The benefits of yoga and meditation for seniors and their caregivers, are essential. For example, seniors at the golden years can lose their luster if they become depressed, ill, stressed, or have crippling anxiety — but the symptoms for their caretakers are not too far off, just prompted by different circumstances. With this in mind, it can behoove both parties to take up yoga and meditation in order to get a handle on their mental and physical health. Both activities are conducive to all ages and can be done practically anywhere, so there’s never been a better reason to give them a try. Here’s why and how you should get started.
While many of the benefits are interchangeable between seniors and caregivers, there are some perks that can affect both individually.
At this juncture in a senior’s life, health issues are not uncommon, nor is having to face the loss of a spouse and friends. Not to mention, having to be taken care of (even by a loved one) can make the elderly feel as though they no longer have control over their own lives. From a physical standpoint, yoga can help seniors by decreasing blood pressure, increasing flexibility, bone strength muscle tone, balance, and range of motion; and reducing chronic pain in as little as four weeks. From a mental perspective, it can help one cope with rocky emotions by reducing stress, improving sleep, and promoting feelings of joy and hope.
For caregivers who feel emotionally and physically drained, yoga can help regain a sense of control over their own lives by providing a healthy outlet to do something for themselves for a change. When overwhelmed, many people are not conscious of the great amount of tension they hold in their bodies, which can prompt overworked joints, shallow breathing, and tight muscles. Yoga can help release this strain which will manifest itself into better sleep and improved mood while making it easier mentally and corporeally to take care of their loved ones.
Meditation is a great way for seniors to deal with depression and anxiety associated with cognitive disorders, loss of a loved one, and a decline in physical ability. It can change the structure of the brain by shrinking the amygdala cells responsible for fear, anxiety, and stress. The irony of caregiving is that givers puts themselves at risk for increased mortality, decreased immunity, mental and emotional issues, and social isolation.
Studies suggest that caregivers who practice mindful-based stress reduction techniques (MBSR) can reduce stress and boost overall mental health. This type of practice uses body and breath awareness so that you’re focusing your attention on inhaling and exhaling. Transcendental Meditation, however, involves repeating a mantra in a seated position with your eyes closed — it’s typically practiced for 20 minutes twice a day, but once can be good for a beginner. A different study found that this technique improved mood, stress levels, spiritual well-being, and energy levels of caregivers.
One of the easiest ways to begin a yoga and meditation practice is by starting slowly. Invest in a mat and some props and find a quiet, distraction-free place within your home to concentrate. With the help of an app or a DVD, begin by practicing the same sequence every day for a few weeks. Not only will this help you master the moves, but it also makes it easier to focus on breathing. Commit to at least 15 minutes each day and make an effort to take a few extra minutes to be completely still in order to relax and meditate — consider getting a cushion or bench to sit on so you’re more comfortable. Invest in a timer or tracking app so you can gauge your progress.
For all the reasons aforementioned, it’s not uncommon for seniors to have a substance abuse problem. This is yet another reason this age group should practice yoga and meditation, as both have been known to help with addiction recovery in both a physical and spiritual manner. The more regular the practice, the more apt a recovery survivor is to stay sober for life.
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Harry Cline is creator of NewCaregiver.org and author of the upcoming book, The A-Z Home Care Handbook: Health Management How-Tos for Senior Caregivers. As a retired nursing home administrator, father of three, and caregiver to his ninety-year-old uncle, Harry knows how challenging and rewarding caregiving can be. He also understands that caregiving is often overwhelming for those just starting out. He created his website and is writing his new book to offer new caregivers everywhere help and support.
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