Exploring the Benefits of Yoga for Senior Citizens

Aging brings several changes in our body. Our physiology undergoes1 a lot of changes, which can reflect in the form of weakening muscles, decrease in bone density, greying hair, sagging skin, breathing problems, and many other changes. Most of these changes are natural and may not be problematic, but a few changes like weakening muscles can cause problems, including mobility issues. Yoga is a good way for elderly to overcome the challenges that come with aging.

Major Benefits of Yoga for Senior Citizens

Yoga offers several benefits for elderly. Elderlies who practice yoga regularly can benefit a lot. Usually, these benefits are:

1. Improved agility

As we grow older, our bone density decreases, putting many aging people at an increased risk of osteoporosis1. This often causes older people to fall, leading to fractures. Yoga poses are a good way for older adults to strengthen their bone and build balance.

Arthritis – which affects 31% of the older adults (65+ years) in the US, makes movement difficult. Research shows yoga benefits older people with osteoporosis2,3 and arthritis4.

2. Manage chronic conditions, including diabetes type 2, hypertension

58% of older adults (65+ years) and 27% of older adults (65+ years) suffer from hypertension and diabetes type 2, respectively in the US*. Both, increase in blood pressure and blood sugar levels, can be attributed to declining physiological changes as we grow old.1 Seniors who suffer from hypertension often experience pain in the chest, difficulty in climbing stairs, etc. Several studies have reported that meditation can modestly lower blood pressure.5

Similarly, another showed elderly people with diabetes type 2, had decreased blood sugar after 3 months of yoga practice6.

3. Better mood and less anxiety

Yoga is relaxing. It calms mind and body. A study shows elderly women who practiced yoga, including asanas, pranayama, and relaxation had decreased levels of depression and anxiety. They had good levels of self-esteem and overall better mental health.7

4. Weigh Management

Yoga is a good way to keep body in shape. However, all yoga asanas might not be suitable for older adults, as many require twisting and turning. Yoga helps burn calories, increase muscle mass, and even tone. 8

5. Relieve breathing problems

Pulmonary problems are common in older adults. 11% older adults in the US suffer from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)*. Older adults who suffer from COPD often experience breathlessness, frequent coughing, and tightness in the chest. Research shows elderly who practiced yoga and pranayama saw improvement in their lung function and reduction] dyspnea (which is shortness of breath).9

Yoga Poses for Senior Citizens

When we think about yoga, we usually imagine convoluted poses, which require twisting and turning body parts. However, all yoga poses are not complex. Some are simple poses as well. Still, performing yoga isn’t easy for elderlies, especially for those who are experiencing painful symptoms like body pain or mobility issues. There are a few simple yoga poses that seniors can perform and reap health benefits, without much turning and twisting their body part.

Note: If you’re in pain, it’s important that you take your GP’s advice before doing any yoga poses.

1. Tree Pose (Vrikshasana) 

Tree Pose is helpful in improving balance. It stretches ligaments and helps tighten abdominal muscles. For elderlies, who experience lack of strength while walking or spend most of their time seating, this is a good yoga pose to regain balance.

2. Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

Mountain Pose helps strengthen legs, spine and back. For seniors who experience frequent back pain, this could be a good yoga pose. But, before trying any yoga pose, consult your doctor.

3. Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)

Cobra Pose activates upper body muscles, including shoulders, chest, and upper back. It is an excellent pose to straighten spine. It also tones buttocks. It increases lung capacity and expands rib cage.

3. Corpse Pose (Savasana)

Corpse Pose is usually the last pose of yoga routine. It’s a restorative pose, meaning it helps calm the body after all the poses you’ve performed.

4. Cobbler’s Pose (Baddha Konasana)

Cobbler’s pose or butterfly pose strengthens back and stimulates prostate organs. This pose may not be good for older adults who’re experiencing knee pain. So, discretion is advised.

Conclusion

As we age, multiple physical health problems begin to arise, which often reduce the quality of life for senior citizens. Yoga has proven beneficial in most of the aging-related problems, be it COPD, arthritis, diabetes, or any other problems. For elderlies, who’re looking to improve their quality of life – yoga is a good way.