A 12-week Iyengar yoga program improved balance and mobility in older community-dwelling people: a pilot randomized controlled trial

J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2013 Sep;68(9):1068-75. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glt087. Epub 2013 Jul 2.


Background: Exercise that challenges balance can improve mobility and prevent falls in older adults. Yoga as a physical activity option for older adults is not well studied. This trial evaluated the feasibility and effect of a 12-week Iyengar yoga program on balance and mobility in older people.

Methods: We conducted a blinded, pilot randomized controlled trial with intention-to-treat analysis. Participants were 54 community dwellers (mean age 68 years, SD 7.1) not currently participating in yoga or tai chi. The intervention group (n = 27) participated in a 12-week, twice-weekly yoga program focused on standing postures and received a fall prevention education booklet. The control group (n = 27) received the education booklet only. Primary outcome was standing balance component of the short physical performance battery with addition of one-legged stance time (standing balance). Secondary outcomes were the timed sit-to-stand test, timed 4-m walk, one-legged stand with eyes closed, and Short Falls Efficacy Scale-International. Feasibility was measured by recording class attendance and adverse events.

Results: Fifty-two participants completed follow-up assessments. The intervention group significantly improved compared with control group on standing balance (mean difference = 1.52 seconds, 95% CI 0.10-2.96, p = .04), sit-to-stand test (mean difference = -3.43 seconds, 95% CI -5.23 to -1.64, p < .001), 4-m walk (mean difference = -0.50 seconds, 95% CI -0.72 to -0.28, p < .001), and one-legged stand with eyes closed (mean difference = 1.93 seconds, 95% CI 0.40-3.46, p = .02). Average class attendance was 20 of 24 classes (83%). No serious adverse events occurred.

Conclusions: This trial demonstrates the balance and mobility-related benefits and feasibility of Iyengar yoga for older people. The fall prevention effect of Iyengar yoga warrants further investigation.

Keywords: Accidental falls; Aged; Balance; Mobility.; Yoga.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / prevention & control
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Aging / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mobility Limitation
  • Muscle Strength
  • Patient Compliance
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Pilot Projects
  • Postural Balance / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Yoga* / psychology