Before You Start Yoga for Seniors

Older couple doing yoga
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One of the great things about yoga is that it is so adaptable to different populations with diverse physical abilities and needs. Though the popular image of yoga may be a young person twisted up like a pretzel with apparent ease, those who are older and less flexible can enjoy a yoga practice just as much—and may benefit from it even more.

Is Yoga Appropriate for Seniors?

In most cases, seniors can absolutely do yoga. Many people with hectic schedules only find the time for activities like yoga in retirement. Though the tendency is to become more sedentary, retirement is the perfect time to pick up healthy habits that can promote longevity.

Attending a yoga class regularly also establishes a sense of community and friendship with teachers and fellow students. These types of social connections have been shown to be surprisingly important for maintaining health and well-being as we age.

The Benefits of Yoga for Seniors

The benefits of yoga for seniors are much the same as those for the general population: increased muscle tone, balance (which is particularly important), strength, and improved mood.

Through pranayama (breathing exercises), lung capacity is increased. You can expect your posture to improve and you may sleep better. If you experience stress, yoga can help counteract that too. But keep in mind that these benefits will not come after a single yoga class. Regularly attending at least three classes a week will allow you to enjoy the best yoga has to offer.

What Kind of Yoga Should You Try?

If you are brand-new to yoga, this how to start guide offers a wealth of practical advice to help you feel more comfortable entering this new world It explains basic yoga etiquette, the first ten poses you may encounter, and more.

Although it is possible to learn yoga from books and videos, the best way is through in-person instruction in a yoga class. Attending classes will allow you to get the most out of yoga with the least risk of injury.

What kind of yoga is most appropriate will depend on your age, current level of fitness, and physical ability. If you are starting to exercise for the first time (or after a long break) or have already lost significant muscle tone and flexibility, you should start with a very gentle Hatha practice.

Yoga classes for seniors are becoming more popular and increasingly available. Check local senior centers, retirement communities, religious organizations, and even health clubs to see if they have seniors' yoga classes on offer.

If you can’t find a special senior class, a gentle beginners' class will do. Iyengar yoga, with its emphasis on making postures accessible through the use of props, is also good for older adults, and many Iyengar centers offer classes aimed at this demographic. Viniyoga and Kripalu, both of which make a point of tailoring the practice to fit each individual, are also great options.

Adaptive Yoga

Even seniors with very limited mobility can still do yoga through adaptive practices. In chair yoga, all the poses are done with the support of chairs. Water yoga is especially therapeutic, since the body feels weightless and moves more easily underwater. Check your local YMCA pool to see if they offer aqua yoga classes.

If you have arthritis, yoga can be a wonderful addition to your treatment, but take greater care in finding the right class. Look for a teacher who is experienced in working with students with arthritis. Many people with arthritis find that yoga helps improve their range of motion significantly.


Be sure to speak to your doctor before trying yoga, especially if you suffer from any chronic conditions or are very inactive. Those with spinal disc problems or glaucoma should take special care, as there are poses to avoid (twists and inversions, respectively).

1 Source
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Woodyard C. Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of lifeInt J Yoga. 2011;4(2):49–54. doi:10.4103/0973-6131.85485

By Ann Pizer, RYT
Ann Pizer is a writer and registered yoga instructor who teaches vinyasa/flow and prenatal yoga classes.