Older adults in seated twist pose
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Best Yoga Poses for Healthy Aging According to Yoga Teachers

A growing body of research is demonstrating what yogis around the world have known for centuries – yoga is great for healthy aging!  Yoga helps with strength, balance, and mobility as well as mental and cognitive health. 

We recently polled 65 yoga teachers for their favorite pose (or asana) for healthy aging.  See the chart below and then read on to learn the best yoga poses for healthy aging according to yoga teachers!

Bar chart on yoga poses for healthy aging

#1 Tree (Vrksasana or Vrikshasana)

Tree pose came in first (tied with Downward-Facing Dog pose) for healthy aging.  Tree pose helps to strengthen your leg muscles and improve your posture.  This standing yoga pose is great for balance, and good balance can help us avoid dangerous falls as we age.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 out of 4 older adults in the U.S. fall each year.  Working on poses like Tree that help with balance can help us avoid being the 1 that falls!

Woman in tree pose

Benefits of tree pose:

  • Improves balance and coordination by strengthening the muscles in the legs and core.
  • Increases flexibility in the hips, legs, and ankles, reducing the risk of injury.
  • Improves posture by strengthening the muscles in the back and promoting healthy alignment in the spine.
  • Reduces stress and anxiety by promoting relaxation and calming the mind.
  • Enhances concentration and focus, making it a great way to enhance mental clarity.
  • Boosts energy by improving circulation and stimulating the body’s natural energy centers.

Why is it number 1? 

According to yoga teacher Hilary Platen “I selected tree pose because it’s one that’s accessible to all ages and levels. It also helps with leg strength and balance.  I teach tree to all of my classes. If you can stand up you can do it, at least a variation of it.”

#1 Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Downward-Facing Dog pose tied for first place with Tree pose.  It strengthens the arms, legs, and torso.  It stretches the hands, chest, back, hamstrings, calves and feet.  

A foundational pose that you will encounter in almost any yoga class, Downward-Facing Dog is a great “reset” pose when moving between poses.  Downward Dog is a wonderful full-body stretch.

Woman in down dog pose

Benefits of Downward-Facing Dog Pose:

  • Stretches the hamstrings and calves helping to increase flexibility and reduce the risk of injury.
  • Strengthens the upper body by putting weight on the muscles in the arms, shoulders, and upper back, improving overall upper body strength and stability.
  • Improves posture by strengthening the muscles in the back and promoting healthy alignment in the spine.
  • Reduces stress and anxiety by promoting relaxation and calming the mind.
  • Improves circulation throughout the body, reducing inflammation and promoting healthy blood flow.
  • Enhances digestion by stimulating the digestive organs and promoting healthy blood flow to the digestive system.
  • Boosts energy by improving circulation and stimulating the body’s natural energy centers.

#2 Squat (Malasana or Garland Pose)

Squat pose came in at number 2.  It opens the hips, improves balance, and may help alleviate low back pain.  Practicing Squat pose may mean you are able to get up and down from the floor with more ease as you age.

Woman in yoga squat pose

Benefits of Squat Pose:

  • Strengthens the muscles in the lower body, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves.
  • Strengthens the arches of the feet and the ankles, allowing more agility when walking.
  • Improves balance.
  • Improves mobility in the hips, knees, and ankles, increasing flexibility and reducing the risk of injury.
  • Stimulates the digestive system, promoting healthy digestion and elimination.
  • Improves posture by strengthening the muscles in the back and promoting healthy alignment in the spine.
  • Reduces stress and anxiety by promoting relaxation and calming the mind.
  • Increases energy and vitality by improving blood flow to the lower body and stimulating the body’s natural energy centers.

#3 Plank

Plank improves posture and strengthens core muscles.  It builds the upper body strength that allows you to move into more challenging arm-balancing poses, or carry that heavy bag of groceries in from the car.

Woman in plank pose

Benefits of Plank pose:

  • Strengthens the muscles in the core, including the abs, obliques, and lower back.
  • Improves posture by strengthening the muscles in the back and shoulders and promoting healthy alignment in the spine.
  • Builds arm strength, particularly in the wrists, forearms, and shoulders.
  • Improves balance by utilizing core muscles for stability.
  • Boosts metabolism by engaging multiple muscle groups at once and increasing heart rate.
  • Reduces risk of injury by strengthening the muscles that support the spine and improving overall stability in the body.
  • Improves mental focus by requiring concentration.

#4 Seated Twist (Parivrtta Sukhasana)

This seated yoga pose gets high marks for improving posture, maintaining or improving spinal flexibility, and stimulating digestion.  Twists are important to maintain or restore your spine’s natural range of motion.  Being able to twist and turn is important for reaching for your seatbelt in the car or passing that heavy bag of groceries to the kids (who are of course helping you unload the car without being asked!).

Woman in seated twist pose

Benefits of Seated Twist:

  • Improves spinal mobility by gently twisting and lengthening the spine, helping to improve flexibility and mobility.
  • Stimulates the digestive system, improving digestion and alleviating constipation.
  • Relieves tension and back pain by gently stretching and releasing the muscles in the back.
  • Enhances detoxification by promoting healthy blood flow to the digestive and lymphatic systems.
  • Reduces stress and anxiety by promoting relaxation and calming the mind.
  • Improves lung capacity by expanding the chest and improving respiratory function.
  • Improves circulation throughout the body, reducing inflammation and promoting healthy blood flow.

