By Harry Cline (newcaregiver.org)
At first, the idea of jumping into a yoga program during your senior years might be daunting at best. You might be thinking that even when you were younger, standing on your head and bending your body into pretzel shapes didn’t really suit you.
However, both seniors and their caregivers have much to gain from yoga and meditation, and virtually anyone can participate regardless of age and condition.
WHAT YOGA IS AND ISN'T
Many people are intimidated by the idea of getting involved with yoga. Even beyond the physical concerns, as BBC points out, there are often reservations about the spiritual side of yoga. While some practitioners do participate in yoga for philosophical and religious-oriented activities, yoga is really a broad term, and in this case, think along the lines of embracing yoga for its many health benefits.
Yoga can be simply a form of exercise and meditation with a goal of increasing strength, improving flexibility and balance, for stress and anxiety relief, and for relieving physical concerns such as pain and inflammation. Yoga can even improve gut health; a healthy gut can raise our mood levels and help lose weight.
(Image adapted from Pixabay)
WHO CAN DO YOGA?
Yoga is an appropriate form of exercise for the vast majority of seniors, although it’s important to understand that there are many types of yoga out there, and not all would be suitable for people with health or mobility concerns.
Some involve extreme heat or difficult poses, but there are basic, gentle stretches which relieve tension and promote flexibility. As with any new exercise program, you should discuss your personal situation with your physician before you begin, but many yoga positions and practices can be modified to the user’s abilities.
By sprinkling some breathing exercises and a few basic maneuvers throughout your day, you can reduce inflammation, promote better flexibility, ease pain, and lower stress levels. Some simple neck rolls, seated stretches, and a few back bends, and your mental and physical comfort can be much improved.
Some popular forms of yoga are specifically adapted for people who are new to yoga or who have some limitations.
Chair yoga is particularly convenient, since it can be performed nearly anywhere and those with neurological issues or obesity can engage. You can also slip in some subtle exercises when you’re out and about, such as when riding a bus, lounging in a park, or waiting in a doctor’s office.
Another popular choice for those with physical limitations is water yoga. If you have access to a swimming pool, it’s a particularly good choice for those with arthritis or who are in recovery from surgery.
Yoga postures aim to engage a mindset promoting meditation, and the two go hand in hand. Meditation basically involves calming and focusing your mind, and being fully aware of your sensations.
As U.S. News points out, meditation offers a number of important benefits, and can be used in treating chronic health concerns and for reducing stress. Through breathing exercises and mindfulness techniques, you can lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, slow your heart rate, and improve your digestion.
HOW DO I GET STARTED?
Some senior organizations offer yoga classes, or you might wish to check with a local gymnasium.
For participating from home, the Telegraph offers some step-by-step videos recommended for beginners, and to assist with your journey, there are a number of helpful apps designed specifically for seniors engaging in a yoga program.
Keep in mind that yoga shouldn’t hurt, so if you’re experiencing pain, you should discontinue a pose or reduce the severity of your movement.
Regardless of your age or physical limitations, you can participate in yoga. For seniors and their caregivers, there is much to gain. With a few basic techniques and gentle poses, you can reap the benefits of yoga and meditation, and improve your quality of life.