Here is an eight-pose Iyengar Yoga sequence that “significantly improves balance and mobility in older people,” according to a study from the George Institute for Global Health published in a 2013 issue of Journals of Gerontology.
This eight-pose Iyengar Yoga sequence induces “beneficial effects on balance and mobility in older people,” after completing this series twice per week for 12 weeks. Participants in this recent yoga study experienced significant improvement in several physical indicators, including the ability to go from sitting to standing 3.43 seconds faster, standing on one leg with their eyes closed 1.93 seconds longer and walking four meters about 2 seconds faster.
“The improvement in sit-to-stand ability after completing the Iyengar Yoga classes indicates improved functional balance and lower limb strength…with a corresponding likelihood that fall risk would also be reduced.” You see, one in three older adults will fall this year and up to 30 percent of the fallen will incur moderate to severe injuries, according to the U.S. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Even the fear of falling results in older adults cutting down on physical activities they enjoy, which leads to unnecessary loss of mobility, a lower quality of life and ultimately a greater risk of falling.
Iyengar Yoga Poses to Improve Balance
“No one is too old or too stiff, too fat or thin or tired. A Certified Iyengar Yoga teacher can guide students of all ages and physical conditions to an experience of yoga, which is safe, accessible and rewarding (Iyengar National Association of the United States).” This style of yoga emphasizes the use of props that enable the instructor to modify classic Hatha Yoga poses to cater to the needs of each student.
Typical to an Iyengar Yoga class, the instructor in this study modified each pose with props to cater to each participant’s ability. The instructor’s goal was for the participants to progress throughout the 12-week study to a point where no modifications were required. In addition to the following Iyengar Yoga sequence, the researchers requested the participants engage in home practice by performing these poses two days per week, or more, for 10 to 20 minutes.
Victoria’s Tips: Here are some tips for performing this eight-pose Iyengar Yoga sequence (the following tips are my opinion, not information from the study). 1) Do poses 3 through 8 with the right foot forward and then doing the those poses again with the left foot forward. 2) Hold each pose for 3 to 8 breaths, depending on your ability. 3) At the end of your practice, consider doing 3 minutes or more of Shavasana – the Corpse Pose.
- Mountain Pose with Arms Stretched – Tadasana in Urdva Hastasana
- Chair Pose – Utkatasana
- Triangle Pose – Trikonasana: To perform the modified Triangle Pose, place the lower hand on a block or chair. For additional support, perform Triangle Pose with your back against the wall.
- Warrior 1 – Virabhadrasana 1
- Warrior 2 – Virabhadrasana 2
- Warrior 3 – Virabhadrasana 3: To perform a modified Warrior 3, place your your hands or feet on the wall for support.
- Tree Pose – Vriksasana: To perform a modified Tree Pose, stand in front of or next to a wall for support.
- Half-Moon Pose – Ardha Chandrasana: To perform a modified Half Moon Pose, place your lower hand on a block or chair. For additional support, perform Half Moon Pose with your back close to, or against the wall. If you find extending your upper arm difficult, you can place your hand on your hip.
Can Seniors do Iyengar Yoga?
Seniors just like you participated in this 12-week Iyengar Yoga study to improve balance and mobility. The researchers enrolled 54 volunteers, 59 years old or older (with an average age of 68), to participate by advertising this opportunity in local publications. The participants lived independently and were not currently participating in yoga or tai chi classes. “Eighteen of the 54 participants (33 percent) had experienced at least one fall in the past year, 18 out of 54 (33 percent) rated their balance as fair or poor, and 23 out of 54 (43 percent) rated their general health as very good or excellent.” They also received an informative booklet about preventing falls and potential risk factors
The 54 participants completed an average of 20 out of 24 classes and 100 percent completed the study. This is good news, because it demonstrates the feasibility and participant enjoyment of the yoga program” for seniors. Four months later, 30 percent continued with yoga classes. Reasons for not going to class included, but were not limited to, two participants who felt the Iyengar Yoga poses aggravated a medical problem and one participant who felt the yoga was too difficult. Six participants experienced some pain, but this issue quickly resolved itself and only one participant stopped after six classes.