The current issue of Vanity Fair (April 2012) examines a feud over money and rights to exploit a system of Yoga practice developed by Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois ( Jois, who died in 2009 at the age of 94, is not a part of this conflict nor does the issue have anything to do with the exploitation of the elderly. It just made me think that since Jois was still practicing and teaching yoga into his 90’s that yoga is a discipline that might be really great for older people to consider taking up.

So, I wandered the virtual halls of the medical literature to see what we know about the benefits of yoga. A few selected studies are summarized below.

A recent review of “benefits of yoga” articles (Ross & Thomas, 2010), concluded that yoga is an effective form of exercise and has both physical and emotional benefits. This review looked at 80+ articles dealing with the benefits of yoga in general. A few elder-specific articles were examined. Barry et al (2006) found that “those in the yoga group showed significant improvement in quality-of-life and physical measures compared to exercise and wait-list control groups,” but no change in cognitive function. An older study done by a friend of mine David Haber (1983) found that elders who did yoga regularly felt better and lowered their blood pressure. Chen, et al (2007) implemented a yoga program and asked the senior participants to evaluate the experience  in terms of the difficulty of the poses, the structure of the classes, etc. The students found it to be an acceptable and helpful activity. Finally, a word of caution about teaching yoga to elders is found in Krucoff (2010). She discusses some of the physical limitations to be mindful of when working with older people.

So, I’d say yoga has potential. I think I’ll give it a try. Now, where did I put my sacroiliac?


Barry S. et al. Randomized, Controlled, Six-Month Trial of Yoga in Healthy Seniors: Effects on Cognition and Quality of Life. Altern Ther Health Med, 2006; 12(1), 40–47

Chen, K. et al. Development and evaluation of a yoga exercise programme for older adults. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 2007, 57(4), 432-441.

Haber, D. Yoga as a Preventive Health Care Program for White and Black Elders: An Exploratory Study. The International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 1983, 17(3), 169-176.

McLean, B. Whose Yoga is it, Anyway? Vanity Fair, April 2012, No. 620, 142-154.

Krucoff, C. et al.Teaching Yoga to Seniors: Essential Considerations to Enhance Safety and Reduce Risk in a Uniquely Vulnerable Age Group. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 2010, 16(8), 899-905.

Ross, A. & Thomas, S. The Health Benefits of Yoga and Exercise: A Review of Comparison Studies. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, January 2010, 16(1), 3-12.

Some Yoga Resources for Older People

Yoga at the Kitchen Sink: Standing & Chair Yoga Poses for Seniors & Their Friends by Peggy Gardiner, who is an occupational therapist as well as a yoga teacher. (

Yoga Poses for Elders is an article on by Lori Newell (