yoga for healthy aging

Yoga for Healthy Aging: Tips and Facts

Published on February 22, 2021

Many of us have felt the rejuvenating and empowering effects of yoga, but how do we maintain our practice in a safe and healthy way as we get older? With age comes the inevitable reality of a lifetime of chronic injury, general wear and tear on joints and muscles, and decreased levels of elasticity and tone in the skin. Although the often unpleasant side effects associated with getting older also include stiffness, decreased mobility and reduced strength, they are not necessarily a given. A regular yoga practice in older populations can improve physical function, mental health, pain, flexibility, and balance.

Studies on yoga for aging

A meta-analysis published in the April 2019 issue of the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity provides powerful evidence to show the potent benefits of yoga for older yoga practitioners. In the article, researchers examined 22 studies across 10 databases to determine if there were any hard proof that yoga does, in fact, benefit people as they age.

The study inclusion criteria included a focus on adults age 60 and up, with no previous yoga recruitment based on specific health issues. In the studies that were examined the duration of practices ranged from one-seven months long, with individual sessions lasting from 30-90 minutes, practiced 2-3 times per week. Eight styles of yoga were used in the studies. The most popular were Hatha yoga, chair yoga, and Iyengar yoga. Using statistical analysis the researchers compared the results of the studies to other forms of exercise like walking and gentle aerobics, as well as no activity at all.

Yoga improves overall well-being

yoga pose for aging
A wide range of physical improvements was identified, including increased flexibility, greater strength, and improved balance and motor coordination. Participants also exhibited an elevated sense of physical health, mental health, and emotional wellness, when compared to those engaging in other physical exercises, or none at all.

Just as important were the mental improvements which included decreased anxiety and depression, better sleep and an improved sense of overall vitality. This aspect is especially encouraging because, in addition to the purely physical effects of aging, people can be faced with a number of challenging mental and emotional aspects too. These are often brought on by the passing of loved ones, the reality of decreased physical abilities, and possibly also fear of death, although a study published in the Journal of Gerontology notes that in many cases fear of death actually decreases with age.

Essential yoga poses for older practitioners

The most common postures that were used in these yoga for aging programs were Cat and Cow/Dog pose, Tree, Triangle, Seated twist, Mountain pose, Warrior I, Cobra, Chair pose, Eagle, Locust, Downward Facing Dog, Wind Relieving pose, Child’s pose, Standing Hand to Foot pose, and Cow Face pose. Modifications and the use of props, especially blocks, are highly recommended when practicing these poses with populations over the age of 60. In this age group, it is especially important to modify or skip yoga postures where there is pain or discomfort in the joints.

Other research on yoga for healthy aging

The results of the study also reinforce other research being done on the benefits of yoga for overall health. One interesting piece published in the June 2016 Future of Science OA explores the anti-aging effects of pranayama practice, noting that, although more control studies are needed, it appears that there is a positive correlation between yoga and decreased aging effects on the skin, due largely to the antioxidant and cleansing effects of certain poses and breath practices.

Yoga practices beneficial for aging

Yoga’s multi-faceted approach to wellness focuses on the mind/body relationship to health and the interconnectedness of all aspects of a person’s life, as they relate to overall health. This ancient practice and way of life incorporates asana (physical poses) pranayama (breathwork) and meditation, allowing people to find the best combination to fit their needs at any given time. While it is, of course, smart and safe to meet ourselves where we are in terms of our practice abilities, it is also important to not allow the perceived limitations of an aging body or fear of pain or reduced ability to stand in our way.

Find your own path

Lifelong student and teacher BKS Iyengar maintained his daily yoga practice well into his 90’s. In his words, “Often people think that at the old age they should do dhyana (meditation) or japa (repetition of mantras) instead of asana and pranayama practice. I am not that type of a sadhaka (practitioner) to take shelter under the garb of old age. I will not run away from my practice because of the fear complex of old age…Because of age, I have increased timings in my practices. Mind and body want to give way. I daily charge my body and mind to stand with will power so that I do not surrender to the weakness of my body and mind.”

There is no “one size fits all” formula for yoga, and no matter our age we are continually faced with the challenge of simply showing up to the mat, despite the physical or mental resistance that may be present. A regular yoga practice provides a valuable framework for overall health, with many modifications available to us, making it an ideal lifelong practice that evolves with us as we age, change and grow.

We recommend working with a yoga teacher with a Yoga for Healthy Aging certification or similar training and who has experience working with older yoga students. There are also several excellent books you can reference, like Yoga for Healthy Aging, Yoga to Stay Young, and Stay Young With Yoga.

Share with


Our Latest

Yoga Articles
  • Hot Yoga at Home

    Can You Practice Hot Yoga at Home?

  • Saying Thank You to a Yoga Teacher

    12 Ways to Say Thank You to a Yoga Teacher

  • Yoga for Thanksgiving

    Yoga for Thanksgiving: 10 Asanas for Gratitude

  • Siddhis

    Siddhis: Definition, Types, Tips and Dangers

  • Spiritual Health and Wellness

    12 Yogic Ways to Cultivate Spiritual Health and Wellness

  • Bhakti Yoga

    Bhakti Yoga: the Yoga of Devotion

  • Sri Yantra

    Sri Yantra: Meaning, Symbolism, and Benefits

  • Yoga Weight Loss Plan

    7 Ways To Add Yoga To Your Weight Loss Plan

Remove Ads with a

Premium Membership

Viewing ads supports YogaBasics, which allows us to continue bringing you quality yoga content. Sign up for a premium membership to remove all ads and enjoy uninterrupted access to the best yoga resources on the web.

Explore More

Yoga TipsAdviceArticlesPracticesBasicsTechniques

  • Equilibrium Tranquility Yoga Pose

    8 Ways to Create Equilibrium and Tranquility in Yoga

  • Crystals for Yoga Meditation

    9 Crystals to Empower Your Yoga Practice

  • Samyama meditation

    Transforming Your Yoga Practice Through Samyama

  • yoga pose for balance

    The Best Yoga Poses to Build Better Balance

  • Morning Yoga Routine

    9 Ways to Boost Your Morning Yoga Routine

  • Aerial Yoga

    Lifting Off with Aerial Yoga: Definition, Benefits and Tips

  • yoga etiquette

    7 Tips For Minding Your Yoga Manners

  • hot yoga

    Hot Yoga: Definition, Benefits, Cautions and Tips for Newbies

  • CBD for Yoga

    6 Ways CBD Can Improve Your Yoga Practice

2 responses to “Yoga for Healthy Aging: Tips and Facts”

  1. Nakshatra Nair Avatar
    Nakshatra Nair

    Yes, indeed!! Yoga is a great lifelong practice that changes with us as we age, adapt, and grow since it provides a valuable framework for overall wellness with various adjustments available.

  2. Jedediah Mayes Avatar
    Jedediah Mayes

    Yoga keeps you mentally, physically and spiritually connected which can greatly enhance our ability to live a long healthy life. Your tips on mild stretching and utilizing props to help create balance and stability while practicing is highly useful. Keep up the good work!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Rose Keyes Avatar
About the author
Rose is a writer, editor, yoga teacher, and office manager extraordinaire living in the Asheville, NC area. She has a B.S.S. from Ohio University with concentrations in English Literature, Creative Writing, and Geography. She has been practicing yoga for over ten years and received her 200-hour teaching certification in 2013. Over the years yoga and writing have been important mainstays in her life. She is continually amazed and humbled at the deep healing, balance, and peace that comes from these practices, and she is grateful to be able to share those experiences with others.
Yoga Basics