While you may associate yoga with the kind of contortions that seem best suited to younger more flexible bodies, yoga is one of the best exercise routines you could add to your senior wellness program.
In addition to aiding in general fitness, yoga can help combat some of the side effects of aging like loss of balance and strength. Yoga breathing can help increase lung capacity and even the simplest poses can improve your posture, reduce stress, and help you get a better night’s sleep.
Yoga can fit into any senior wellness program, no matter your physical ability.
With the increasing popularity of yoga among Americans, most studios or health centers offer classes that cater to older adults at all levels with alternatives that range from breathing exercises to chair poses. Check to see if your local senior center or retirement community offers yoga for senior wellness.
Keeping up a Program
While a class setting with professional instruction is the best way to learn poses, you can keep up your routine at home in your senior living apartment. To help you stick to your senior wellness regimen, we’ve picked out three of the easiest and best poses for simple stretching and relaxation.
You’ll probably want to start on a mat or thick blanket to cushion your joints on most of these poses.
Easy Pose (Sukhasana)
As the name suggests, this pose is a great way to relax and a simple move for a beginner.
- Fold your blanket or use a thicker mat for this one. You want at least six inches of firm support. Start out by sitting close to the edge of your blanket or mat and stretch your legs out in front of you on the floor.
- Cross your legs at the shins, so you’re sitting Indian style with your spine straight. You want your folded legs to form a triangle between your thighs and crossed shins.
- Keep your arms relaxed. You can place your hands in your lap or lay them on your knees. You can hold this pose as long as you like, but make sure you do alternate which way you’ve crossed your legs.
Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
This pose is probably one of the most well-known— and it’s a great move to help older adults start off their day on the right foot.
- Start out on your hands and knees flat on the mat with your knees in line with your hips and your hands just forward of your shoulders.
- Exhale and slowly lift your knees from the floor, keeping your knees bent and hands on the mat. Straighten and lengthen your body as you rise.
- As your legs reach their full extension, straighten them out (but don’t lock your knees) and flatten your heels against the floor.
- Hold the pose for a minute, making sure that your back is straight and your arms extended. Don’t hang your head but keep it straight between your upper arms.
Cat Pose (Marjaryasana)
This move helps cats wake up and stretch out after a long nap, and it can help you too.
- Start on your hands and knees much like you did for the downward facing dog. Keep your back straight and make sure your knees are set directly below your hips and your arms are in line all the way from your shoulders. Keep your head straight, eyes looking at the floor.
- Round your spine toward the ceiling on an exhale, keeping your shoulders and knees in position. Let your head drop toward the floor, but don't force your chin to your chest.
- Hold for a few moments then inhale and return to the neutral position on your hands and knees.
Be sure to speak to your health care provider before trying yoga, especially if you are starting out from a sedentary lifestyle or suffer from chronic conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure. If you have spinal disk problems or glaucoma you should not practice yoga without instruction as there are poses you should avoid moves that require twists or inversions.