If you’re teaching yoga to the elderly for the first time, or simply need a refresher on how best to deal with older students, we’ve curated a list of essential tips for teaching yoga to seniors, giving you a head start to lead the best classes.

The ideal first step for leading yoga sessions for the elderly is to secure the right qualification, and OriGym’s Level 3 Diploma in Teaching Yoga can do just that! By completing a recognised qualification, you’ll learn to better adapt sessions for different populations.

Find out more by downloading our course prospectus.

9 Tips On Leading An Effective Yoga Class For Seniors

Teaching yoga classes is immensely rewarding, but teaching yoga to the elderly is especially fulfilling. It’s important to help them improve their lives and effectively manage pain and, with our range of tips, you’ll do just that!

#1 – Build Rapport At The Start Of Your Yoga Class For Seniors

Build Rapport At The Start Of Your Yoga Class For Seniors

The time before teaching is just as valuable as the rest of your session. The first 10 to 15 minutes are when people get settled, check-in, and catch up with fellow students.

Part of becoming a yoga instructor is getting to know your students, and forming a meaningful bond with them. 

Some light conversation about their experience with yoga, hobbies, or even the weather are all simple ways to reach out and make that vital connection with your students.

When you’re teaching yoga to seniors, introduce yourself clearly and don’t rush your words. Remember, some elderly people struggle with hearing, so you want to show from the start of the session you’re happy to take your time and listen to what your students have to say.

Yoga class for the elderly

However, try not to force conversations. Some students may be shy and take a while to open up, while others may not want to talk to anyone and that’s perfectly fine!

A couple of other tips for building rapport during a yoga class for elderly students is to learn names, smile, and maintain eye contact. 

You should also ask about any medical history that may affect a student’s ability to perform postures, and offer adjustments as part of your yoga class plan to ensure that everyone has an enriching experience.

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#2 – Be Kind And Patient With Beginner Yoga For Seniors

Be Patient With Beginner Yoga For Seniors

It’s important to maintain empathy and patience with your older students, especially if you’re teaching chair yoga or another form of more adaptable practice. 

Those who need extra support during activities will greatly appreciate you taking the time to wait for them and give words of encouragement. Your attitude may be the deciding factor between a student returning or not, so it’s crucial you make the effort with your students. 

Elderly people can sometimes struggle to follow rapid-fire questions or streams of information. Take a breath and give them time to process what you have said and form an appropriate response. 

Patience during yoga class for seniors

Giving just a few extra seconds after giving an instruction during yoga for seniors can make a world of difference and allows them to better understand you.

Plus, if you’ve implemented our first tip and had a chat before the session starts, you’ll know what your students’ concerns are, meaning you’ll be able to provide much better support.

If a member of your seniors yoga class appears to be struggling with poses or transitions, show empathy by adjusting their positions and softly talk them through the pose. This will go far in building a bond that encourages students to return to your classes.

#3 – Project Your Voice When Teaching Yoga To Seniors

Project Your Voice When Teaching Yoga To Seniors

You need to speak clearly and articulately when teaching yoga to the elderly. Many older people have hearing troubles and if you’re teaching in a studio with a whole class of students, background noises can make it difficult to hear you speak.

Adjust your volume accordingly, too. There’s often no need to shout but speaking loudly and clearly in larger studios may be necessary. Evaluate your teaching environment and how it may impact older students.

Project voice when Teaching Yoga To Seniors

When guiding your class through easy yoga moves for seniors, use clear and precise instructions. Don’t hesitate to repeat or rephrase what you said if you sense the class hasn’t understood what you said.

If necessary, consider employing visual aids. This could be as simple as pointing or touching each body part as you talk about it. If you’re working one-on-one with a student, ensure you’re maintaining eye contact and speaking towards them rather than away from them.

#4 – Keep Cues Simple For Yoga Poses For Seniors

Keep Cues Simple For Yoga Poses For Seniors

When you’re working with older students, you want to keep your yoga cues as understandable as possible when teaching gentle yoga poses for seniors. While safety and proper alignment are crucial when teaching yoga, try not to go overboard by giving too many instructions at once.

For elderly students, this may lead to confusion and discomfort and could be the reason a student doesn’t return to more sessions. Try to lay out the basics of a pose during its set-up, then go into a little more detail once you can see the students understand.

Typically, you’ll cue yoga poses through aesthetic cues. This means your instructions are focused on creating certain shapes with the body.

Simple For Yoga Poses For Seniors

For example, a cue for Warrior Two could be something like, ‘Step forward with your right foot. Now, bend your knee into a 90-degree angle. Finally, reach out with your arms to shoulder height’. 

Understandable cues ensure everyone feels valued and supported. When your senior students feel supported, this will act as encouragement for them to push forwards and reach their goal, even if it’s something as simple as perfecting a pose.

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To help you with successfully teaching yoga to the elderly, check out these articles below:

#5 – Slow The Pace Of Your Yoga Class For Elderly Students

Slow The Pace Of Your Yoga Class For Elderly Students

Slower yoga (such as Yin Yoga) often focuses more on safe alignment and mental relaxation. These forms of yoga help improve flexibility, support muscle development, and aid in opening up areas around joints that are usually difficult to access. 

But most importantly, it can be a perfect way to do gentle yoga for seniors.

When you slow down the session, you give elderly students the opportunity to get into the pose at their own pace, making sure they’re as safe and comfortable as possible. Again, show patience with your students, they will appreciate it greatly and will be more likely to return.

