A common misconception about yoga is that it is exclusively for very young, bendy and nimble people. In reality, it is one of the only activities you can do at every age; there will always be a stretch or breathing exercise that you can do, no matter how old you are.
What’s more, practising yoga over 50 is one of the most simple, accessible, and inexpensive ways you can keep your mind & body supple and resilient, as demonstrated in a yoga study published by the National Institute for Health Research.
As our bodies age, we become more prone to physical conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis, back & neck pain, joint pain, and high blood pressure. According to a study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, yoga can help to gently reduce the effects of these types of conditions by increasing flexibility and strength, improving balance and posture, and reducing stress levels. Furthermore, it is low impact, and can be done in the comfort of your own home and at your own pace.
To get started with the moves outlined below at home, you simply need a yoga mat and some comfortable clothes (take a look at Fit&Well’s edit of the best yoga mats and best workout leggings for inspiration). If you don’t have a yoga mat, a regular exercise mat or even a towel will do, although if you are doing standing yoga poses then make sure you are on a sturdy, non-slip surface. It’s also handy to have a yoga bolster or a large cushion to help support your body.
1. Supported Forward Fold
Tight back? This pose stretches out your hamstring muscles and releases your lower back. Forward folds have a calming effect throughout the central nervous system, so it also help to regulate your stress levels. Avoid this pose if you have a back injury, slipped disc or hernia.
How to do it: Start by extending both your legs straight out in front of you and place a cushion on top of them. Take a big inhalation to lengthen your spine, and then exhale folding forward. Place your arms on the cushion to support you, try to keep your legs straight and your spine long. Hold the pose for five deep breaths and then return to neutral.
2. Seated Twist
A gentle, restorative twist for your spine that stretches the small muscles between your vertebrae and increases blood flow to the area. It also helps to open and stretch your hips, as well as, generates a sense of stability and endurance. Avoid this pose if you have any knee injuries.
How to do it: Sit with your right knee pointing to your right (right toes pointing to your left), and your left knee pointing forward (left toes pointing back). Place your left hand on your right knee, and your right hand on the floor behind you. With an inhalation, lengthen your spine and with an exhalation twist to your right. Try to keep your back long and aim for a smooth, even twist throughout your spine. Hold the pose for five deep breaths and then repeat it on your second side.
3. Head-to-Knee Pose
This pose is believed to calm the mind and relieve mild depression. It stretches your spine and hamstrings, is therapeutic for high blood pressure and helps to reduce menopause symptoms. For arthritis sufferers, poses such as this help to increase range of motion significantly.
How to do it: Sit with your left leg extended out in front of you and place your right foot on your left inner thigh. Rotate your torso over your left thigh, inhale to lengthen your spine and exhale to fold forward. Try to keep your left foot actively flexed and gently press the back of your left knee down towards the floor. Hold the pose for five deep breaths and then repeat it on your second side.
4. Supported Hip Opener
As the name suggests, this pose opens your hips as well as easing sciatica pain. It also helps to reduce menopause symptoms and improves posture, which minimises joint pain. Avoid this pose if you have any knee injuries.
How to do it: Sit with the soles of your feet together and place a cushion over your feet. Inhale to lengthen your spine and exhale to fold forward, resting your arms on the cushion. Allow your knees to drop down towards the floor and feel your hips open. Hold the pose for five deep breaths and then return to neutral.
5. Supported Backbend
This pose stretches your chest and spine, as well as strengthens your upper back. It’s perfect for opening the front of your hips and counteracting all the flexion in that area (due to sitting on the sofa, sitting in your car, sitting to eat, etc). Avoid this pose if you have any back injuries.
How to do it: Lie on your front with a cushion under your chest. Prop yourself up on your forearms, ensuring they are shoulder width distance apart and parallel. Inhale to lift and extend your spine, and exhale to roll your shoulders back and down. Hold the pose for five deep breaths and then return to neutral.
Yoga over 50: top tips
For those that are completely new to yoga, it’s important that you move slowly and with awareness when completing these moves. If at any point a pose feels like too much of a stretch or doesn’t feel right, gently come out of it. Once you are in a yoga pose, try to breathe deeply & softly through your nose.
If these starter poses pique your interest, it’s worth looking for a local yoga class or teacher who can guide you through a full yoga sequence. And if you are uncertain about whether you can practice yoga, be sure to speak with your doctor. Yoga should never be painful or uncomfortable, it should be enjoyable and ultimately relaxing.
Finally, for more mid-life health and fitness inspiration, check out our expert guide on how to lose weight over 50.
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