Woman enjoying the benefits of yoga.

M ore than 1 in 5 people taking a yoga class in America are older than 60. That’s no surprise, experts say, because yoga, which blends movements and poses with deep breathing and meditation, can be beneficial and enjoy­able for older adults.

Yoga is generally considered safe, but injuries can occur. A study published in 2016 in the Ortho­paedic Journal of Sports Medicine found that adults older than 65 have a higher rate of ­injury. Here’s how to reap the rewards of yoga safely.

How Yoga Can Help

Helping people manage chronic pain and maintain mobility may be among the best-studied benefits of yoga. For instance, a 2017 Cochrane review of 12 clinical trials on yoga for chronic low-back pain found that practicing it led to small to moderate improve­ments in function ­after three and six months. Such benefits are important because persistent pain can cause people to lead a more sedentary lifestyle

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“If you don’t use it, you lose it,” says Michael Wasserman, M.D., a geriatrician and CEO of Rockport Healthcare Services, a company that provides clinical and professional support to nursing homes.

Yoga may help alleviate discomfort by improving flexibility and building muscle and core strength, Wasserman says. Deep breathing could contribute, too.

“Controlled breathing has been used as a pain-control measure for centuries,” says Carol Krucoff, a yoga therapist at Duke Integrative Medicine in Durham, N.C.

Choose the Right Type

Beginners may do best to look for classes described as restorative, gentle, or Iyengar, says Jessica Matthews, M.S., a professor of kinesiology and integrative wellness at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. These use props such as blankets and bolsters to make poses more acces­si­ble. And “let your instructor know if you have any health ­issues, such as arthritis,” Matthews says. That way, he or she can show you modifications to poses.

If you have balance or mobility problems, chair yoga, done while sitting or using a chair for support, may be a good option, says Juyoung Park, Ph.D., an asso­ci­ate professor of social work who studies the benefits of yoga at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.

The International Association of Yoga Therapists or Yoga Alliance can help you find instruc­tors experienced in gentle or restor­ative yoga. And don’t overdo it. “People get injured in yoga when they push themselves too hard,” Krucoff says. “A yoga pose should feel steady and comfortable, not strained.”

Two Poses to Try

1. Belly Breathing—an easy way to relax and reduce stress.

  • Lie down or sit tall in a chair.
  • Place your hands on your lower abdomen, beneath the navel. Relax.
  • Breathe in through your nose, filling your lungs completely. Your belly will round and push gently against your hands. Avoid straining.
  • Breathe out slowly through your nose. Repeat for five to 10 breaths.

2. Tree Pose—can help improve balance and core strength.

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Focus your gaze on a spot at eye level. Pick up your left heel, bend your left knee, and turn your left leg slightly outward.
  • Slide the sole of your left foot against your right ankle, leaving the ball of your left foot touching the ground. Bring palms together in front of your chest, or lightly touch a wall, countertop, or chair back.
  • Balance here for three to five breaths.
  • Repeat on other side.

Editor’s Note: This article also appeared in the May 2018 issue of Consumer Reports On Health