Keep an eye on your class. If movements seem uncomfortable or choppy, let the class know they can take all the time they need to get comfy in a pose.

gentle yoga poses for seniors

For example, when you’re teaching yoga to the elderly, transitions are just as important as the poses, if not more. Movement from one form of pose to the next poses a different sort of mental and physical challenge than the holding of poses.

Transitions can be difficult for beginner yogis to get to grips with so when you’re instructing the elderly, you need to ensure you’re slowing things down an appropriate amount to ensure everyone is safe.

#6 – Explain Terminology When Teaching Yoga To Seniors

Explain Terminology When Teaching Yoga To Seniors

When you’re teaching yoga for beginner seniors, one of the best tips we can offer is to be mindful of the language you use. 

Beginner students don’t have the same depth of knowledge as you do, and throwing terms like ‘bandha’ or ‘asana’ into your lesson without explaining what they mean may confuse elderly students.

As you develop your unique yoga teaching style, define new vocabulary as you go, and make sure everyone knows they can ask you for clarification at any time. 

When you explain as you go, students are able to focus on the poses and movements rather than trying to remember what Sanskrit translations are and whether they’ll need to memorise them.

Invite questions when teaching yoga to seniors

Some members of your yoga class for seniors may be genuinely interested in the language or history of yoga. Use the beginning of the session when you can chat and build rapport with students, to find out whether it’s worth elaborating on any of your facts.

Keeping your definitions and explanations simple ensures your class stays engaged and doesn’t lose focus, leading to more students returning. When older yoga students feel accommodated, they’re more likely to come back to you.

#7 – Offer Pose And Transition Variations In Your Yoga For Seniors Class

Offer Pose And Transition Variations In Your Yoga For Seniors Class

Variations in yoga, while suitable for all bodies and ability levels, can be particularly useful for instructing seniors yoga. It gives the class the freedom and control to alter the practice to their level of ability. 

They refer to a slightly different way of performing a pose that either increases or decreases its difficulty level. Of course, when instructing the elderly, you’re more likely to suggest easier variations.

Easy yoga moves for seniors

Many older people struggle with strenuous movements and flexibility, so while yoga can be incredibly beneficial, it can also be difficult. 

Offering simple variations creates an open, safe space where your students feel comfortable, and ensures your yoga classes are a success. They’ll also be more likely to return to your classes if they feel welcome.

When you’re demonstrating yoga poses for seniors, you should offer variations after demonstrating the core pose. Explain slowly and clearly how this is completely optional and it’s up to each individual student to determine whether they need to make a pose a little bit easier.

#8 – Always Ask Before Assisting Class Members Through Gentle Yoga Poses For Seniors

Assist when teaching yoga to the elderly

Before rushing in to help an elderly student who looks like they’re struggling, check with them first. You should always ask people before touching and adjusting them as you don’t know what level of touch an individual is comfortable with.

Many people aren’t comfortable with touch, so when teaching yoga for seniors you should always ask clearly whether they’re happy for you to help.

Something as simple as “Is it OK if I touch your shoulders?” or “Do you mind if I give you an adjustment here?” goes a long way in building client trust.

Always Ask Before Assisting Class Members Through Gentle Yoga Poses For Seniors

You need to keep this tip in mind as many older people have joint issues or replacement parts such as knee or hip joints. If you attempt to help without asking, you may startle them and lead to an unnecessary injury.

A super simple way to combat this is to have a tub of clothes pegs you offer to students at the start of the session. If they’re happy to be assisted, they take a peg and place it beside their mat. If they prefer not to be assisted, they simply don’t take one.

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#9 – Encourage Questions When Teaching Yoga To The Elderly

Encourage Questions When Teaching Yoga To The Elderly

To create an open, welcoming space in your studio, we recommend encouraging your students to ask questions. It’s up to you whether you’re happy to take questions at any time or prefer to take them at the beginning and end of the session.

Either way, your students will be more likely to return to you if you answer them without judgement. Similar to rapport building as a personal trainer, you’ll find this helps when being a yoga teacher too.

Even when you’re teaching easy yoga moves for seniors, some people are bound to have questions. After all, they don’t have the wealth of knowledge you do as the instructor. Demonstrate patience as your older students learn and you’ll have a happy class.

Teaching easy yoga moves for seniors

If you can, show up for class a little earlier than necessary so you can open up a forum for any pre-session questions. Set aside a little time at the end for anyone who prefers to ask the question privately.

When it comes down to it, your students ask questions because they’re interested. While it may be exasperating to answer the same thing over and over, keep in mind questions represent a genuine interest in what you’re teaching.

Before You Go!

Teaching yoga to the elderly is a rewarding experience and by following our tips, you’ll certainly help them improve both their physical and mental wellbeing, as well as provide them with a community of like minded people.

Get started with OriGym’s Level 3 Diploma in Teaching Yoga, by learning how to plan and deliver effective yoga classes for different populations.

Download our course prospectus to find out how you can help advance your career.

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About the Author: Erin McDonough

Erin OriGym Author
Erin holds a BA in English Language and Linguistics, which she attained whilst studying at Bangor University. Whilst studying, she found a passion for editing and writing, and has worked with writers from the Wirral and Liverpool area over the past 3 years. Erin also has a keen interest in strength training and yoga, often incorporating mindfulness techniques into the latter. Outside of work, Erin can be found gaming, catching up with the newest book releases, or song writing.

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