The Best Yoga Poses for Beginners Over 50

Yoga is, and has always been, a great way to exercise and keep strong, fit and healthy. As we age, the emphasis on maintaining flexibility and keeping our muscles and bones strong becomes ever more important, which is where yoga over 50 comes in.

Often those aged 50 or over worry that they will not have the mobility or flexibility needed to practice yoga, but yoga has always been a form of exercise which is able to be modified to suit all ages and abilities. That means that it’s great for beginners of any age too.

If you’re curious about starting yoga and you’re aged 50 or over, we’ve outlined yogas key benefits and compiled a list of the best yoga poses that beginners over 50 can start to practice with.

Can 50 year olds do yoga?

The answer is yes! Anybody can do yoga, regardless of their age, fitness level or mobility. The great thing about yoga is that it's able to be adapted by introducing yoga blocks, or by using other props like chairs. This allows certain poses to be modified so that they’re suitable for all body types and all mobilities.

As we age it becomes even more important to take care of our bodies and to build strong bones and maintain our flexibility. Yoga can help to do all of that, all whilst giving us our recommended daily exercises and even refreshing our brains.

Other benefits of yoga for beginners over 50 include:

  • Yoga can reduce chronic pain: Studies have shown that yoga has been linked to helping reduce age-related chronic pain complaints such as arthritis. Because yoga also promotes flexibility it can help improve the function of our bodies, most notably our joints which are most at risk of incurring natural wear and tear as we age.

  • Yoga improves posture: Yoga for the over 50s especially focuses on yoga poses which are designed to strengthen the core, back and spine to help reinforce the centre of the body and therefore improve posture, helping to alleviate back and neck pain.

  • Yoga increases blood flow: Yoga has been proven to help circulation because it increases the blood flow which means more oxygen is able to get into our red blood cells. Improved circulation helps the body function better, and can also help to prevent cold hands and feet.

  • Yoga helps heart health: As we age the importance of looking after our hearts is emphasised, and yoga can help with this too. It’s been proven that yoga can regulate and slow the heart rate, helping to reduce our blood pressure which becomes doubly beneficial for those suffering from cardiovascular diseases or who are at risk of a stroke.

What are the best yoga poses for older beginners?

The best yoga poses for older beginners are the core yoga poses which can be modified to suit all mobility levels. Iyengar Yoga is the best style to follow for older beginners because it is more postural based, moves at a much slower pace and also uses more props such as blocks, chairs, blankets and straps to better modify poses and suit all ability levels.

Below we’ve listed some key beginner iyengar yoga poses with modifications that you can try either at home, or in a studio.

If you’re just getting started with yoga, and especially yoga at home, you can read our best tips and advice about home yoga practice here.

1. Seated Forward Bend or Standing Forward Fold

Seated forward bend is a modified version of Uttanasana, also known as standing forward fold.

Whether practicing the pose seated or standing, it’s great for stretching the hamstrings and spine, and relieving lower back pain.

If you’re performing Standing Forward Fold:

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, keeping your feet parallel.

  2. Gently and slowly begin to hinge at the hips so that you bring your hands either down flat to the floor or to your shins.

  3. Once bent in a comfortable position, relax your neck and broaden your shoulders so that your head hangs.

  4. Hold the pose for 15-30 seconds, making sure that your knees are straight, your hips are directly over your ankles and your back is straight.

  5. To exit the pose, gently begin to hinge at the hips once more to lift your torso upright so that you are standing up straight.

If you’re performing Seated Forward Bend:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position either on the edge of a chair or on the floor.

  2. Stretch out your legs in front of you, ensuring to keep your back as straight as possible.

  3. Gently begin to hinge forwards from the hips. Bring awareness to your back here to make sure that it is not rounding.

  4. Lean forwards as far feels comfortable, and then stop and hold the pose once you have reached your limit.

  5. To come out of the pose, begin to sit back slowly.

2. Downward Facing Dog

Downward Dog is a core yoga pose that opens both the shoulders and chest, and stretches our hamstring and spine. Downward Dog can be modified to be performed with blocks to lift the hands, or the back of a chair so that the bend is not so deep.

If you’re performing the basic shape:

  1. Begin on a kneeling position on your hands and knees with your hands shoulder width apart.

  2. Curl your toes under, press through the palms and slowly begin to raise your knees off of the floor.

  3. Straighten your legs as much as is comfortable so that you are in an upside-down V shape. Draw in your belly to tighten the core and keep your shoulders pointing inward and down the back.

  4. Hold the pose for 15-20 seconds, taking deep inhales and exhales.

  5. To come out of the pose gently place your knees back on the floor until you are in the position in which you started.

To modify:

  1. Use the back of a chair: Place your hands on the back of a chair and try to stretch the shoulders by lowering your head past your forearms.

