The best yoga poses for older people

Happy older people doing yoga

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

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

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

Yoga can be modified and tailored depending on your skills and physical ability.

And the benefits are far-reaching – as it is said to help mental health, build strength and balance and relieve pain or stiffness.

Specifically for older people, practice has been shown to reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis, while the University of Edinburgh has studied how yoga can benefit mental health and sleep in old age.

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

Melissa Mace, senior yoga teacher at 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 improve balance, strength and joint mobility, all of which can be weakened in our later years.

‘Yoga breathing exercises keep the lungs strong and healthy, while yoga postures create stronger bones and improve blood circulation, which is essential for overall health and well-being.

‘For older students who have just started, I recommend five positions.

‘These positions are variations of traditional yoga, or as I call it’ pre-yoga ‘, to ensure you work safely and maximize the benefits for your needs.’

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

Wood pose

Melissa makes wooden bag

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

You can try to lift your foot off the ground if you have a good balance.

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

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

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

Start by standing tall with your feet placed together.

Stay focused, gradually shift your weight onto your left foot, and bring your right foot up into your left leg.

Your right sole of the foot should sit on the inside of your left thigh. Place your hands together and balance in six breaths. Change feet.


Melissa laver Chaturanga

Use a wall to remove the heat (Photo: Melissa Mace)

Try this instead of a push up.

“This pose is a bit like a yoga push-up, and doing it standing on the wall instead of the floor ensures that we can use the right muscles and not compromise the posture,” she says.

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

Hold the natural curve of your spine as you lower your body against the wall and back up.

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

Stand against 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 to the side as you push away from the wall. While doing this movement, engage your shoulders and keep your chest up.

Right angle pose

Melissa makes a right-angled position

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

This is a variation of Downward Dog.

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

“The goal of this pose is to open the upper body and create better blood flow by lymph drainage and also improved posture.”

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

Gradually walk away from the wall, straighten your arms and keep your palms pushed down into the wall.

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

Cat and camel

Melissa makes cat and camel

Bend your back (Photo: Melissa Mace)

This can help a stiff back when done carefully.

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

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

‘When in position, slowly alternate between gently arching and rounding your back.’

Begin on all fours in a neutral position.

As you exhale, gradually lower your back down and your abdomen will fall to the floor. At the same time, lift your head up towards the sky and stick your tailbone upwards.

Inhale, slowly pushing your head and tailbone in while lifting your abdomen, creating an arch in the spine.

The child’s position

Melissa does child positions

A resting position (Photo: Melissa Mace)

The position of the child is the ultimate resting position.

This position brings fresh blood flow to the head and releases tension in the lower back. Try to use a pillow behind your knees if necessary, “says Melissa.

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

Let your head rest on the floor or a pillow, and relax in your shoulders, jaws and eyes.

You can either leave your arms outstretched over your head or bring your arms to your side.

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