The best yoga poses for elderly people

The best yoga poses for elderly people

It’s never too late to try something new (Picture: Getty)

Yoga is a great form of exercise as it can be adapted to suit anyone.

Though the stereotype is that you need to be super flexible and able to move in and out of complex poses with ease, most yoga teachers will tell you that’s not the reality.

Yoga can be modified and tailored, depending on your skill and physical capabilities.

And the benefits are far-reaching – as it’s been said to help mental health, building strength and balance, and alleviate pain or stiffness.

For elderly people, specifically, the practice has been found to reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis, while the University of Edinburgh have looked into how yoga can benefit mental health and sleep in old age.

Recently, the world’s oldest cricketer, Eileen Ash, put her long life down to ‘yoga and happiness’ – and she’s 110 years old.

Melissa Mace, senior yoga teacher with Yoga Alliance Professionals, tells ‘Taking care of our body and health becomes even more important as we get older.

‘For senior practitioners, yoga can help to improve balance, strength, and joint mobility, all of which can weaken in our later years.

‘Yoga breathing exercises keep the lungs strong and healthy, while yoga poses create stronger bones and improve blood circulation, which is crucial for overall health and wellbeing.

‘For older students who are just starting out, I recommend five poses.

‘These poses are variations of traditional yoga, or as I call it “pre-yoga”, to ensure you are working safely and maximising the benefit to your needs.’

It’s never too late to try something new – here are the five moves Melissa recommends:

Tree pose

Melissa Mace shows how to do it (Picture: Melissa Mace)

You can try lifting your foot off the ground if you have good balance.

Melissa says: ‘This pose brings balance, posture and strength.

‘If you feel wobbly do this pose with one hand on the wall, and work up gradually starting with the toe still on the floor. You can practice even distribution of weight by pressing through all four corners of your foot.

‘Also correct alignment of the spine by imagining a string on the crown of your head drawing you up.’

Start by standing tall with your feet placed together.

Remaining focused, gradually move your weight onto your left foot, bringing your right foot up your left leg.

The sole of your right foot should sit on the inside of your left thigh. Place your hands together and balance for six breaths. Switch feet. 


Use a wall to take out the heat (Picture: Melissa Mace)

Try this instead of a push up.

‘This pose is a little bit like a yoga push up and doing it standing up on the wall rather than the floor ensure we can use the right muscles and not compromise the posture,’ she says.

‘It will strengthen the upper body and the core muscles and is also good for learning about control, positioning the body correctly, body awareness.’

Keep the natural curve of your spine while you lower the body towards the wall and back up.

The elbows should stay at your lower ribs, the shoulders relaxed as the body uses the core strength.

Face a wall with your feet about a foot away, and your feet hip-width apart. Press your palms into the wall, just below shoulder height.

Keep your elbows close your side as you push away from the wall. As you do this movement, engage your shoulders and keep your chest up. 

Right angle pose

Switch to this if Downward Dog is out of your practice (Picture: Melissa Mace)

This is a variation of Downward Dog.

Melissa says: ‘You will need a wall to do this pose. This pose lengthens and strengthens hamstrings and calf muscles, shoulders, triceps and more.

‘The aim of this pose is to open up the upper body creating better blood flow lymphatic drainage and also improved posture.’

Stand in front of a wall with your palms placed against the wall, shoulder-width apart and your wrists at least at hip height.

Gradually walk away from the wall, straightening your arms and keeping your palms pushed down into the wall.

When your feet are underneath your hips, lower your head and breathe deeply. 

Cat and camel

Flex your back (Picture: Melissa Mace)

This can help a stiff back when done carefully.

She adds: ‘This pose will strengthen joints and muscles, while improving flexibility of the spine and posture.

‘You can place a pillow under your knees for comfort and make a fist if your hands and wrists are stiff.

‘Once in position slowly alternate between gently arching and rounding the back.’

Begin on all fours in a neutral position.

As you exhale, gradually sink your back down, your belly falling toward the floor. At the same time lift your head up to the sky, and stick your tailbone upward.

Breathing in, slowly tuck your head and tailbone in as you lift your belly, creating an arch in the spine. 

Child’s pose

A resting pose (Picture: Melissa Mace)

Child’s pose is the ultimate resting pose.

‘This pose brings fresh blood flow to the head and releases tension in the lower back. Try using a cushion behind your knees if needed,’ Melissa says.

On all fours, gradually spread your knees wide and push your hips back until your belly lies between your thighs.

Let your head rest on the floor, or a cushion, and relax your shoulders, jaw and eyes.

You can either leave your arms stretched out above your head, or bring your arms to your side. 

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