Yoga over 50 - four Yoga poses for every fitness level

Lizzy Dening

Deputy Web Editor, Monday, 21 March 2016

Everything you need to know about starting Yoga over 50 from Lots of Yoga

We teamed up with Lots of Yoga to tell you everything you need to know about starting yoga over 50. Developing a yoga practice in your 50s and beyond is one of the best things you can do. By incorporating yoga into your daily routine and mixing it up with your fitness levels, you can stay more in tune with your body and create space for your mind. Yoga has also been scientifically proven to be beneficial to weight loss, overcoming depression and anxiety, plus it is a great platform for making new friends. We've teamed up with Lots of Yoga and asked them about yoga for over 50s and got some yoga exercises that will work for different levels of fitness.

Yoga Over 50 - What's your fitness level?

So many people seem to think that because they can't touch their toes, they shouldn’t do yoga. That’s complete and utter nonsense. Yoga is about learning to synchronise your breath with movement, and eventually develop an inner sense of peace. It really has no specific end-goal, nor does it require anyone to ‘look’ the part. Here we break down three levels of fitness, and you can start practising each pose for three to five breaths, at a level that does not strain your breathing. By slowing working through the levels (ideally six days a week), you should slowly see a difference in your flexibility, strength and level of calmness. Finally, don’t forget to consult your doctor on the suitability of any physical exercises. And we strongly encourage you to find a teacher that you can practise with and learn from!

(A) Inactive

You are at Level A if you have not been exercising and want to start now.

(B) Fairly active

So you're reasonably active. You may squeeze in a workout once in a while, or you might just have a busy day-to-day life, running around for work or chasing after kids. You most probably view yourself as active but not exactly athletic. You're a level B.

(C) Active

Level C's are those who have always worked out in some way and view themselves as 'active' to 'very active'.

Yoga poses For Over 50s

Here are four yoga poses and three variations of each for you to try depending on your level of fitness. Try to hold each pose for three to five full breaths.

1. Downward Facing Doc (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Downward Dog is to many the staple pose in yoga; you could do up to 30 or more Downward Dog poses in any given yoga-flow class! Its benefits include opening of the shoulders and the chest, as well as stretching the hamstrings and spine. From a kneeling position on hands and knees, step on the toes keeping the hands and feet securely in place, and lift the bottom all the way up towards the ceiling, aiming to gently push the head towards the knees, creating an upside-down V shape. Hands should be shoulder-distance apart, feet hip-distance apart and the gaze between the thighs or at the navel.

(A) Lean on the back of a chair

Downward Dog Variation A

Place your hands on the back of a chair and try to get your head past the forearms to get a maximum stretch in the shoulders.

(B) Lean on the seat of a chair

Downward Facing Dog - Variation B with a chair 

Use the seat of a chair to get further towards the ground. Bend the knees to relieve tension in the hamstrings.

(C) Full Downward Facing Dog

Downward Facing Dog Pose

Place hands shoulder distance apart on the mat, and feet hip distance apart, push through the hands and feet, while opening the chest and head towards the floor.

2. Seated Forward Bend (Paschimatanasana)

The Seated Forward Bend as well as being a great pose in itself, stretching the hamstrings and the spine, is also often used as a restorative yoga pose to relieve pressure in the lower back and back pain in general. From a seated position, stretch out the legs in front of you, keeping the back as straight as possible, hinge forwards from the hips, trying not to round the back, as far as you can go, and holding the pose there.

(A) Sit on a chair

Seated Forward Bend Variation A

Sit on the edge of a chair and bend forward at the hips, keeping the spine straight.

(B) Use a strap.

Seated Forward Bend - Variation B with a strap

Wrap a strap around the feet and hold onto it while gently pulling yourself forward keeping the spine as straight as possible.

(C) Full Seated Forward Bend

Seated Forward Bend

With the legs stretched out in front of you, fold forwards bending at the hips and hold on to the feet, with a slight bend in the knees to relieve any tension in the hamstrings.

3. Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)

One of the most popular poses in yoga's standing sequence, Triangle Pose provides a deep stretch in the hamstrings, the side body, opens up the chest and shoulders, and really utilises the spine's capacity, giving it a much-needed stretch. From standing, take a big step back, keeping feet on either side of an imaginary line, the front foot facing forwards and the back foot angled inwards at 45 degrees. Raise the arms out by the side, lean the upper body forward over the front leg, and twist the torso so that the front hand comes down to meet the front foot, and the other hand is raised to the sky, keeping the gaze on the upper hand.

(A) Lean on the back of a chair.

Triangle Pose - Variation A with a chair

From standing, take a big step backwards and hold on to the back of a chair with one hand, raising the other hand and upper body towards the sky.

(B) Lean on the seat of a chair.

Triangle Pose - Variation B with a chair

Leaning on the chair seat, twist the upper body and upper hand towards the sky.

(C) Full Triangle Pose

Triangle Pose

Trying to keep the upper body and pelvis tucked in, bend the upper body down towards the foot whilst rotating the upper body upwards and gaze towards the sky.

4. Warrior II Pose (Virabhadrasana II)

Another yogi favourite, Warrior II pose is as strong as it sounds. Done properly, it works out the core, the legs (especially the thighs), opens up the shoulders and tones up the bum. From standing, take a big step back, keeping feet on either side of an imaginary line, the front foot facing forwards and the back foot angled inwards at 45 degrees. Bend the front knee so that the knee is directly above the ankle. Raise the arms out by the side, and face forwards, gazing over the front arm.

(A) Straddle a chair.

Warrior II Pose - Variation A with a chair

Sit on a chair sideways so that your front leg is over the chair and the back leg is on the floor, foot turned in at a 45 degree angle. Raise the hands up so they are parallel to the floor and gaze forwards.

(B) Put the back knee on a prop.

Warrior II Pose - Variation B with a block

With this variation, you can keep the back knee on the floor or on a block, keeping the front knee directly over the ankle.

(C) Full Warrior II Pose

Warrior II Pose

Keep your weight distributed evenly between the back and front legs, keep the front knee over the ankle and body straight, facing forwards.

And when you are done, we encourage you to lie down on the mat in a pose called 'savasana', also known as 'corpse pose'. Try to take 10 full breaths. If you have never tried meditating before, try to remind yourself to let go in this pose, letting your body relax and completely melt into the mat. Remember, in the beginning some poses may be more challenging than others, but by persisting every day, you will start to build confidence and your muscles will adapt, getting stronger and leaner.

If you liked this, take a look at more yoga poses for over 50s on Lots of Yoga.

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