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Yoga and Meditation Can Be a Boon to Seniors and Their Caregivers

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Yoga and Meditation Can Be a Boon to Seniors and Their Caregivers

By Harry Cline :newcaregiver.org

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Yoga and meditation offer a number of important benefits to seniors and those in a caregiving role.  Bending and stretching are good for our minds and bodies at any age.  Our physical and mental wellness can be improved with some basic exercises, helping us to better flex and focus.    



Older, Wiser, And Stronger

Many people apply the phrase “use it or lose it” to aging bodies and minds, but it’s often done so tongue-in-cheek.  However, as Psychology Today points out, physical activity is especially important as we grow older, and it’s not just our bodies that benefit.  In fact, 70-year-olds who exercise an average of 200 minutes per week can maintain or even improve their brain function.  Their brains actually start growing, effectively reversing the aging process, when their sedentary peers are experiencing brain shrinkage.

Yoga and deep breathing exercises offer special benefits, helping to reduce stress hormones.  Participating in any form of yoga program can help improve flexibility, strength and balance, which is important to seniors since falling becomes a higher risk if those aspects wane with age. 

Pretzels, Floors And Handstands

Yoga can be intimidating to many seniors.  Creeping around on the floor, bending into impossible positions and throwing your legs over your head might sound like a great way to end up in the emergency room, or at least laid up in bed for a week.  It’s important to keep in mind you don’t need to participate in an extreme program to reap the benefits of yoga.  You don’t even need to go to a gym, since there are in-home exercises for seniors using technology such as YouTube exercise videos, fitness apps and Wii games. 

There are gentle yoga classes designed for people who are new to yoga and chair yoga is a smart option for those with limited mobility or who just want a set of exercises they can perform anywhere.  In addition to being able to participate in any location, many chair yoga poses are simple.  You just need a sturdy chair and comfortable clothing.  For gentle yoga, Sixty & Me suggests getting started with an instructor or watching some instructional videos.  Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing and keep a floor mat handy for a soft exercise surface.

Feeling, Sensing And Thinking

Practicing yoga involves meditation.  Meditation involves mindfulness, which is basically being in the moment and aware of the sensations you are experiences.  You can improve your sleep habits by focusing on what you are feeling and by doing deep breathing exercises.  Being more aware of messages from your body can help you better cope with pain and avoid overeating.  Meditation can improve your patience, focus and self-esteem.  Mayo Clinic explains meditation can help manage symptoms associated with many chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, cancer, heart disease and asthma. 

For those who are under a great deal of stress such as in the role of caregiver, mindfulness is a particularly useful stress relief tool.  To get started, contrary to what many believe, you don’t have to have silence.  Some people find it helpful to listen to environmental sounds or soft, soothing music.  Soaking in a bath can also be helpful, offering gentle sensation to contemplate.  Avoid being judgmental about what you are feeling and thinking, and allow yourself to sense and focus.  Awareness of your breathing and the associated sensations can help ease you into a mindful state, and it’s a technique you can use in any circumstances. 

Growing older doesn’t have to mean loss of ability.  With some simple techniques, you can enjoy the many perks of participating in yoga and meditation, enhancing your physical and mental wellness.  Improved health of the mind and body can mean better quality of life for seniors and their caregivers. 

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