The following is a guest post from the wonderful Harry Cline of NewCaregiver.org
Seniors and their caregivers can neglect their fitness. This is understandable, as discomfort and physical limitations often accompany old age, and caregiving can put a great deal of stress on the family. It’s not just physical health that benefits from exercise, but also low-impact workouts can help elevate mood. Optimism is crucial for both seniors and their caregivers. Two of the best ways to improve anyone’s physical and mental well-being is by incorporating yoga and meditation into a weekly routine.
The Benefits of Yoga
When some people think of yoga, they may conjure images of a yogi standing on her head in front of a class of flummoxed people on yoga mats. Unlike a lot of other exercises, however, you do not need to master form to reap its benefits. Yoga provides a relaxing and calm way to stretch muscles and build strength, flexibility, and balance. Each of these benefits can help seniors improve their physical health. And while it provides numerous physical benefits, it’s not entirely accurate to label yoga as exercise. Instead, yoga is a practice. It infuses one’s life with positivity and balance. In fact, stretching alone can help put your mind at ease, relax your body, and help you manage daily stresses and anxieties. Here’s the best part: You can do many of these simple stretches at your desk or while you’re watching television.
Those who practice yoga are much more likely to opt for other healthy life choices, such as diet, relaxation, organization, and other exercises. This is because yoga provides life balance and inner awareness. In many ways, yoga is precisely the kind of lifestyle reboot that seniors and their caregivers need. Often, seniors regress into a sedentary lifestyle. Yoga can be strenuous, but most poses can be adapted for older bodies. Those with limited mobility, for example, can still benefit from chair yoga or poses that can be done while laying down. Some beginner poses that can be modified for a variety of abilities include:
- Warrior II. This pose is all about balance and centeredness. You strive to hold your body steady as you spread your legs slightly, and twist to one side, almost as if you were riding an invisible surfboard.
- Tree Pose. This classic beginners yoga pose involves standing straight and still as you bend one knee and place your foot on your unbent leg. Modify this move by holding a nearby wall or omitting the leg bend.
- Plank. This move develops core strength. Start off in a push-up position and hold still for as long as you can. Take a rest, then repeat.
- Camel Pose. Great for backs that can get slumped from poor posture or lots of sitting, camel pose involves kneeling on a yoga mat and arching your back as you reach behind yourself and try to touch your feet.
Mindfulness Benefits On and Off the Yoga Mat
Yoga also brings inner peace through mindfulness, but you can experience this benefit through quiet meditation, too. Although life may slow down a little for seniors and their caregivers, there are still stresses that plague everyone’s lives. Mindfulness can help seniors understand their place in the world and provide calmness. This calmness can be especially important for seniors who have lost spouses or loved ones to old age. And for caregivers, meditation can help them see the big picture and avoid self-neglect. Meditation has been shown to increase physical well-being, too. You don’t even have to leave your home to practice. Find a calm and quiet space in your home and turn it into a meditation room.
The mental and physical benefits of yoga and meditation also help those in recovery. For many people in recovery, having a good relationship with the physical self is just as important as the spiritual one. As substance abuse is increasing in seniors and their caregivers, yoga and meditation may be one way to stop to refocus on self-discovery and wellness.
Yoga and meditation provide many benefits to those in their later years and can help support their caregivers as well. Both are easy and fun to incorporate in anyone’s life and can provide years of sustained health.
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