Yoga for Older Adults

Yoga for Older Adults

Yoga can be tried by anyone – kids, young people and even older people. With age, the body functions, mobility, endurance, and strength tend to decline. This is normal as it is a part of the aging process. However, incorporation of physical activity and a balanced diet in our daily schedule helps to maintain good health and a healthy lifestyle. 

Yoga for older adults 

Yoga exercises for older people who with age suffer from various health ailments like – depression, weak bones and joints, arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes, insomnia, mobility limitations due to constant pains and aches, etc. offer heaps of health benefits. With regular yoga exercises, seniors feel more confident in terms of their balance, flexibility, strength and are able to manage the aches and pains that come with aging. This results in a more independent life where senior people feel safer and healthy.

Yoga is a holistic practice combined with spiritual mindfulness and different asanas (poses) that promotes self-discovery, confidence, functional mobility and rebalancing of the nervous system in senior people. The meditation aspects and breathing techniques along with yoga asanas (poses) and yoga stretches are especially empowering. Breathing practices help boost blood circulation in the body and brain. Mindfulness is a great anxiety alleviator. Together they augment the health benefits of yoga like pain relief, enhanced mental health, and a feeling of empowerment and independence.

If followed dedicatedly and religiously, yoga techniques positively correlate with both mental and physical wellness. It’s uncontroversial that yoga asanas can improve mobility, balance, strength, flexibility, and endurance, but scientific research has also found that it also helps:

  • Increase muscle strength
  • Reduce the risk of cardiovascular (heart) disease
  • Control and regulate high blood sugar (diabetes) 
  • Recovery from strokes and surgery
  • Provide relief for people struggling with chronic pain
  • Prevent falls
  • Reduce arthritis pain and inflammation
  • Manage digestive issues like Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) 
  • Improve sleep quality and overall wellness
  • Improve the range of motion in stiff, arthritic, and achy joints
  • Facilitate the grieving process
  • Alleviate stress and anxiety

What type of yoga is best for seniors?

Yoga exercises for older people boost flexibility, balance, mood and build up strength. Some of the yoga exercises for seniors (asanas or poses) that help senior people in addressing several health conditions include:

1. Tadasana (Samasthiti or Mountain Pose)

This pose or asana of yoga is the foundational yoga pose that involves standing with equal, steady, and still attention. In Sanskrit language, 'Tada' refers to 'mountain' and 'asana' refers to 'pose', hence the name, 'Mountain Pose'. This pose is beneficial for hunching older people as it helps to enhance balance and their posture. It improves mobility and strengthens and increases flexibility of the feeble ankles, joints, thighs and legs in the senior people.

Some other benefits include:

- Makes spine more agile

- Tones the hips and abdomen, establishes good alignment and helps to gain control over the muscular movements.

Contraindications and Cautions that come under Tadasana are:

- Low BP (if pose held too long)

- Pregnancy

- Knock Knees

2. Baddha Konasana (Butterfly Pose, Bound Angle Pose, Cobbler's Pose, Throne Pose, and historically called Bhadrasana)

The butterfly pose facilitates a great stretch for the inner thighs and groin. It relieves fatigue and anxiety.

Contraindications and Cautions that come under Baddha Konasana (Butterfly Pose) are:

- Groin and knee injury 

- During menstruation days 

- Sciatica patients 

3. Balasana (Child’s Resting Pose) 

The word "Balasana" in Sanskrit language means "bala" (means "child") and "asana" (means "pose"). It is also called as kneeling asana which is beneficial in facilitating healthy functions in the body. 

The Benefits of Child’s Pose:

- Helps relieve fatigue and calms and relaxes body and mind

- Releases tension in the spine, back, shoulders and chest

- Stimulates digestion and elimination

- Recommended if you have dizziness or fatigue

- Aids in easing anxiety and stress

- Flexes the body’s internal organs 

- It strengthens and stretches the spine

- Relieves neck and lower back pain 

- Stretches the ankles, hips, and thighs 

- Keeps the organs supple

- Improves blood circulation throughout the body

- It stretches muscles, tendons and ligaments in the knee

- Encourages strong and steady breathing

Contraindications and Cautions that come under Balasana (Child’s Resting Pose) are:

- Pregnant women

- Knee injury

- Infection in the stomach

- Severe spondylitis

- Injury at the ankle

4. Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) – (boo-jang-GAHS-anna)

It is a reclining back-bending asana that helps in strengthening the upper back, and in increasing flexibility of the spine and shoulder while opening the chest. 

