. Relax. Let your arms be a bit separate from your torso, your palms facing up with fingers relaxed such that they curl in.
- Don’t concentrate on holding your body parts in position. Relax.
- Breath naturally, but pay attention to your every breath. Notice your chest expanding and relaxing.
- Stay in this pose while remaining alert for about 5 minutes.
- To get out of this pose, simply exhale as you roll onto one side, preferably the right. Lift your torso and eventually your head. Always pivot with your hands against the floor.
Beginner’s tip: It may be better to do this pose with your feet turned inwards as opposed to outwards because there are probably many poses during the yoga session that require you to turn your feet outward. To achieve the inward rotation, use a small strap to loop the big toes together.
As you can see, yoga poses for seniors are the same for every other person. The only difference lies in “how” the poses are done in terms of the amount of effort put and the length of time holding a posture.
There are also some modifications and tips for beginner yogis, which seniors can use to make their yoga practice easier and more comfortable. You probably already know that with age, working out is not about how much you do but how you do it.
Yoga is one of the exercises that older adults can continue doing even as they age further. Most of the poses are helpful for the health of the body and can relieve body pains. Other health benefits of yoga for seniors include enhanced blood circulation, breathing, and concentration.
So, if you’ve not begun yoga, now is a good time to start and reap all these benefits.