  2. Use the seat of a chair: Place your hands on the seat of a chair and bend your knees as much as you are able to stretch the hamstrings. Try to also place your head lower than your forearms.

  3. Use blocks: Place the blocks on the ground and under your palms. Then press into these whilst performing downward dog in the basic shape to bring the ground to you and reduce the depth of the shape.

Related Reading: Read more about how to use yoga blocks to enhance your practice in our complete guide.

3. Triangle Pose

Triangle pose, also known as Trikonasana, gives a deep stretch to both the hamstrings and the side body whilst opening up the chest and shoulders.

If you’re performing the basic shape:

  1. From a standing position take a big step back, as if balancing on a tightrope.

  2. Face your front foot forwards and angle your back foot inwards at 45 degrees.

  3. Raise your arms out to your sides, and begin to slowly hinge at the hips so that the upper body comes to lean forward and over your front leg.

  4. Twist your torso so that your front hand comes down to either grab your shin, rest on your front foot or touch the floor, and keep the other hand raised to the sky. Keep your gaze on the raised hand.

  5. To come out of the pose, lower your raised hand as you slowly begin to tilt your torso back to standing. You can also place your hands on your hips for more balance as you release from the pose.

To modify:

  1. Use the back of a chair: With one hand, hold onto the back of a chair. Raise your other hand and torso towards the sky.

  2. Use the front of a chair: Place one hand on the chair seat and lean forward. Then twist your torso and raise your other hand towards the sky.

  3. Use blocks: Place blocks on the ground standing upright. When you are in the basic shape and beginning to tilt your hips, place your hands onto the blocks for better stability.

4. Warrior II

Warrior II, or Virabhadrasana II, is a really empowering full body pose that tightens the core, strengthens the thighs, releases tension from the shoulders and tones the glutes.

If you’re performing the basic shape:

  1. Start in a standing position and take a big step back. Keep your feet parallel on either side of an imaginary line. Keep your front foot facing forwards and angle your back foot inwards at around 45 degrees.

  2. Slowly begin to bend the front knee ensuring that the knee is directly above and over the ankle.

  3. Raise out your arms by your sides and face forwards.

  4. Keep your gaze frontward, beyond your front fingers and hold the pose for around 20 seconds. Sit deeper into it if you can by bending the front knee as much as feels comfortable.

  5. To exit the pose, place your hands back by your sides and come to stand up straight once more.

To modify:

  1. Use a chair: Sit sideways onto a chair so that your front leg is over the chair and your back leg is behind with your back foot flat to the floor at a 45 degree angle. Raise your hands up either side of your body, and fixate your gaze on your front fingers.

  2. Use blocks: If performing the basic shapel, place a block underneath your back knee and lower the back knee onto the block. This keeps the front knee directly over the ankle and evens out weight distribution for more stability.

5. Eagle Pose

Eagle Pose, or Garudasana, provides a great stretch for the arms and legs, boosts balance but also gives our brain a workout making it a subtle but effective pose.

If you’re performing the basic shape:

  1. Start in a standing position. Distribute weight to your right leg, lifting the left leg off of the floor gradually.

  2. Slowly begin to wrap the leg leg around the right leg as much as you are able, ensuring to keep a comfortable bend in both of your knees.

  3. Once you are stable, take your arms out in front of you and wrap your right arm around your left in a snake-like position.

  4. Keep your gaze forward, keep your knees bent and hold for 3-5 breaths.

  5. To exit the pose, unravel your legs and arms, slowly stand back up, and then repeat on your opposite side.

To modify:

  1. Sit in a chair with no wrapping of the legs or hands: Sit comfortably in a chair with your back straight. Lift your left leg and place it over your right knee. Place your arms out in front of you and then bring the left elbow to the inside of the right elbow. Bring your hands together back to back. Hold the pose for 3-5 breaths, and then unravel and repeat on your opposite side.

  2. Sit in a chair and wrap the legs and hands: Sit comfortably in a chair, keeping your back straight. Lift your left leg and bring it as far as is comfortable over your right knee. Tuck your left foot inside of your right calf. Place your arms out in front of you, and then wrap your right arm around your left. Bring the palms together if possible. Hold for 3-5 breaths, then unravel and repeat on your opposite side.

Looking to get started with beginners yoga?

At Firefly Yoga we run yoga classes for all abilities, ages and mobilities. We have beginner focused yoga classes, as well as classes which centre around slower forms of yoga such as Yin Yoga. Read more about our class styles, or book a class with us!

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