Benefits of this yoga for older adults include:

- Loosens the stiffened lower back in older people

- Strengthens the spinal cord

- Stretches muscles of the chest and lungs, abdominals, and shoulders, and improves flexibility

- Strengthens the arms and shoulders

- Addresses respiratory disorders

- Gives a glowing and a radiant look to the face due to improved blood circulation

- Tones the buttocks

- Improves sluggish digestion and stimulates abdominal organs

- Helps relieve stress and fatigue

- Invigorates the heart

- Opens the heart and lungs

- Relieves sciatica pain

- Improves menstrual irregularities

Contraindications and Cautions that come under Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana) are:

- Severe back problems relating to the spine 

- Neck problems relating to spondylitis 

- Stomach disorders like ulcers 

- Pregnant women

- Severe asthma 

5. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-facing Dog Pose, or an inversion asana)

It is a transitional pose and serves as a resting pose. The pose enhances blood circulation to the brain and improves cognition capabilities in older people. 

The benefits of this pose for older people include:

- Relaxes the central nervous system (mind) and aids in relieving depression and anxiety

- Stretches and strengthens the joints and muscles of legs, calves, hamstrings, ankles, arches, arms, calves, and spine

- Energizes the mind and the body

- Therapeutic for high BP, breathing troubles like asthma, flat feet, sciatica, sinusitis

- Aid in reducing the menopausal symptoms in women and also relieves menstrual discomfort 

- Boosts sluggish digestion

- Prevents osteoporosis

- Relieves headache, insomnia (insufficient sleep) back pain, and tiredness

Contraindications and Cautions that come under Adho Mukha Svanasana are:

- Carpal tunnel syndrome

- Diarrhoea

- Pregnancy

- High blood pressure or headache

6. Trikonasana (or Utthita Trikonasana, [Extended] Triangle Pose)

This pose is a foundation yoga pose that alleviates motor imbalance in senior people. It helps stretch the arms, hamstrings, calves, spine, ankles, legs, groins, and hips and strengthens and tones the muscles. It also aids in soothing lower back pain and stimulates the abdominal organs, improving sluggish digestion. This pose also offers therapeutic benefits for reducing stress, neck pain, addressing infertility, sciatica, osteoporosis, and symptoms of menopause. 

Contraindications and Cautions that come under Trikonasana are:

- Diarrhoea

- Heart condition

- Headache

- Low BP

- High BP

- Neck problems

7. Shavasana (Corpse Pose or Mrtasana)

This pose is one of the hardest poses in Yoga. Corpse pose improves concentration and trains the central nervous system (brain) to maintain quiet alertness. This pose is usually meant to relax the body at the end of every yoga sequence especially if it has been a speedy one. The posture addresses sleep disorders and problem of constipation in senior people, rejuvenates the body, cures weak mental health and spirit while alleviating stress and tension. This asana is an amazing method to ground the body and bring down the imbalance of the air element - the Vata dosha in the body.

Contraindications and Cautions that come under Shavasana are:

- Severe acidity

- People suffering from severe acidity may end up hurting themselves lying on the back because the food pipe may displease the body system.

- Severe backaches

8. Vinyasa Yoga

This yoga technique involves stringing postures so that it is possible to transition form one asana (pose) to another one.

Some benefits of Vinyasa Yoga for seniors include;

- Endurance and strength training

Improves fitness and helps build muscle strength 

- Stability and balance – Vinyasa Yoga improves sense of balance and alleviates risk of injuries and fall

- Cardio workout – This yoga is an ideal light-intensity cardio workout for seniors

- Less stress – Improves cognitive abilities lower stress and anxiety levels. 

9. Anti-aging yoga exercises for senior people

- Warrior pose (Virabhadrasana)

- Tree pose (Vrikshasana)

- Forward bend (Hastapadasana)

- Downward dog position (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

- Seated twist (Bharadvajasana) 

Why do seniors need to do yoga exercises?

