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The Health Benefits of Yoga for Seniors

Namaste! Intrigued by yoga? Wondering if it’s for you? The good news is that yoga is for everyone. Whether you’re a couch potato or a seasoned athlete, yoga is a wellness practice that is adaptable for any age. Your size and fitness level do not matter when you are trying yoga for seniors, because there are modifications for every pose and classes in every style.

Why Is Yoga Good for You?  

Among the benefits of yoga are improved strength, flexibility and endurance — research shows it’s also good for your mental health. Yoga offers a holistic practice that combines physical poses with mindfulness, breathing techniques and meditation. It trains functional movements such as bending, squatting, standing and turning. Breathing and meditation calm the nervous system and encourage self-discovery. The benefits of yoga will accumulate with regular practice. While not all claims are backed by science, yoga practitioners (called “yogis”) report lower stress levels, better sleep quality and reduced anxiety. Some studies show yoga may positively affect migraines, inflammation, blood pressure, heart health, diabetes and arthritis pain.

What Yoga Type Are You?

The different styles of yoga offer you a range of choices, from more physically demanding, such as Ashtanga yoga, to gentle yoga techniques such as Yin yoga or chair yoga. Chair yoga can be an option for those with limited flexibility, balance or mobility. No matter which style you want to try, look for an instructor who has experience in leading senior yoga classes and who can adapt the poses for senior needs and bodies.

Hatha — an unhurried style which introduces breathing, meditation and basic postures.Vinyasa — energetic and repetitive flowing movements that challenge endurance.Ashtanga — highly synchronized and physically demanding movements that demand accuracy

Bikram — also known as “hot” yoga, a sequence of poses in a heated room to aid flexibility and detoxing

Iyengar — slow-paced movements with straps and blocks to help with stretching and relaxationYin —  poses held for longer periods of time to encourage relaxation and flexibility

The Benefits of Yoga for Seniors

Older adults find that over time, the flexibility and strength work in a yoga session keeps them injury-free. It helps them become more spatially aware, helping to understand and coordinate the movement of their body through space. Yoga poses are also among the best balance exercises for seniors. Holding a balance pose will slowly build strength in those muscles, while the flowing movements going into and out of the pose keep joints loose and flexible. An integral part of yoga practice is coupling the flow of energy with the flow of breath through the body. This will train your focus and concentration while meditation techniques quiet the mind and help you find an inner balance too.

What Is Chair Yoga?

Chair yoga for seniors is helpful for those with balance issues, who are frail or who need support while standing. Chair yoga provides many of the benefits of yoga without the risk of a fall. It involves the use of a chair for stability, where the person is either in a seated position or holds on to a chair for extra balance.

How Can Chair Yoga Help You?

The benefits of chair yoga center mostly around flexibility and strength, but regular practice will also improve spatial awareness, helping you to become more aware of the movements of your body and coordinating them more accurately. The slow and controlled movements assist focus and concentration, increasing your mental resilience to stress and anxiety. Group classes also provide the opportunity to make friends and socialize, leading to greater feelings of happiness and well-being.

Nine Chair Yoga Poses You Can Do Today

This sequence can be done from the comfort of a chair and is suitable for all abilities. Remember, none of these poses should hurt. Move slowly and pay attention to your body to avoid the risk of injury.

1. Choose a stable chair with a firm seat and armrests. Sit straight by imagining a string pulled out of the center of the crown of your head. Keep your feet flat on the floor.

2. Raise both arms above your head and press your palms together. Your elbows should be slightly behind your ears. Hold for five to eight breaths, breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth.

3. Separate your hands and hold them straight overhead in line with your ears. Raise both feet up until parallel with the floor. Hold for five to eight breaths.
4. Lower your feet flat to the floor. Bend forward until your chest is on your knees and place your hands the tops of your feet. Hold for five to eight breaths. Slowly sit up. Repeat two more times.

5. Bend forward with your chest on your knees and hands on the tops of your feet. Keep your left hand on your left foot as you bring your right hand up above your head, turning your body to face the right. Bring your right hand back down. Repeat this move on the other side. Repeat each side two more times.

6. Bend forward with your chest on your knees. Clasp your hands behind you. Try to stretch your shoulders by reaching your clasped hands toward the ceiling. Hold for five to eight breaths.

7. Return to your upright seated position. With feet flat on the ground, place both hands on the right-side armrest and turn your body to face the right side. Hold for five to eight breaths. Do the other side. Repeat each side two more times.

8. Return to your upright seated position. Lift both legs off the ground with toes flexed back toward you. At the same time raise both arms up overhead. You’re taking the shape of a star. Hold for five to eight breaths.

9. Return to your upright position and scoot forward slightly. Place your hands behind you on the chair seat. Use your core muscles to push your hips off the chair seat, keeping your shoulders pulled back and feet flat on the floor. Your body should be lifted in a straight line and supported by your hands and feet. Keep your head and neck relaxed by looking straight ahead. Hold for five to eight breaths.

At Lake Port Square, yoga is just one of many ways to keep your body moving! We offer daily fitness and wellness programs, an indoor pool, a fitness center, and beautiful walking paths. Explore living active and well at Lake Port Square.