Exercise Your Body and Your Brain With Yin Yoga

Yoga is an ancient practice that marries breath and movement to create strength, flexibility, and peace in the mind and body. Despite the fact that it originated in Northern India over 5,000 years ago, yoga has become as much a part of American culture as the 4th of July. The number of Americans with a regular yoga practice has grown by 50% between 2012 and 2016, with a staggering 20.4 MILLION people now saying they regularly practice it. 

two elderly people doing yoga moves outside.
There are benefits for anyone who does yoga, but a regular practice can truly work wonders for seniors.

This centuries-old practice definitely isn’t just for fit instagrammers practicing beautiful poses in exotic locations. There are benefits for anyone who does yoga, but a regular practice can truly work wonders for seniors. Seniors have different needs from middle-aged folks, and there are some styles of yoga that may be better suited to an older crowd. If you’re looking for a slower practice that still offers multiple benefits, you may want to try Yin Yoga. 

Yin Yoga

Originated by Paulie Zink, Yin yoga is a slow, graceful practice that blends Taoist meditation, Hatha yoga, tai chi, and martial arts. Yin yoga involves some of the same asanas, or poses, you’d see in other types of yoga classes (like the popular Ashtanga or Hatha styles), but instead of rapidly flowing through the pose sequences, each pose is held for an average of five minutes during which the teacher will offer dharma talks. These talks are meant to offer insights into the anatomy of the poses or inspirational, reflective monologues. The focus of Yin yoga is not to build a fire within the body, like other styles, but rather to embrace the discomfort and lean into long, extended poses. While it is low impact, it is not for the faint of heart – sitting in discomfort can bring up a surprising amount of emotional baggage! 

Benefits of Yin Yoga

caucasian woman sitting on a yoga mat outside stretching and grabbing her feet.

For seniors, practicing Yin yoga can have innumerable benefits for both physical and mental health.

Physical Benefits

  • Yoga is excellent for core strengthening, which is critical to balance. 
  • Yoga improves flexibility through active stretching of tendons, ligaments, and muscles. 
  • Yin yoga’s extended poses encourage deeper work on the connective tissues of the body, which increases circulation in the joints. This is great for seniors, who sometimes experience a loss of joint mobility. 

Emotional Benefits

silhouette of person's head with white gears in it.
Yin yoga is the act of sitting with discomfort, and adapting to stress. This can literally change the chemical makeup in our brains.
  • Yoga is a practice in approaching ones’ body with patience and grace. As we age, it can be especially beneficial to remember the capabilities we have and  to be able to find comfort within our bodies.
  • Yoga is a lesson in calming and centering the mind, and finding physical as well as emotional balance. It is excellent for reducing anxiety or stress.
  • Yin yoga is the act of sitting with discomfort, and adapting to stress. This can literally change the chemical makeup in our brains, slowing the release of stress hormones like cortisol. 
  • Yin yoga involves being motionless throughout long-held poses. This is a great foundation for meditation, which has many benefits for emotional wellness. 

Yin yoga, with its myriad of benefits, is an excellent choice for seniors – particularly those who experience chronic pain or anxiety. It is low-impact and safe for seniors, but provides long-lasting effects in many aspects of life. As with any new exercise regimen, it’s important to speak with your primary care physician to ensure that it’s safe for your body. Being open and transparent with your yoga teacher is also important, as they can offer modifications to support any injuries you might have.

Safe Yoga Moves For Seniors

Yoga can improve your overall quality of life and is good for all ages, especially seniors. It can help combat stress, fatigue, and pain, and help seniors to feel younger. Yoga increases flexibility, and maintains balance as you age. These exercises will help seniors cope with aging and as long as it is done in a safe manner, yoga can be the best form of exercise for seniors to strengthen joints and muscles while helping them to relax.

Mountain Pose
Mountain Pose

Mountain Pose

A low impact move that helps improve posture and balance while reducing back pain.

Stand with your feet together and hands down at your sides. Press your toes into the floor and squeeze your thighs. With each inhale, lengthen your spine and each exhales release your shoulders away from your ears. Continue this for 5 to 10 breaths.

Cobbler’s Pose

Cobbler's Pose
Cobbler’s Pose

This position is great for opening up your hips and stretching your hip flexors.

Sit down on the ground and bring the soles of your feet together while opening the knees out to the sides. Bring the balls of your feet close to your body and fold forward for a deeper stretch and hold for 5 to 8 breaths.

Bridge Pose

Bridge Pose
Bridge Pose

This pose focuses on strengthening your leg, hips, and lower back muscles. It also opens your shoulders, heart, and chest which keeps your spine flexible.

Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor and knees bent. Make sure your legs are hip-width apart. Place the palm of your hands onto the floor and tighten your core and quad muscles. Lift your hips and spine up and hold for 30 seconds then release until your back is flat on the floor.

Tree Pose
Tree Pose

Tree Pose

The tree pose can help reduce the chances of a fall and is great for balancing and building strength. It helps with leg and abdominal strength and hip mobility.

Stand with feet together and palms at your heart. Place one foot on the opposite inner thigh, at your ankle, shin or above the knee is fine. Put hands together in praying motion towards your chest, Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat on the other leg.

Bird Dog

Bird Dog Pose
Bird Dog Pose

This pose is perfect for tighten abs and back muscles which is important as we get older.

Kneel on the floor and stretch one arm forward with the opposite back leg out as well. Pull your belly button towards your spine and then switch sides after a couple of seconds. Switch sides and repeat 5 times.

Sphinx Pose
Sphinx Pose


Opens up the upper back, keeping it strong and opens up the heart.

Lie down on your stomach and place your forearms on the mat. Press into your arms and draw your shoulder blades together and down your back. Lift your stomach in and up and stay for 5 breaths. Repeat 4 more times.

Low Lunge Pose

Low Lunge Pose
Low Lunge Pose

Opens up your hips and releases tension in the body, while providing balance.

Stand with feet hip-width apart and arms at your side. Step your right foot forward and bend your right knee until it is directly over your ankle while your left knee is on the ground. Arms up in the air and breathe for 30 seconds, then return to standing position and repeat with the opposite leg.

All of these yoga poses are a great start for seniors who are beginners. It is easy to do and will help tighten muscles, build strength, provide flexibility and balance, and improves concentration. It is always important to consult with your doctor before performing any physical activity so you do not get hurt or cause any harm.