“A Strong Mind, Body & Bond: Yoga for Seniors and Caregivers” by Kent Elliot
Many people benefit from practicing yoga and meditation, but none quite like seniors and their caregivers. Whether you have hired in-home help or a family member provides care, practicing yoga and meditation together can strengthen your partnership. Being a caregiver is a rewarding, but sometimes challenging, job— a similar experience for the person being cared for. As we get older, adapting to changes can sometimes be difficult, and might result in frustration and fear. With yoga and meditation, seniors and their caregivers can work through their emotions, while also releasing tension in the body and building strength. The best part? You don’t have to go to a gym, pay high fees at a studio or even leave your home at all.
Yoga to work out aching muscles
It’s not uncommon when our bodies age that our muscles feel tighter and tenser. Aches and pains from daily living, old injuries and bad habits can add up over the years. You can almost literally feel the weight of your life’s choices in your muscles. For caregivers, yoga can help reduce the inflammation that comes with a physically hands-on job. Yoga can help alleviate the pain by expanding and contracting your muscles and connective tissues, which improves flexibility. This lengthening and gentle pulling also elongates your muscles, lubricates joints and relieves pressure points. It won’t happen overnight, however. You have to commit to a practice to really see the benefits. If you have muscle pain, you might try:
- Shoulder and neck pain: Shoulder Stand
- Hip Pain: Folding Pigeon
- Tight Hamstrings: Reclining Hand-to-Big Toe
- Ball of Foot Pain: Toe Squat
Seniors and caregivers alike will be able to feel more physically, mentally and emotionally relaxed when they focus on melting tension from the body. Yoga can even have a positive effect on your dental health. When you relieve stress through yoga, you’ll be less likely to grind your teeth, which can cause nerve damage. If you’re suffering from any oral health issues use an online locator to find a dentist to treat them.
Individual yoga classes can get expensive, but there are ways to save. Beach Yoga SoCal offers class packages for regular participants which can significantly reduce costs. On top of that, you can practice yoga on a beautiful beach to the relaxing sounds of the waves.
Meditation to relax the mind
Staying present is a powerful tool for learning how to let go of fears, worries, anxieties and anger that can hold us back. Meditation cultivates our ability to be mindful, to be aware of ourselves moving through life in each small moment. It sounds difficult but, like yoga, with dedication to a frequent practice, you’ll see changes and improvements. Caregivers can work through any stress or anxiety they feel on the job, while seniors can release tension due to aging and adapting to change. Relaxing the mind through meditation can happen with a meditation app on your phone, watching videos on YouTube or by:
- Sitting on the floor or in a comfortable chair with the eyes closed. Take long, deep breaths. You can even try making your inhales the same length as your exhales.
- Relaxing the muscles of your body with each exhale, starting at the top of your body and working your way down.
- Mentally reciting a word or a phrase on your inhales, which creates in you a sense of calm, peace and happiness. Be open to hope in all situations.
- Finishing the session, anywhere from five minutes to an hour (start short, and slowly add more time), by wishing loving kindness to a loved one, an acquaintance, a challenging person and yourself.
It’s going to be considerably more difficult to meditate at home if your house is disorganized, cluttered, and messy. A chaotic space can promote anxiety and negativity and distract you as you attempt to meditate. By keeping your home clean and clutter free, you’ll be able to meditate much more effectively.
A path to better mental and physical starts with the relationship between caregiver and senior. Even a gentle Hatha yoga practice can give you both a chance to strengthen your body and improve flexibility. While your body may ache for different reasons, yoga can help ease your individual pains, while also bringing the two of you together. Even if you don’t intentionally start a meditation practice together, yoga will strengthen and improve the mind’s flexibility as well. Incorporating yoga into your daily routine can help seniors and caregivers live happier, healthier lives.
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