The Health Benefits of Yoga for Seniors

While it’s no surprise that regular exercise can help improve your overall health and well-being, it can be difficult to find age-appropriate exercise as you get older.  Your body moves differently as you age, and you may no longer be able to do the same activities you did at a younger age.  However, this is not a reason to eliminate exercise from your daily routine.  Instead, it’s merely an opportunity to explore different forms of exercise.


Yoga offers numerous benefits in all areas of your health, including your mental, physical, and social well-being.  Here are some key advantages:


  1. Improved Flexibility and Mobility

Age you age, it’s no secret that you aren’t as quick and nimble as you once were.  Age-related conditions, such as arthritis, may have you feeling stiff and rigid.  Much like the tin man, you find yourself in need of a little oil to get things moving again.  Yoga can act as the vital “oil” you need to improve flexibility in joints and muscles, helping to reduce stiffness and enhance mobility.


  1. Increased Strength

Increased strength is most commonly associated with weightlifting.  However, even simple, low-intensity yoga poses are extremely beneficial in building overall strength.  Yoga poses require the use of body weight for resistance, which helps to engage your muscles and build strength.  Yoga is especially known for developing core strength, which is essential for balance and stability.  Improving your core helps reduce the risk of falls and injuries, which is particularly important for aging seniors.


  1. Better Balance and Posture

Poor balance and poor posture are two of the contributing factors that often lead to falls and injuries.  Yoga focuses on alignment and helps you to develop an awareness of the body through postural poses and breathing techniques.  Over time, and through practice and consistency, you can enhance balance.


  1. Relaxation and Stress Reduction

Health, finances, home responsibilities, and relationships are among the most common sources of stress for seniors.  In fact, elders aged 85 and older are more vulnerable to stress and depression than any other age group.  Yoga is a powerful tool for anyone battling anxiety, depression, insomnia, or other stress-related issues.  A main component of yoga is breathing exercises, or pranayama.  When paired together with mindfulness exercises, yoga is an effective tool for promoting relaxation and reducing stress levels.


  1. Pain Management

In conjunction with conventional medicine, alternative therapies can be used to help with pain management.  Yoga is recognized as one of the many disciplines used in complementary medicine.  Regular yoga has been shown to alleviate chronic pain conditions like back pain, joint pain, and headaches.  Gentle stretching and strengthening exercises targeting areas of discomfort help to ease pain and provide comfort for many seniors.  Furthermore, many of the relaxation, breathing, and meditation techniques used in yoga can help alleviate discomfort associated with chronic pain.


  1. Social Engagement

One out of four seniors, aged 65 and older, are considered to be socially isolated.  Factors such as poor health, hearing loss, chronic illness, living alone, and loss of family and/or friends compound the feelings of loneliness and isolation.  This impacts both physical and mental health, putting an individual at risk for dementia and other serious medical conditions.  Participating in group yoga classes can help provide social interaction and a sense of community for individuals.  This is especially important for seniors who fall into the 25% that experience loneliness and isolation.


  1. Heart Health

Gentle Flow Yoga combines deep breathing, stretching, and relaxed posture to help relax and rejuvenate you, by bringing serenity to your mind and body.  Such practices can help lower blood pressure, reduce heart rate, and improve cardiovascular function over time.  With seniors, ages 65 and older, being more at risk for coronary heart disease and heart failure, yoga is a beneficial way to improve cardiovascular function over time.


  1. Enhance Respiratory Function

Yoga places a strong emphasis on various breathing techniques known as pranayama.  These breathing techniques help to improve respiratory efficiency by expanding the lunch capacity and controlling breathing patterns.  Poses that open up the chest, such as the Cobra Pose of the Bridge Pose, can allow you to take fuller and deeper breaths.  Individuals with COPD and asthma can especially benefit from exercises that enhance breath control.


Although yoga has many health benefits, it’s still important to remember that you should consult with a physician before beginning any new exercise program.  Beginners should work under the guidance of a qualified instructor to ensure proper form.  Instructors can help tailor your workout and routine to ensure that you are doing all poses and breathing techniques safely and effectively.