Although nutrition plays a crucial role in healthy aging, pursuing regular physical activity is one of the most important things an older adult can do for their health. Research continues to show that a sedentary lifestyle is detrimental to an older adult’s health and well-being.
Yet, despite the evidence, most seniors continue to live an idle lifestyle. Pain, chronic health conditions, and other age-related factors make exercise less appealing. It’s easier to sit and read or watch television than it is for older adults to move their aging bodies.
Fortunately, yoga offers seniors a gentler approach to exercise that aims at improving balance, flexibility, and strength. It also has been found to relieve stress and improve cognition. As we celebrate National Yoga Month this September, here are five gentle yoga postures that help seniors build strength and flexibility.
Mountain Pose is a low-impact posture that focuses attention on the breath and promotes overall body awareness. It can improve posture and alleviate back pain. Although the pose seems as if you’re just standing, you’re aligning your body: head over heart, heart over hips, hips over ankles. Begin mountain pose by standing equally on both feet. Hold your head up in a neutral position. Relax your arms and hands by your sides. Inhale and lengthen the spine, drawing the crown of your head toward the sky. Exhale, allowing your shoulders to relax away from your ears. Repeat for ten breaths.
Tree pose builds from mountain pose, and strengthens leg and abdominal muscles. It’s great for balance and improves hip mobility. Begin tree pose by standing tall in mountain pose. Inhale and place your right foot on your left calf or ankle. Beginners can simply lift their right heel off the floor, shifting their body weight ever so slightly to their left leg. As you lift your foot into position, bring your palms together in prayer position, resting your thumbs against your chest, then exhale. Alternatively, hold on to a chair for support. Hold the position for three breaths before returning your right foot to the floor. Repeat on the opposite side.
Chair pose is a powerful strength training posture that builds muscle throughout the entire legs and lower body. Begin chair pose by standing tall in mountain pose. Feet can be together or hip-distance apart, whichever is most comfortable for you. Inhale and extend both of your arms overhead with your palms facing each other. Exhale and slowly begin to bend your knees as if you were about to sit in a chair. Sit as deeply as you can, without falling over. Engage your abdominal muscles to help keep your upper body lifted tall. Hold chair pose for five to ten breaths.
Cat-cow pose warms the body and increases flexibility in the spine. This posture helps to increase oxygen to the lungs by opening the chest. Begin cat-cow pose by kneeling on the floor on your hands and knees. Place a rolled-up blanket or towel underneath your knees if you have any pain. Keep your back in a neutral spine, shoulders stacked over hands, knees underneath hips. Inhale and stretch your sternum forward into between your arms, lift your hips, lower your belly, and look forward. Exhale and press down strongly through the hands. Tuck the tailbone down while rounding your back and moving your gaze downward. Continue to flow between the two postures for ten breaths.
Boat pose strengthens the core muscles, including the hips and lower back. Many seniors neglect to strengthen and tone their core muscles. However, a strong core is necessary for balance and stability. Begin boat pose by sitting on the floor, knees bent, back straight. Roll your shoulders back and lean back, shifting your weight onto your tailbone. Hands can grip the back of the knees for support. Inhale and lift one foot off the mat, then the other so that both you are balancing on your bottom. Continue to hold on to the back of your knees as you balance in this posture, or release one hand, then the other so that your palms are beside your knees. Balance for five to ten breaths.
If you are a senior whose lifestyle has become more sedentary, know that it’s never too late to make changes. Perhaps a change you are considering is moving to an active senior living retirement community. Senior Living Solutions is here to help. We are a free, concierge service that provides unbiased guidance and resources to individuals and their families who are exploring their senior living options. Our goal is to provide alternatives to nursing home care. We have helped many seniors in the area find their next home that best meets their care needs and personal preferences. Just like someone would use a real estate agent to buy a home or a travel agent to book a trip, our agents are familiar with the nuances of the senior care environment and can give valuable input at no cost to the family. To learn more or to schedule your no-cost consultation, please contact us today by calling 501-650-3013.