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Benefits of Gentle Yoga Stretches for Seniors

April 25, 2023

Benefits of Yoga for Seniors 

How is yoga good for older people? As we age, we face challenges in both body and mind. It gets harder to maintain a healthy weight, we’re at higher risk for illness, and older people experience higher rates of anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues than young people. Yoga strengthens muscles and improves balance, stability, and flexibility, making exercise easier and falls less likely. It helps keep joints healthy, improves respiration, and can even reduce high blood pressure. Seniors who practice yoga learn to practice mindfulness, and they experience less anxiety. Simple yoga stretches are attainable, can be done from the comfort of home, and can be modified to accommodate disability. Here, we offer a few gentle stretches to get you started in yoga.  

How to Get Started 

First, as with any new exercise program, speak to a physician before beginning. Then, make sure you have the right gear to comfortably practice yoga. You don’t need much, just a yoga mat, perhaps a chair, if you’re doing modified positions, and some comfortable clothing that won’t get caught while you’re doing a pose or otherwise impede your movement. You can go barefoot when you’re doing yoga, or wear non-slip socks or sneakers. It’s not hard to find good yoga instruction, either online or in-person. When choosing a class, make sure it’s taught by someone with experience teaching yoga to older people. There are plenty of yoga stretches for beginners, so don’t worry if you aren’t flexible or have never tried this kind of exercise.  

Gentle Yoga Stretches for Beginners 

 

Legs Up the Wall helps release tension and increase flexibility in the legs and lower back. This is a good pose to begin some gentle morning yoga stretches, because it can help you to warm up for more challenging poses.  

  • Lie on the floor perpendicular to a wall.  

  • Walk your legs up the wall, ending with the backs of your legs positioned against the wall.  

  • Keep your arms relaxed at your sides.  

  • Breathe deeply throughout the exercise.  

  • Slowly walk your legs back down the wall.  

 

Child’s Pose is another simple stretch that can help relax the body and mind between more difficult poses. It stretches the hips, thighs, and ankles, so it’s a good pose for yoga stretching.  

  • Kneeling on the floor with your toes together and knees hip-width apart, rest your palms on your thighs.  

  • As you exhale, lower your torso between your knees.  

  • Extend your arms beside your torso with your palms down.  

  • Relax your shoulders toward the ground and rest for as long as you need to.  

 

Cat-Cow is a position that helps develop postural awareness, brings the spine into alignment, and promotes flexibility and balance.  

  • Begin on your hands and knees, wrists under the shoulders and knees under the hips.  

  • Pointing your fingers to the top of your mat, place your knees and shins hip-width apart.  

  • Center your head and look down.  

  • Move into cow pose, inhaling as you drop your stomach towards the mat.  

  • Lifting your chest and chin, gaze up.  

  • Switch to cat pose as you exhale, drawing your belly to your spine and arching your back toward the ceiling.  

  • Inhale as you move back to cow pose, then exhale as you move back to cat pose.  

 

The Mountain Pose is the foundation of all standing poses, so you can use it as a starting position or resting pose.  

  • Stand with your feet parallel and aligned with your hips.  

  • Lift and spread your toes, putting them softly back down.  

  • Keep your weight evenly balanced.  

  • Roll your shoulders up, back, and down, and lift your chest toward the ceiling without pushing your ribs forward.  

  • Relax your arms by your side, allowing your shoulder blades to draw towards each other.  

  • Balance directly over your center and breathe deeply.