According to teacher Sara Nielsen, “I love a seated twisting pose as it is grounding and you get the benefits of twisting. Detoxing, spinal health and the aid to digestion!”

#5 Legs Up the Wall (Viparita Karani)

Legs Up the Wall is a gentle inversion pose (meaning your head and torso are inverted from their normal upright position).  A wonderful pose for those who spend a lot of time standing, Legs Up the Wall relieves fatigue in the legs and feet, and helps prevent varicose veins and edema (swelling caused by fluid trapped in the body’s tissues).  It also soothes the nervous system and is a great relaxation pose before bed.

Woman in Legs Up the Wall pose

Benefits of Legs Up the Wall pose:

  • Improves circulation to the legs and feet, reducing swelling.
  • Relieves lower back pain by gently stretching the muscles in the lower back and hips and the back of the legs.
  • Reduces stress and anxiety by promoting relaxation and reducing tension in the body.
  • Improves digestion by promoting healthy blood flow to the digestive organs.
  • Calms the mind and promotes a sense of relaxation and well-being.

#6 Standing Head to Knee (Dandayamana Janu Sirsasana)

Standing Head to Knee pose is a challenging but rewarding pose that can help improve balance, strength, flexibility, and overall health and well-being.  It stretches and increases the flexibility of the hamstrings and strengthens the back.  Practicing Standing Head to Knee pose may help you avoid a fall if you encounter a patch of ice or a spilled drink when you are out and about.

Woman in standing head to knee pose

Benefits of Standing Head to Knee pose:

  • Improves balance and stability.  
  • Strengthens the legs by engaging muscles including your quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves, helping to build strength and endurance in these muscles.
  • Improves flexibility by stretching the hamstrings and hips, helping to improve range of motion in these areas.
  • Increases focus: Standing head to knee pose requires concentration and focus, making it a great way to improve mental focus and clarity.
  • Tones and strengthens the abdominal muscles by engaging the muscles in your core, including your abs and obliques.
  • Stimulates the digestive system helping to improve digestion and alleviate digestive issues.
  • Calms the mind and reduces stress and anxiety.

According to yoga teacher Bill Fairchild, “While Standing Head to Knee is much more challenging than Tree, it falls (no pun intended) into the balancing category. Even if you hold on to the wall or a chair, lift your leg, and most importantly lift your knee cap up on the standing leg, you strengthen the joint.”

Also according to Bill, “For those of us getting older (I’m almost 70) falling gets to be a big concern as we don’t heal as quickly. So balance postures are very important. Just do as much of the posture correctly as you are able.”

#7 Pyramid (Parsvottonasana)

Pyramid pose opens the chest, and strengthens the feet, ankles, shins, knees, and thighs.  It releases the hips and stretches the hamstrings, lengthens the spine, and improves balance. 

It is estimated that 36-70% of older adults suffer from back pain (Wong).  Because it stretches the hamstrings, Pyramid pose may help you avoid being in that group.

Woman in pyramid pose

Benefits of Pyramid pose:

  • Stretches the hamstrings which can help to reduce tightness and improve flexibility in the legs.
  • Strengthens the legs by engaging the muscles in your legs, including your quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves, helping to build strength and endurance in these muscles.
  • Improves posture by stretching and strengthening the muscles in your back and shoulders.
  • Opens the chest and shoulders, helping to improve breathing and reduce tension in these areas.
  • Calms the mind and reduces stress and anxiety.
  • Increases focus and concentration, helping to improve mental clarity.
  • Stimulates digestion by compressing and then releasing the abdominal organs.

#8 Chair Pose (Utkatasana)

Chair pose lengthens the spine, and strengthens the feet, ankles, calves, knees, glutes, and thighs.  It builds focus and reduces stress.  By practicing chair pose you make it easier to get in and out of a seated position as you age (no grunting like Grandpa getting out of his recliner).

Man in chair pose

Benefits of Chair pose:

  • Strengthens the lower body including your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves, helping to build strength and endurance in these muscles.
  • Improves posture by strengthening the muscles in your back and shoulders, which can help to reduce back pain and improve your overall posture.
  • Increases core strength by engaging core muscles, including your abs and obliques, helping to strengthen and tone these muscles.
  • Increases flexibility by stretching your ankles, shins, and thighs.
  • Improves balance by requiring you to balance on the balls of your feet, helping to improve your overall stability.
  • Energizes the body by increasing circulation and improving the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles and organs.
  • Calms the mind and can reduce stress and anxiety.

Benefits of Yoga for Older Adults

A regular yoga practice has many great health benefits for us as we age.  It can help maintain or improve strength, flexibility, and balance.  It can relieve anxiety and depression, increase your energy, and improve your sleep. 

As with any exercise, check with your healthcare provider before starting a yoga practice, especially if you have any contraindications such as high blood pressure, back or neck issues, or joint pain.  

If you are just starting out, be sure to find a certified yoga instructor.  It is important to do your research.  Ask about training and credentials.  Get recommendations from people you trust.

There are many wonderful teachers who have yoga classes both in person and online.  It is often best to go in person when just starting out to get individualized attention.

Start slow with a gentle or beginner class and progress to more challenging poses as you gain strength and focus.  There are modifications to every pose to make it accessible to you.  A good teacher will help you with suggestions and assistance. 

Yoga is a type of physical activity that you can continue to do as you age, to help you age gracefully!

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