Yoga over 50: five moves to improve flexibility and build muscle

These yoga over 50 positions promote movement, develop strength, and protect your mind

Yoga Over 50
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Taking up yoga over 50 is a great way to stay active, maintain strength, and promote wellbeing. There's this idea that yoga is all about becoming flexible, and while that is one of the benefits, there's a lot more to the practice than stretches.

Rolling out one of the best yoga mats and taking a short session each day can be a great way to start your morning, unwind after work, and helps build core strength, promote posture, and can have positive effects on your mind.

It doesn't take long to see results either, with one review published in the journal Advances in Geriatric Medicine and Research (opens in new tab) noting that just 45 minutes of practice a week might be enough.

Whether you're new to yoga or want to shake up your routine, we've put together a five-move plan for yoga over 50 to get you started. You don't need any equipment for these restorative poses either, so you can fit them in whenever you have a few spare moments.

1. Supported forward fold

Supported Forward Fold

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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.

  • Extend 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

Seated Twist

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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, and generates a sense of stability and endurance. Avoid this pose if you have any knee injuries.

  • 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

Head-to-Knee Pose

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This pose stretches your spine and hamstrings, and is thought to reduce menopause symptoms and promote cardiovascular health. For arthritis sufferers, poses such as this may help increase your range of motion.

  • 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

Supported Hip Opener

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As the name suggests, this pose opens your hips and may ease sciatica lower-back pain. It also helps to reduce menopause symptoms and improves posture, which minimises joint pain. Avoid this pose if you have any knee injuries.

  • 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

Supported Backbend

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This pose stretches your chest and spine, and 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.

  • 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 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. If you enjoyed this routine, you could add these anti-aging yoga moves to your practice too.

Born in Hong Kong and based in London, Sarah Highfield is a leading yoga teacher and writer, as well as the founder of Yogagise Yoga. Sarah has been practising yoga since 2003 and teaching yoga since 2015. She has taught at prominent studios including Bodyism & Yogabambam Hong Kong. She also leads yoga teacher trainings, as well as at high profile events including Om Yoga Show London and World Yoga Festival. Additionally, Sarah runs her own yoga retreats, alongside collaborations with Helios Retreats, Lululemon, London Fashion Week, Mortimer House & Catherine’s in Antigua. She has also featured broadly across high profile print and online media. Sarah believes there is a style of yoga for everyone and encourages students to discover what works for them. In her free time, she is a big foodie, loves to travel and spends as much time as possible with family and friends.