5 Yoga Poses Every Older Adult Should Know
Stay active and independent for the long haul with these foundational moves.
There are a lot of misconceptions about yoga. Two such examples: You have to be flexible to do it, and it’s not really worth it unless you can commit to multiple classes per week. Both of these things are not true.
Adding even one or two yoga poses to your daily routine can help you move more freely and properly, which can help reduce the risk of falls and injuries. But not all poses are created equal.
Terecita “Ti” Blair, the 2017 SilverSneakers Instructor of the Year, recommends starting with the five poses below, which mimic everyday activities like standing up from a chair, walking up stairs, and getting into and out of a car. “They will help you maintain strength and independence, increasing your quality of life so you can stay as active as possible, as long as possible,” Blair says.
For best results, weave as many of these poses into your daily routine as you can. If you choose to perform the poses back to back, return to mountain pose between each one. If you do the poses individually, warm up your body by performing mountain pose before doing lunge or horse.
“If you have just one minute, try standing or sitting in mountain, rooting down through your feet while lifting and lowering your arms—that is yoga!” Blair says. “You are coordinating breath and movement.”
Ready to get started? Here’s your step-by-step guide. As always, safety is key. The yoga poses here may be different or more advanced than those you’ll experience in a SilverSneakers class. If you have a chronic condition (including osteoporosis), balance issues, or injuries, talk to your doctor about safe exercise. And if you’re a beginner, be sure to check out the tips to make each move easier.
Foundational Yoga Pose #1: Mountain Pose
The foundation of all yoga poses, mountain helps you find grounding. “Feeling your body in space is the single most important thing we can do,” Blair says. “From there, we can build on mountain to mimic activities of daily life.”
How to do it: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Roll your shoulders up, back, and down. Stand tall, feeling your feet rooted into the ground, and breathe deeply for three to five breaths.
Make it easier: Do the pose sitting tall in a chair.
Make it harder: Lift your arms straight up to the sky, or lift your heels to challenge your balance.
Foundational Yoga Pose #2: Chair Pose
Chair strengthens the hips and butt muscles. It also mimics the actions of sitting down and standing up from a chair, or squatting down to lift a heavy object.
How to do it: Stand in mountain pose with your feet, knees, and hips facing forward. Sit back, bending your knees and lowering your hips as if you are hovering over a chair. Keeping your weight in your heels, reach your arms forward for counterbalance. Breathe here for three to five breaths.
Make it easier: Don’t sit as low. Or practice from a chair: Pretend you’re glued in the chair and you’re trying to get up. This will activate the muscles you’re trying to strengthen.
Make it harder: Sit a little deeper, lift your arms up to the sky, or come up on your tiptoes for balancing chair.
Foundational Yoga Pose #3: Lunge Pose
This pose strengthens the core, thighs, butt, and ankles—all the muscles that keep us going up and down stairs. It also stretches your hip flexors.
How to do it: Stand in mountain pose with your feet, knees, and hips facing forward. Step back with your right foot, placing your toes on the ground and keeping your heel lifted.
From this staggered stance, bend your front (left) knee to slowly lower your body as far as comfortable. Your back leg should remain nearly straight. Place your hands on your hips, draw your lower belly in, lift your chest, and breathe here for three to five breaths. Return to mountain pose, and repeat on the other side.
Make it easier: Bend your back knee until it nearly touches the floor.
Make it harder: Reach your arms forward, up to the sky, or bent out to your sides at 90 degrees like a cactus. This will add a balance challenge.
Foundational Yoga Pose #4: Tree Pose
This is an excellent pose to work on your balance, helping reduce the risk of falls.
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How to do it: Stand in mountain pose with your feet, knees, and hips facing forward. Shift your weight into your right foot. Turn your left toes slightly out, lift your heel, and draw it toward your right foot like a kickstand. Draw you belly in for support, stand tall, and breathe for three to five breaths. Return to mountain pose, and repeat on the other side.
Make it easier: Keep your feet facing the same direction, or only lift your heel a little bit.
Make it harder: Place the sole of your lifted foot inside the calf of your standing leg. For a bigger challenge, place it on the inner thigh of your standing leg. To keep your knees safe, never place your foot on the knee of your standing leg.
Foundational Yoga Pose: #5 Horse Pose
This pose helps to open and strengthen your lower body, which can make daily actions like getting into and out of a car or bathtub easier.
How to do it: Stand in mountain pose with your feet, knees, and hips facing forward. Take a step out to the side so your feet are wide. Imagine you’re standing on a clockface, and turn your left toes out to 10:00 and right toes out to 2:00.
From here, bend your knees to lower your body as far as comfortable, keeping your hips directly below your shoulders. Keep your upper body tall and your belly engaged. Bring your hands together in front of your chest, and breathe for three to five breaths.
Make it easier: Use a chair for support. Sit tall and bring your lower body into position. Push down through your feet, and lift your butt off the chair about one inch. Hold as long as you can comfortably and then lower.
Make it harder: Lift your arms to the sky, or lift one or both heels to challenge your balance.
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