Yoga might sound fancy and difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. Yoga for beginners is all about learning the basics. You can practice yoga in the comfort of your own home, outside in the backyard, or in a yoga studio. There are many benefits to practicing yoga, but hip health is one of the bigger ones for seniors.
Strength and flexibility exercises can help absorb shock and protect your hip joints from painful movements and further damage.
A 2021 JAMA study of women with osteoarthritis of the hip found that after 12 weeks of exercise, pain declined by 30 percent. Another study showed that hip-strengthening exercises can cut the need for hip-replacement surgery by 44 percent.
Here are more benefits of yoga for seniors:
- Better balance: Many yoga poses for seniors focus on strengthening the abdominal muscles and improving your core stability. That can help you become steadier on your feet and reduce your risk of falls.
- Improved flexibility: Yoga movements can be fantastic stretching exercises for seniors. Holding a pose for several breaths encourages your muscles and connective tissues to relax and loosen, which helps to increase your range of motion. In fact, research in the International Journal of Yoga Therapy has shown that regularly engaging in yoga can dramatically boost the overall flexibility of older adults.
- Enhanced breathing: The breathing control practices of yoga (known as pranayama) can expand your lung capacity and improve your pulmonary health. A study published in the Journal of Human Kinetics found that elderly women who practiced yoga three times a week for 12 weeks saw a significant improvement in their respiratory function.
- Stronger bones: If you’re worried about brittle bones and osteoporosis, try yoga. For older women and men, a consistent yoga routine that includes weight-bearing postures can help bolster bone strength. Some promising research has suggested that doing yoga can actually improve bone density in postmenopausal women.
- Reduced anxiety and stress: Through meditation and mindful breathing, yoga encourages you to focus on the present and find a sense of peace. Research has demonstrated that that can lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and help ease symptoms of anxiety and depression. In a National Institutes of Health survey, more than 85 percent of people who engaged in yoga said they experienced reduced stress as a result.
- Better sleep: Yoga can help alleviate sleep disturbances, which are common complaints among seniors. In a study published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, adults over age 60 who struggled with insomnia participated in yoga classes twice a week and underwent daily sessions at home. After three months, the group reported significant improvements in both the duration and overall quality of their sleep.
Ready to give yoga a try?
Here are some examples of yoga exercises for beginners.
- Child’s pose: Frequently used as a resting position, the child’s pose stretches the spine and hips as well as the lower back. It’s a good way to relax, relieve tension, and calm your mind.
- Downward-facing dog: This pose opens the chest and stretches out the calves, hamstrings, and lower back. If you have wrist problems, you can modify this pose by keeping your forearms on the ground.
- Mountain: The most basic standing pose, mountain pose helps you improve your posture and balance.
- Cat-cow: These are classic yoga movements that promote flexibility in the spine and strengthen the abdominal muscles. Cat-cow can also be done from a chair.
- Tree: The tree pose is great for building lower body strength and improving balance. Modified versions can be done while either leaning on or sitting in a chair.
- Triangle: In addition to working the hamstrings and hips, this pose also strengthens your core. It can help ease sluggish digestion and relieve lower back pain. You can also do the triangle pose while seated.
- Warrior I: This pose opens the chest and hips and strengthens your calves, ankles, and thighs. If reaching up is too difficult, keep your hands on your hips.
Bezerra, L. A., de Melo, H. F., Garay, A. P., Reis, V. M., Aidar, F. J., Bodas, A. R., Garrido, N. D., & de Oliveira, R. J. (2014). Do 12-week yoga program influence respiratory function of elderly women?. Journal of human kinetics, 43, 177–184. https://doi.org/10.2478/hukin-2014-0103
Farinatti PT, Rubini EC, Silva EB, Vanfraechem JH. Flexibility of the elderly after one-year practice of yoga and calisthenics. Int J Yoga Therap. 2014;24:71-7. PMID: 25858653.
Katz JN, Arant KR, Loeser RF. Diagnosis and Treatment of Hip and Knee Osteoarthritis: A Review. JAMA. 2021;325(6):568–578. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.22171