A must read: Yoga for senior citizens

Is yoga meant only for the young? Can the elderly also do yoga asanas?

Yoga refreshes your mind and spirit. Tones your body. Keeps your internal organs and hormonal system in balance. All the more reason for people of all ages to do yoga. In fact, yoga asanas are one of the few physical exercises you can continue doing as you age. As age progresses, it is more important to focus on HOW YOU DO rather than how much you do. 

Here are some FAQs on yoga for seniors that will help you age gracefully.

1

Can seniors (above 60 years) do yoga asanas?

 

The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit 'Yuj', which means 'to unite'. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says, “Yoga is a study of life, study of your body, breath, mind, intellect, memory, and ego. Study of your inner faculties.”

It is possible for people of all ages and all walks of life to benefit from the various techniques that yoga offers.

2

What kind of asanas should the elderly do?

 

There is a range of standing, sitting, lying down and chair yoga asanas for you to choose from. 

 

(A) Standing yoga asanas

Trikonasana (Triangle Pose) Yoga posture for seniors
  • Hip problems are routine among seniors. Trikonasana helps strengthen and stretch the hip region.
  • It helps regulate blood pressure, a common complaint amongst the elderly.

 

Katichakrasana (Standing spinal twist) yoga posture for seniors
 
  • Helps to keep the spine straight, preventing slouching.
  • Helps strengthen the arm and leg muscles, ensuring that seniors are firm on their feet.

 

 

 

(B) Sitting yoga asanas

  • Helps clear bowel movements, thus regulating digestion.
  • Stretches the thighs and knees, reducing joint stiffness and pain.

 

Shishuasana (Child Pose) for Elderly Beginners
 

 

  • Calms the nervous system.
  • Relaxes the back, helping to relieve back aches.

 

 

 

  • Makes the spine flexible, reducing the stiffness that comes with age.
  • Releases back pain.
  • Massages the digestive organs and improves digestion.
  • Tones the abdomen.
  • Improves blood circulation.
  • Relaxes the mind.

You may also do body rotations, if possible.

 

(C) Yoga poses lying on the back or stomach

Bhujangasana (Cobra pose) yoga asana for seniors
 

Bhujangasana (Cobra pose)

 

  • Improves blood circulation that weakens with age.
  • Strengthens the back and shoulders, helping seniors feel more energetic.

 

 
  • Tones the neck and back muscles, increasing flexibility.
  • Tones the abdominal organs, improving digestion.

 

 

 

 

  • Releases flatulence, a common digestive issue among seniors.
  • Increases blood circulation to the hip joints, releasing tension in the area.

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(D) Chair yoga for senior citizens

These are also called desktop yoga poses. Seniors and office-goers may find it convenient as these asanas can be done while sitting on a chair. Neck roll, cow stretch, seated forward bend, eagle arms, seated spinal twist and temple rub are all chair yoga asanas that have immense benefits.

  • Chair yoga relaxes the neck and back muscles, releasing pent up stress.
  • Helps alleviate body pain, tension and fatigue.
  • Increases flexibility enabling seniors to bend and reach the toes.
  • Helps co-ordinate body movements and improves sense of balance.
  • Increases overall muscle strength​. 

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(E) Yoga Nidra or Yogic Sleep

Yoga Nidra is, by far, the most essential part of any yoga practice. As you grow older, it becomes even more essential to assimilate its benefits into your system.  

3

Are there any easy yoga asanas for senior   beginners?

You may practice Sukshma yoga independently or as part of a larger yoga plan. Sukshma yoga will help people of all ages. It includes simple exercises for the eyes, jaws, neck and hands. And only takes seven minutes!

4

How should the elderly practice yoga?

 

The Patanjali Yoga Sutras define asana as "Sthira Sukham Asana." That which is stable and comfortable is an asana. Any posture done with awareness in a stable and comfortable manner constitutes an asana. Keep this in mind when performing asanas.

5

How does yoga for seniors differ from general yoga?

The yoga asanas suggested for an elderly person may be the same as those for a younger individual. The difference lies in the effort and time spent in a posture, and the flexibility involved. However, if you have high endurance levels, you will be able to perform the cardiovascular movements and abdominal exercises to satisfaction.

6

Do yoga asanas boost immunity in the elderly?

 

Here again, the Patanjali Yoga Sutras provide a clue. "Heyam Dukham Anaagatam.” It means, ‘Avoid the misery that has not yet come.’ As we grow older, the efficiency of the immune system deteriorates, paving the way for various diseases. Regular practice of yoga techniques such as asanas, pranayama and meditation can help avoid these conditions. So make your life happier and more fulfilling with yoga.

7

Am I getting my yoga practice right?

 

You are the best judge of this. Check your inner gauge which is your smile-o-meter. Just do as much as you can, with a smile. That is the best indicator of whether you are doing it right or not.

8

What are the different benefits of yoga for seniors? 

  • Yoga helps keep the joints steady and flexible.
  • Helps maintain healthy bones and muscles.
  • Improves digestion and clears bowel movements.
  • Regulates blood pressure.

 

Perhaps, one of the best things about yoga for seniors is the chance to mingle and bond with others. This priceless addition keeps the mind engaged and happy, alleviating depression and loneliness. Enjoy your yoga at any age. Just keep some guidelines in mind.

9

What precautions should seniors take?

 

  • Substitute warm ups with brisk walking and joint movements.
  • Practice yoga under a trained yoga teacher and discuss your ailments with him/her.
  • Focus on repeating poses rather than holding any posture.
  • Rest adequately after each pose.
  • Make sure that your body has adjusted to your daily yoga routine before trying out new asanas. 

 

Regular practice of yoga asanas, pranayama and meditation can lead to a happier and more fulfilling life. Yoga will not just tone your body, but will also uplift your mind. Your attitude will improve. You will think and feel young. And remember, you are as young as you feel!

You may explore the ancient holistic and natural medicine system of Ayurveda. It is also an effective measure to improve the body's strength and endurance.

Yoga helps develop the body and mind, bringing a lot of health benefits. Even so, it is not a substitute for medicine. It is important to learn and practice yoga postures under the supervision of a trained yoga teacher. In case of any medical condition, practice yoga postures after consulting a doctor, and a Sri Sri Yoga teacher.

Find a Sri Sri Yoga program at an Art of Living Center near you.

Do you need information on programs? Would you like to share your feedback? Write to us at info@srisriyoga.in

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Founded in 1981 by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar,The Art of Living is an educational and humanitarian movement engaged in stress-management and service initiatives. Read More