Yoga for Seniors – 3 Benefits and Exercises You Can Do
You might think that “yoga” and “senior citizen” don’t belong in the same sentence. When you see ads for yoga studios, the students (and teachers) are young, fit and toned. However, there’s no age limit for yoga. Read on to learn three of the benefits of yoga for seniors as well as exercises you can do on your own.
Benefit 1: It Keeps Your Mind Sharp
Many people do yoga as a form of exercise. That’s a great reason to do yoga, but don’t forget that yoga is just as good for your brain.
Yoga forces you to take time out of your day and breathe. You focus more on the world around you and feel a sense of centredness. And when you feel centered, you have more energy. You don’t feel tired and distracted. Not being tired and distracted means you’re more alert and your brain stays sharper.
Benefit 2: It Strengthens Bones
As you age, your bones weaken. Osteoporosis and low bone density plague many seniors. Fortunately, you don’t have to fall prey to that problem.
Yoga for seniors can actually strengthen your bones. Studies show that the weight-bearing exercises you perform when you do yoga makes your bones stronger and less fragile. Furthermore, they reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
Benefit 3: It Improves Your Balance and Stamina
As we age, our strength and balance diminish. Falls are a leading cause of injury and death amongst the elderly.
Fortunately, yoga for seniors can change those statistics. Many yoga exercises are about holding a specific pose, which helps you work on your balance (so you don’t fall). In addition to strengthening bones, yoga tones muscles so you feel stronger. More powerful muscles mean your body can better support its own weight, and that means fewer falls.
Chair Yoga: Excellent Exercises for Seniors
If you’ve scoffed at the idea of yoga because you think the poses are too difficult to get into, think again. People of every age can do yoga. You still might not be convinced, though. In that case, check out chair yoga.
What is chair yoga? It’s simply doing yoga poses from the comfort of your own chair. “How can I get the same benefits of yoga if I’m only doing it from a chair?” you ask. The poses you can do will still strengthen your muscles and bones as well as make you more focused and mentally sharp.
Yoga Chair Poses for Seniors
There are a number of chair yoga poses that are easy to do, even if you’ve never done yoga before!
As with every exercise routine, you should always start by warming up. There are two great warm-up poses: the candle and the raise hands pose. The candle pose involves sitting as straight as possible. Raise your hands over your head so your palms touch and your arms form two sides of a triangle. Hold the pose for a maximum of 30 seconds (remember, if a pose is uncomfortable, don’t do it!). The raise hands pose involves putting your hands straight up in the air and raising your legs so they’re parallel to the floor. Try to hold this pose for 30 seconds.
After the warm-up, there are a few other poses you can do. There’s the hip-hugger, which targets the muscles in your behind, your hips and your lower back. Cross your left ankle over your right leg while keeping your right foot on the floor. Hold your ankle with your right hand to stabilize, then keeping your back straight, slowly bend forwards so you’re leaning over your legs. Try to hold the pose for three deep breaths, then switch legs so you cross your right ankle over your left leg.
There’s also the extended side angle pose. Keep your feet firmly planted on the ground and extend your arms so that they’re straight. Lean down so your right-hand touches your right foot (or it gets as close as possible). You want your head to be parallel to the ground and your left hand to still be extended and up in the air. Hold the pose for a maximum of 30 seconds, and repeat it three times per side.
To stretch your neck, try the neck opener. Sit straight in your chair. Your feet should be flat on the floor. Reach your left hand behind your back, then hold your left wrist with your right hand. Pull your left arm gently to the right. While you’re doing that, tilt your head towards your right shoulder. Then, look up at the ceiling. Next, you’ll look forward and down. Take one full, deep breath as your head changes positions. Repeat the cycle for 30 seconds, and then switch sides.
Before starting any physical fitness regimen, talk to your doctor to learn if there are any precautions you should take or any limitations you should be aware of. Chair yoga is a great way to feel stronger and more alert. What are you waiting for? Pull up a chair!