Teaching Yoga to Seniors:
Essential Considerations to Enhance Safety and Reduce
Risk in a Uniquely Vulnerable Age Group
Carol Krucoff, E-RYT,1 Kimberly Carson, MPH, E-RYT,2 Matthew Peterson, PhD,3
Kathy Shipp, PT, MHS, PhD,4 and Mitchell Krucoff, MD, FACC, FAHA5
Background: Seniors age 65 and older represent the fastest-growing sector of the population and, like many Americans, are increasingly drawn to yoga. This presents both an extraordinary opportunity and a serious challenge for yoga instructors who must be both a resource and guardians of safety for this uniquely vulnerable group. A typical class of seniors is likely to represent the most diverse mix of abilities of any age group. While some may be exceedingly healthy, most fit the profile of the average older adult in America, 80% of whom have at least one chronic health condition and 50% of whom have at least two.
Objectives: This article discusses the Therapeutic Yoga for Seniors program, offered since 2007 at Duke Integrative Medicine to fill a critical need to help yoga instructors work safely and effectively with the increasing number of older adults coming to yoga classes, and explores three areas that pose the greatest risk of compromise to older adult students: sedentary lifestyle, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis. To provide a skillful framework for teaching yoga to seniors, we have developed specific Principles of Practice that integrate the knowledge gained from Western medicine with yogic teachings.