Yoga is a low-impact workout that can be done without the wear and tear of more common forms of physical exercise—and the activity is helping seniors live more active and healthy lives.

“Anyone living needs to move, stretch, breathe and relax,” said Judy Meyer, director of the yoga program available to residents at Bethesda Barclay House, an independent retirement living community in Clayton, MO. “Yoga is not an aerobic exercise. Yoga is all about stretching. It’s something that works well for seniors because they don’t have to do more than they are comfortable doing in order to get the benefits. We’re here to exercise, but we’re going to do it in a fun, relaxed manner.”

Benefits of Yoga for Seniors

  • Exercise without the strain of intense cardiovascular workouts: Yoga uses the body’s weight to improve strength without lifting weights. According to research, people who practice yoga regularly are 40% less likely to suffer from chronic disease.
  • Increases flexibility: Yoga is a gentle exercise that helps increase flexibility. It’s a great option for older adults who experience achy or stiff joints – and even arthritis. These low-impact moves help to loosen and tone muscles and help prevent injury.
  • Improves bone health: Yoga is a great form of exercise for seniors because it’s gentler on the body than weight lifting and running. Studies have indicated that, for seniors 68 years of age and older, yoga increased bone mineral density after two years of practice on a weekly basis.
  • Improves digestion: As people get older, their body’s ability to process food becomes slower and more sluggish. The twisting and bending motions of yoga help the digestive system become more effective.
  • Relieves stress: Seniors who practice yoga and exercise regularly tend to be more at peace than seniors who lack an outlet for anxiety and frustration. This can help to lower high blood pressure and allow people to sleep better at night.

Judy said that yoga class members support each other and look forward to the togetherness of the classes.

“These people live in the same building, so they know each other and support each other,” Judy said. “I think that the more people stretch and the more they see they can do, the happier they are and the more successful they feel.”

Yoga also teaches important skills that seniors need for their safety.

“We do standing balance poses,” Judy said. “To do that, you have to concentrate. You’re thinking about what you’re doing. People fall because they aren’t aware of their surroundings and this helps them to not only be stronger but to be more focused. It strengthens one leg at a time and it strengthens the core, too.”

Staying Active at Barclay House

According to Nathan Torno, Senior General Manager at Bethesda Barclay House, our twice weekly yoga class is well attended.

“We want to help create a very vibrant and active lifestyle for our seniors, so yoga is one of the many things we do to try to accomplish that goal,” Nathan said. “Residents seem to really enjoy it. They say they find it is refreshing and relaxing.”

Other activities at Barclay House and Bethesda senior living communities throughout the St. Louis area include art classes, exercise programs, personal training services, massage therapy, water aerobics during the summer months, and educational lectures on health issues, including the importance of hydration and nutrition.

It’s important for seniors to stay healthy and active, and yoga is only one of many options offered at Bethesda. Contact Barclay House to learn more about the many activities offered through Bethesda’s Enrichment Program.