group of seniors practicing yoga in a senior living community

5 Best Beginner Yoga Exercises for Seniors

Yoga offers many benefits, including increased flexibility, strengthened muscles and improved balance. Some people can be intimidated by the Sanskrit names, but nothing in yoga is difficult to understand. Take it slow, start with the basics, focus on good form, and you’ll start to reap the rewards. But before we explain the best beginner yoga exercises for seniors, there is one piece of form advice that adds stability to any pose, uddiyana bandha.

Uddiyana Bandha

This is a Sanskrit term for a lower abdomen “lock.” To achieve this, you engage your lower core muscles. It helps to think of pulling your belly button back toward your spine. This lock provides support to the lower back during yoga poses and strengthens your core simultaneously. If you’re unfamiliar with this level of muscle engagement, it may take some practice before this lock becomes second nature. Be patient with yourself and simply return to it if your muscles slacken.

5 Best Beginner Yoga Exercises for Seniors

1. Mountain Pose

Mountain pose is a foundational yoga pose, and many other moves grow from it. To an outside party, it can look like “just standing there,” but the attention to alignment and muscle engagement benefits your body and helps you grow your practice. (And because it looks like “just standing there,” you can practice this posture almost anywhere.)

Stand with your feet hip-width apart (as your strength and balance grow, you can bring your feet flush together). Lift your toes to make sure you’re distributing your weight evenly through your feet, not clenching in your toes.

Aim for a straight spine — no arching. Draw your tailbone down toward the earth. Your uddiyana bandha lock should help you achieve this alignment.

Draw your shoulder blades together and down the spine. Your neck is an extension of your spine, so tilt your chin very slightly down and reach the crown of the head upward to straighten.

You can keep your arms down at your side, palms facing forward. Or you can press them together in a prayer position at the heart.

Mountain pose is one of the best beginner yoga exercises for seniors. Don’t underestimate this subtle posture. You can get a lot out of it.

2. Tree Pose

Tree pose is a balancing yoga pose, so build strength and focus on form as you grow this posture. Ultimately, you’ll stand in mountain pose and slowly shift your weight to one leg. Remain careful not to collapse through your hip or lock your knee. You’ll lift one foot off the ground, grasp your lifted knee with your hands, and hug it into your chest. Slide a hand down to your ankle and bring your foot to the inside of the opposite thigh. You can keep your hands in a prayer position at the heart or raise them overhead as if you’re holding a big beach ball.

If you’re building strength, start by shifting your weight to one leg but leaving the toe of the other foot on the ground as a kickstand. As that becomes easier, lift your foot to the inside shin of the opposite leg. Use a wall or chair for extra support if you need it.

3. Cat-Cow Pose

Cat-cow pose provides increased flexibility in your spine. Start on your hands and knees in a tabletop position. Find your uddiyana bandha lock to protect your lower back and pull your shoulders down and away from your ears.

On an inhale, press your chest forward and your sit bones upward and allow your belly to drop. On an exhale, tuck your tailbone in and arch your back upward. Repeat, following the pattern of your breath.

If a tabletop position is uncomfortable for your body, you can sit straight in a chair and flex and arch your back in the same way.

4. Chair Pigeon Pose

Tight hips often contribute to back or knee issues, but this posture stretches through the hip flexors to give you better range of motion over time. Traditional pigeon pose is done on the floor, but a better place to start is sitting in a chair.

Sit straight with your feet flat on the floor and your legs at right angles. Lift one leg off the ground and bend it over the other leg, so your ankle is sitting on top of the opposite knee. Flex your toes to protect your knees. Keeping your back straight, lean forward until you feel a good stretch in your hip. Repeat on the other side.

5. Chair Spinal Twist

Sit straight with your feet flat on the floor and your legs at right angles. Inhale and raise your arms over your head. On an exhale, lower them and simultaneously twist to the right, gently turning to look over your right shoulder. Grab hold of the chair back behind you with your right hand and press your left hand lightly against your right leg. In this position, inhale to sit up a little taller, then exhale to deepen your twist if it feels right. Carefully untwist, then do the same on the left side.Yoga can contribute to an active lifestyle and overall wellness. At The Buckingham, our regular yoga class covers many of the best beginner yoga exercises for seniors, and helpful instructors can help you grow your practice. If you decide yoga isn’t for you, you’ll find plenty of other options on our activities calendar. If you’d like to find out more, reach out to us.