Here are eight Iyengar yoga poses to improve balance and mobility significantly (Journals of Gerontology).

Iyengar yoga for balance. Chair Pose.

Iyengar yoga for balance. Chair Pose.

Who needs an 8 Iyengar yoga poses to improve balance and mobility significantly? Well, if you’re an older adult, you have a one-in-three chance of falling this year and up to a 30 percent chance of sustaining moderate to severe injuries, says the U.S. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Even the fear of falling results in cutting down on physical activities elders enjoy, which leads to

  • unnecessary loss of mobility
  • a lower quality of life
  • ultimately a greater risk of falling

Iyengar Yoga Improves Your Balance

This 8-pose Iyengar yoga sequence to improve balance was shown to produce “beneficial effects on balance and mobility” for students ages 59 and over, after completing this series twice per week for 12 weeks (3 months).

The yoga students showed significant improvement in

  • The ability to go from sitting to standing: 3.43 seconds faster
  • Standing on one leg with their eyes closed: 1.93 seconds longer
  • 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.”

Iyengar Yoga FYI

“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.

To cater to each student, Iyengar yoga emphasizes the use of props that enable the instructor to modify/customize yoga poses. In this study, the instructor modified every pose to accommodate each participant’s ability and disability: the instructor’s goal was to have the participants, by the end of the 12-week study, get to a point where modifications were not required.

In addition to the following 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.

8 Iyengar Yoga Poses for Balance & Mobility

The Genius of Yoga Tips: Here are some tips for performing the following 8-pose Iyengar Yoga sequence (the tips are my opinion as a yoga teacher and not information from the study).

  • Do poses 3 through 8 with the right foot forward and then do the poses again with the left foot forward.
  • Hold each pose for 3 to 8 breaths, depending on your ability.
  • At the end of your practice, consider doing 3 minutes or more of Shavasana – the Corpse Pose.

Here is the sequence from the study, in the order performed. For further instruction, please reference your favorite yoga book or Yoga Journal’s Pose Finder.

  1. Mountain Pose with Arms Stretched – Tadasana in Urdva Hastasana
  2. Chair Pose – Utkatasana 

    Chair Pose - Utkatasana

    2. Chair Pose – Utkatasana

  3. Triangle Pose – Trikonasana: To perform the modified Triangle Pose, place the lower hand on a block or chair. For additional support, perform Triangle with your back against the wall.

    Triangle Pose – Trikonasana

    3. Modified Triangle Pose – Trikonasana

  4. Warrior 1 – Virabhadrasana 1 

    Warrior 1 – Virabhadrasana 1

    4. Warrior 1 – Virabhadrasana 1

  5. Warrior 2 – Virabhadrasana 2

    Warrior 2 – Virabhadrasana 2

    5. Warrior 2 – Virabhadrasana 2

  6. Warrior 3 – Virabhadrasana 3: To perform a modified Warrior 3, place your hands or feet on the wall for support.

    Warrior 3 – Virabhadrasana 3

    6. Warrior 3 – Virabhadrasana 3

  7. Tree Pose – Vriksasana: To perform a modified Tree Pose, stand in front of or next to a wall for support. Or move your foot closer to the floor so your toes can rest against it for support.

    Tree Pose – Vriksasana

    7. Tree Pose – Vriksasana

  8. 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 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 (elbow points to the sky).

    Half-Moon Pose - Ardha Chandrasana

    8. Modified Half-Moon Pose – Ardha Chandrasana

Can Seniors Do Iyengar Yoga?

Seniors just like you had the opportunity to participate in this 12-week Iyengar Yoga study to improve balance and mobility. Here’s what the participants had in common:

  • 54 volunteers, 59 years old or older (with an average age of 68)
  • Living independently
  • Not currently participating in yoga or tai chi classes
  • 33 percent had experienced at least one fall in the past year
  • 33 percent rated their balance as fair or poor
  • 43 percent rated their general health as very good or excellent

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.

8 Iyengar Yoga Poses to Improve Balance and Mobility

1. CDC – Older Adult Falls – Falls Among Older Adults: An Overview – Home and Recreational Safety – Injury Center. (n.d.). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

2. IYNAUS | Iyengar Yoga: National Association of the United States

3. Tiedemann, A., O’Rourke, S., Sesto, R., & Sherrington, C. (2013). A 12-week Iyengar yoga program improved balance and mobility in older community-dwelling people: a pilot randomized controlled trial. The Journals of Gerontology, 68(9), 1068-75.