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Gentle Yoga Poses (Foundational Sequences for Yoga Teachers)

The practice of Gentle Yoga poses helps students become self-assured and strong. This gentle yoga class is a slow process where each pose is held for longer times to get the most from it. Here are some foundational sequences to guide those who are teaching Gentle Yoga.

Woman practicing Ardha Matsyendrasana pose.

While Gentle Yoga sounds somewhat simplistic and easy, it is a type of yoga practice that is as important as any other style available. Gentle Yoga allows all people to participate and enjoy yoga. Gentle Yoga is not overly intense but is disciplined and calming.

It is the practice of sequential yoga pose with a gradual flow built into the various aspects of the stretch. The goal is to enhance flexibility but also to help with injury recovery in the lower or upper body, manage stress, support those with chronic conditions as well as work on strengthening the connection between breath, mind and body.

The practice of Gentle Yoga poses helps students become self-assured and strong. This gentle yoga class is a slow process where each pose is held for longer times to get the most from it. Here are some foundational sequences to guide those who are teaching Gentle Yoga.

Yoga for Feet and Ankles – Peak Pose Yoga Sequence

The feet and ankles are an integral part of yoga. They help with all poses but especially standing balancing ones. Strong feet and ankles offer a feeling of control over the body and stability for lower body poses. Seated poses where the ankle joint can be flexed should be done gently and slowly to strengthen and stretch them. Strong ankles help avoid ligament damage to the ankles and knees and assist in improved stability. This 30-minute sequence is a Gentle Yoga routine that targets these joints.

  • Warm-up with a focus on the feet, ankles, toes and calves. Gently stretching them to warm up removes any tension or stiffness in the ankle area and will make flexing easier. Always breathe and listen to the body.

After a warm-up, begin with Mountain Pose (Tadasana) with an inhale-exhale for 60 seconds. Remember to hold and breathe. For a further stretch, standing on the tiptoes can be included as well. Times can be adjusted as the student feels able.

Woman doing a mountain pose.

  • This then moves to the Downward Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukah Svanasana) which has the variation of one knee bent. Again, this is done with an inhale-exhale for 60 seconds. Remind participants to focus on body awareness and breathing.

Woman preparing for a downward dog pose.

  • Once the Downward Facing Dog Pose is held for the appropriate amount of time, then it slowly moves back to the beginning of the pose but this time it moves to having both knees bent. The inhale-exhale remains the same at 60 seconds.

Woman doing an easy variation of downward-facing dog pose.

  • Returning to standing, the sequence then moves to Garland Pose (Malasana) Hands Forward. Use the 60-second inhale-exhale sequence during this pose. It is an adaptable pose that is good for all abilities. Reaching with fingertips in front of the feet helps the stretch. (a) Those of differing abilities can also place a volleyball-sized ball under the buttocks to help with stability once in the squatting position. (b) It is good to remind yourself that teaching Gentle Yoga means adaptations may need to be made for those of various abilities.

a – Woman sitting in Garland yoga Pose.

b –Woman sitting in Malasana pose.

  • Next is moving from the Garland Pose to a seated position. This gentle movement is done slowly and smoothly into the pose where the student can do Seated Ankle Rotations (Upavistha Goolf Chakra). This is another pose where adaptations can be made for those who are not able to work on the floor. A chair can be used for sitting or support for those standing. Gentle rotations are focused on the ankle while doing even inhale-exhale breathing for 60 seconds. There is no rush in this pose. It can be done slowly and deliberately.

Vector of a woman doing seated ankle rotations.

  • Firelog Pose (Agnistambhasana) is an easy transition that releases from the seated ankle rotation on the floor. The right leg is bent, placing the right foot above the left knee. The left foot is then brought up to the right knee. This pose can be varied for those having difficulty by not crossing the second leg. Once you have done it with one leg, then repeat with the other. Switch which leg is on the bottom. The fire log pose is held for 60 seconds with consistent inhale-exhale breathing and focus.

Woman at a spring park doing firelog pose.

