Don’t think yoga is for you? If you’re feeling stiff or achy, it may be the best medicine—no headstands required.
Research shows that doing a gentle yoga workout most days of the week can relieve back and arthritis pain, ramp up energy and even temper hot flashes. And the benefits are long-lasting—people reported 70% less lower-back pain three months after a study in which they attended a weekly yoga class and practiced at home, say researchers at West Virginia University School of Medicine.
Bonus: It may also make you happier, according to research from the Boston University School of Medicine. After 60 minutes of yoga, volunteers’ levels of the feel-good brain chemical GABA increased by 27%.
This short, beginner-friendly plan was developed by Susan Winter Ward, who created Yoga for the Young at Heart, a video series for people over age 50. With regular practice, you’ll tone your muscles, improve flexibility, and feel younger than ever.
Workout at a Glance:
You’ll need: A yoga mat and a sturdy chair
How to do it: Perform poses in order, flowing from one to the next. It will take about 15 minutes. For a greater challenge and more benefits, do the routine twice or hold the poses longer.
Why: Increases flexibility
How: Lie on back with arms extended on the floor at shoulder height, palms down. Bring knees to chest. Keeping knees together, exhale and lower legs to the left side. Turn head to look over the right arm. Take several deep breaths. Inhale, bringing legs back to center, then exhale and repeat on opposite side. The spinal twist pose strengthens back muscles.
How: Get on all fours, with knees directly below hips and hands directly below shoulders. Exhale. Tucking tailbone under, arch spine upward like a Halloween cat, bringing chin toward chest.
Supported Downward-Facing Dog
How: Stand in front of a sturdy chair with the seat facing you. (If it slides, place against a wall.) Bending forward from hips, put hands on the back of the seat and step back until arms are extended. Exhale and release chest toward floor, keeping back flat and shoulder blades pressed down. Reach gently forward, the head level between arms. Inhale and gently press heels down. Exhale and move deeper into the pose, stretching through arms while keeping shoulder blades down. Hold for 3 to 5 breaths, then walk forward and gently roll up to standing.
How: Stand with feet together, palms in front of the chest in prayer position. Fix gaze on a spot to help balance. Inhale, placing the bottom of the right foot on inside of left calf, right knee pointing out to side. Hold and exhale, pressing left foot into the floor. Inhale, reaching the top of the head toward the ceiling. Hold for 3 to 5 breaths. Repeat on opposite side.
Make it easier: Perform with hands on hips or arms out to sides. You can also bring right foot only to ankle, touching the floor as needed to maintain balance.