Yoga exercises for seniors stimulates vitality, aids in reclaiming autonomy, increases confidence and helps in aging gracefully. The several poses (asanas) slow down the process of aging in older people, rejuvenates their body and mind, and strengthens muscles and joints by improving the blood circulation. Yoga is the individual consciousness that aims to establish perfect harmony between the central nervous system (mind) and body by encouraging relaxation and offering greater mobility and energy. 

yoga for older adults

Its multi-pronged approach ensures that the body, brain and spirit remain healthy and strong while slowing down the effects of many age-related health issues. 

Regular yoga sessions also allow senior people to create a sense of community and positive associations with fellow yoga followers and the instructors. 

Social bonding and connections are really important for older people for maintaining health and well-being with declining age.

Benefits of yoga exercises for seniors

Exercises and techniques involved in yoga makes it a restorative yoga for older people. Among heaps of benefits, some have been discussed in detail below: 

1. Strengthened bones (reduced risk of joints and bone related diseases like osteoporosis

Yoga exercises, if done properly and consistently enhance flexibility and improve balance that eventually helps in elevating bone mineral density in seniors. Yoga poses like; Dolphin Plank Pose, Downward-Facing Dog, Adho Mukha Svanasana, Extended Hand-To-Big-Toe Pose, and Utthita Hasta Padangustasana reverses the osteoporotic Bone Loss, prevents falls and fractures in the older people. 

2. Reduced stress

yoga for seniors

Yoga exercises aid in alleviating stress that reduces the need to take several medications. In seniors, yoga involves many stress reducing techniques, controlled breathing coupled with meditation that promote relaxation and reduce high blood pressure, hypertension, and lowers the levels of blood lactate (lactic acid), reducing anxiety. Practicing yoga also improves mood and psychosocial well-being. 

3. Improved sleeping habits

Yoga exercises calms and relaxes the nervous system. Mild exercises like Ujjayi Breath, also known as Ocean Breath or Victorious Breath improves and recirculates the flow of blood to the brain's sleep centre and encourage the mind to unwind from the day's stress and fatigue. Insomnia is common in senior people and yoga increases the oxygen levels in the blood and removes toxins, thereby rejuvenating the body and aiding in a blissful sleep. 

4. Enhanced balance, flexibility, mobility and strength

The slow, measured movements offered by various yoga exercise - standing poses, the mountain pose, warriors 1 and 2, tree pose, chair pose and locust pose improve balance and movement in older people with mobility limitations. These techniques also decrease risks of falls and injuries. Yoga poses and techniques improve mobility, strength, flexibility and balance. 

5. Lessen the risk for depression

yoga for older adults

Due to old-age related health issues, senior people often feel depressed. Yoga techniques calms and relaxes the body and also helps in freeing the mind of worries and distractions. 

6. Alleviate aches and pains

Yoga exercises helps senior people loosen and stretch their muscles. It helps senior people alleviate pains and aches caused due to medical conditions like lower back pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia, migraine, and other chronic pain conditions. It also improves daily function among people with osteoporosis-associated curvature of the spine. 

Yoga techniques along with herbal supplements for seniors

Yoga techniques when complimented with rich herbs is more effective in addressing certain health issues in older people. For example, supplement called Lean Body Burn. It is a detox cleanse dietary supplement comprising of natural and herbal ingredients. These ingredients are supported by scientific evidences to be helpful in losing weight and boosting gut health. Ingredients used in this formula include:

Psyllium Husk – supports improved metabolism by producing more acid bile and burns excessive body fat. 

Black Walnut – is called a ‘superfood’ as it is rich in vitamins and minerals. These are helpful in stimulating fat loss and increase good cholesterol (HDL) and decrease bad cholesterol (LDL). 

Flaxseed – these are low in sugar and starch and hence low in calories. The protein content in flaxseeds suppresses your appetite and stops you from overeating, thereby aiding in losing weight. 

person throwing three walnuts

Aloe vera – Aloe vera boosts metabolism. It has fat burning properties are attributed to the presence of vitamin B that converts the fat stored in the body into usable energy and support weight loss.

Some benefits of Lean Body Burn supplement are:

- Aids in weight loss

- Improves digestion

- Enhances energy levels

- Improves gut health and metabolism

- Enhances cardiovascular health and improves cholesterol levels

- Regulates blood pressure and blood glucose levels

- Uplifts mood and increases confidence

Chair yoga for seniors

It is a gentle form of yoga in which a chair is used to do exercises - either using it while remaining seated or by standing and using the chair as a support. Frail older adults or those who have restricted mobility due to chronic pain, disability or severe injuries can with ease do the exercises.