Finish this sequence with the Cradle Pose (Hindolasana). This posture is held for longer this time if you are able. The rhythmic inhale-exhale breathing should go over 120 seconds. This pose will open up the hamstrings and hips and also work on the ankles. Body awareness is especially needed so the focus on the ankles and knees is prevalent. It will round out the sequence highlighting these important joints.

Woman doing a cradle pose.

Gentle Yoga Sequence to Build Hip and Pelvis Stability for those Elderly with Osteoporosis

While this gentle sequence is targeted at seniors, it can be used by anyone who needs to gently take care of the hip and pelvis area. It can help counteract reduced mobility and balance by offering ways to increase stability and strength in joints that need to be active and have a range of motion. This particular sequence is slow-moving and goes through standing to seated poses with a focus on body awareness. Connecting with the body can help in a senior’s daily lives as they learn to notice when they need to reduce the stress on it. Poses can be modified based on individual needs.

  • This sequence begins with the Mountain Pose (Tadasana) with inhale-exhale breathing for at least 90 seconds. It is important to teach students to focus on this breathing and how their body is feeling. While this is not a complex pose, it is the perfect gentle introduction to this sequence.

Woman in a mountain pose.

  • Standing Calf Stretch Pose Wall is easy to get to from Mountain Pose. It is perfect for Gentle Yoga as it uses props for support. Using a wall allows the pose to be more accessible for those with diminished strength, low flexibility, or lack of balance. It can gradually be changed without using the wall for support when or if the student feels able. It is a wonderful warm-up as the body gets ready to do more poses that will be a little more intense. Do this pose and inhale-exhale for 90 seconds, then switch legs.

Man doing a standing calf stretch pose wall.

  • Once the calves are warmed up with gentle calf stretches, then the sequence moves to the Wide-Legged Standing Twist. This will help boost energy throughout the body and loosen the torso and hip area. This pose can be adjusted for each person by moving the leg stance closer or farther apart as well as the intensity of the twist. Arm positions are adjustable as needed. It is a gentle pose with a good range of motion to stretch the abilities of those who are just starting out.

Female silhouettes in a wide-legged standing twist position.

  • The standing pelvic circles is another gentle and adjustable pose. It warms up the hips and pelvic area without being too taxing. This one should be done with good inhale-exhale breathing for at least 120 seconds if possible. Feet and stretch can be adjusted for each person. This pose will help increase the flexibility of the hips and lower back. It should be done in a very slow way with as much rotation as possible. Focus on breathing through the stretch.

Representation of standing pelvic circles.

  • Standing (Tadasana) Hip Rotations are a little trickier than simple hip rotations, but doing it in a slow, gentle manner can help improve balance. These rotations warm up the hips and lower limbs. Doing these helps with a range of motion and building muscle in the gluteus maximus. It will also help joint mobility. If the student’s balance is problematic, then using a chair or other support can help since they will be on one leg for 90 seconds at a time. Once the rotation has been done for one hip, then legs are switched so both sides have been worked on.

Woman doing standing hip rotations.

  • The Chair Pose is helpful as it can be done from the simplest pose to a deeper bend with more complexity. The outcome is to look and feel like the student is going to sit in a chair. The chest and thighs should eventually be at a right angle. This is a good and gentle pose for seniors as they have to listen to their body, so they know their limits for both balance and muscle tension. They can use a wall if needed to help with balance until they can do it on their own. The muscles in the front of the thighs will be used, so make sure the student only holds the pose as long as they feel comfortable. It is not as much about stretching as it is about working on good balance and strength.

Senior man doing chair pose or Utkatasana.

  • The well-known Warrior Pose is great for seniors who need to work on their hips and legs. It is a nice basic way to end this sequence. It allows for stretching while maintaining balance. The focus on the hips and legs is targeted but it is also adjustable so the students can use the wall as needed. It is a nice blend from the Chair pose to the stretch of the Warrior. The pose can be held for 60 seconds and then switch legs so both sides are working. Always adjust so the student is comfortable and working towards improvement.

Senior man doing yoga warrior pose on lakeshore.

A woman stretching her body after waking up in the morning.

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