September is the National Yoga month. Yoga is incredible for an older population to help them maintain their balance, keep their joints flexible, maintain bone health and muscle mass, as well as learn how to cope with their mental state as they witness their bodies aging.
Yoga is great for focus, concentration, and emotional wellbeing. Seniors can benefit tremendously from the practice and it gives them a place to quiet their mind and start to slow down in life. Group classes are also wonderful for an older population because it gives them a sense of purpose and community.
If you work with an older population or are a senior yourself, use these poses three to four times a week to keep the body strong and youthful. You can use a chair for helping your balance.
1. Mountain Pose
Helps with balance and grounding through the feet. Stand tall with big toes touching and heels together. Draw your abdominals in and up and relax your shoulders down and back. Breathe five to eight breaths while actively engaging your leg muscles. It’s a great pose for seniors as their postures start to slouch, and also good for keeping the feet healthy and strong.
2. Tree Pose
Excellent for leg and abdominal strength. Good for seniors to do for balance and concentration. It’s ok for the leg to be lower on the inner standing leg. Stand tall, and place one foot on the opposite inner thigh, either above or below the knee. Open the leg to the side, bring your hands to prayer, and stay for five to eight breaths.
3. Bird Dog
Good for abdominals and back support. The health of the spine is extremely important as we age. Bird Dog is great for strengthening the transverse abdominals and the back body. Start kneeling, and stretch one arm forward and the opposite leg back. Imagine you have a tea cup on your back and draw your belly button towards your spine. Stay for a breath, then switch sides. Repeat five times.
4. Downward Facing Dog
A Down Dog a day keeps the doctor away. Great for joint health, flexibility, and all-over body strength. For seniors with wrist issues, I have them do Forearm Downward Dog instead. Start on hands and knees, tuck your toes under, and lift your hips up and back until your body forms a triangle. Use your core strength and legs to bring the weight back as much as possible.Stay for five to eight breaths, lower down, and repeat two more times.
Excellent for upper back strength and preventing forward head syndrome. I love to have my seniors do extension to keep their hearts open and their upper backs strong. Sphinx is gentle enough and really does a great job of opening up the chest and working the rear deltoids. Lie down on your stomach and place your forearms on the mat, elbows under your shoulders. Press firmly into the arms and draw your shoulder blades together and down your back. Lift your abdominals in and up and stay for five to eight breaths.
6. Cobbler’s Pose
This is a great way for seniors to keep their hips open and massage their feet. Sit tall and bring the soles of the feet together as you open your knees out to the sides. Fold forward for a deeper stretch but try to prevent rounding too much in the lower back. Hold for five to eight breaths.
Finish by lying on your back in final relaxation. Seniors need their rest as much as anyone else, and it’s good for them to get comfortable with letting go more often throughout the day. Savasana resets the nervous system and helps with restoring peace to the body and mind. Lie down and let the floor support you. Completely relax the muscles and breathe as you lie there and take a deep, restorative break.
Whether you’re getting on in life or not, all of these postures are beneficial for us to use for better body awareness, strength, and longevity in the bones, muscles, joints, and organs.
The breath is also key to keeping a young outlook and reducing stress. Deep, full breaths flood the body with oxygen and life force and help us stay young at heart, mind, body, and spirit.
It’s always recommended to consult your primary physician before practicing any of these yoga exercises.