Chair yoga for seniors is a wonderful way to loosen and stretch stiff and painful muscles, alleviate stress, and boost blood circulation. It also reduces blood pressure, safeguards joints, and builds strength.

Benefits of chair yoga for seniors include:

- Improves core strength and overall body movement

- Improves balance and flexibility

- Even helps with joint lubrication, and age-specific issues like menopause, andropause and arthritis

- Promotes mobility

- Relief from Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 

- Relief from vertigo and medical sclerosis

- Boosts mental health and positive feelings

- Reduces inflammation

- Increases oxygen intake

- Enhances better breathing techniques

- Helps alleviate anxiety and the emotional response to stress

- Controls weight.

What precautions should seniors take? 

Older people suffer from various health challenges and conditions. So, it is important that before doing some intense yoga techniques, they consult their doctor. Senior people need to take utmost care while doing some yoga poses especially if they are suffering from back pain, chronic arthritis, 

- Before doing any yoga pose, consult a trained and experienced yoga instructor. Also, discuss your health condition and any ailments you are suffering from. For example, do not perform Balasana if you have had a knee injury. The best thing to do is to practice yoga techniques under a yoga instructor. Make sure your instructor has a certification in place

- Do not push yourself into doing yoga techniques that your body is unable to tackle. Keep alternative methods to accomplish your yoga goals handy

- Emphasize on repeating asanas (poses) rather than clinging to one particular posture

- Substitute warm ups with brisk walking and joint movements

- Always start with warming up session before doing the main techniques. This helps in warming the stiff joints and muscles. End the session emphasizing on fine motor skills. 

- It is important to relax and get adequate rest after each session or even yoga pose

- Make sure that the body has adjusted to the daily yoga routine before trying out new poses (asanas). 

Yoga and greens nutrition

Yoga does a lot of good in terms of boosting overall health. And coupled with dietary supplements like Applied Science Nutrition's Greens Nutrition powder, they can easily fuel and re-energize the body and mind.

The main ingredients of Greens Nutrition powder include fruit and vegetable concentrates, Ginger Root (Zingiber officinale), Shiitake mushrooms (Lentinula edodes), Spirulina (Arthrospira), and Acai berry (Euterpe oleracea)  all the nutrients that a person need to support all-day energy levels and enjoy the health benefits of the most nutrient dense 11 superfoods.

It has also been reported that a serving of Greens Nutrition can combat fatigue and support healthy a weight, as well as take good care of the immune system, all in record time.

So, apart from yoga, this nutrient rich dietary supplement is beneficial in delivering necessary antioxidants, phytonutrients and fibers for good health. It is a fun way to increase vegetable intake. 

Some benefits of this post-work out energy booster for older people include:

- Healthy digestive system as it is rich in powerful prebiotic fibre

- Stronger immune system in older people as it comprises of antioxidant bioflavonoids and alpha- and beta-carotene

- It is sugar free, has low sodium and is allergen free. That makes it extremely safe for consumption.

- Balanced blends of Greens (spirulina, kale, spinach), Yellows (pumpkin, carrot, papaya), Reds (pomegranate, cherry, tomato) and Blues (blueberry, blackcurrant, purple sweet potato) aids in maintaining healthy weight, reduce fatigue, and control hunger etc.

- Promotes and supports healthy (pH) acid and alkaline balance

This power packed and super rich nutrient formula is all about promoting a more balanced diet that is good in taste, which also offers heaps of health benefits. It is especially good for older people as it addresses all their nutritional needs. 

Bottom Line

As age declines, body functions also slow down followed by several health conditions. Yoga techniques are a gateway to graceful aging and positivity that helps in gracefully powering forward with life. Yoga helps dial back both mental and physical health issues by improving mindfulness and slowing aging at a cellular level.

The meditative quality of yoga asanas creates a physiological change - relaxation response, that improves cardiovascular health, oxygen consumption, pulse rate, inhalation/exhalation, lowers cortisol levels (stress hormone) and adrenaline levels.

Healthier food and diet choices along with powerful and healing yoga asanas enhances and improves overall well-being in older people. The key to achieving and reaping health benefits of yoga poses is to do the exercises on regular and consistent basis without letting the zeal go down and without any self-criticism.

"Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self." -The Bhagavad Gita

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