A Beginner’s Guide to Yoga and Meditation for Seniors
When you were younger, physical activity was probably much easier. You had greater stamina, higher cardio levels, better muscle recovery, and less joint pain. In fact, you may have felt like Wonder Woman or Superman when you exercised. As you’ve moved into your senior years, moving your body has become more difficult. You’re not as sprightly or fast as you used to be, and your back and knees can’t handle the impact. You’re painfully aware of this fact every time you attempt to do something physical.
So what can you do to quell your doctor’s persistent nagging about exercising? What can you do to stay healthy so you live longer? Enter yoga, stage left.
Because of its adaptability and wide range of difficulty, yoga can be practiced at any fitness level. Whether you’re a lifelong practitioner or a beginner, you can reap the benefits of yoga. Physically, yoga has been known to have positive effects on balance, flexibility, strength, breathing, muscle definition, joints, and weight loss.
Yoga has more than just physical benefits. Since it’s a physical, mental, and spiritual discipline, practicing the right kind of yoga can bring benefits in all three areas. Yoga that focuses on breathing while thinking positive thoughts has mental health benefits. This practice is known as meditation, and it is commonly incorporated into yoga.
Mentally, yoga has been known to bring calmness, reduce stress, raise self-confidence, help with managing depression and anxiety, and develop focus and discipline. Yoga with meditation will have an even stronger effect in these areas of mental and spiritual health. You can learn how to get started with yoga meditation in this beginner’s guide.
Goat yoga may be especially beneficial for seniors with mental health concerns since it combines yoga with animal therapy, which has been proven effective in treating depression. Sometimes, just having an opportunity to hold a living creature is enough to relieve stress and remind us that we are more than just one being, we are connected to all living things. Plus, baby goats are adorable and it’s hard not to smile watching their antics and activities.
It’s easy for seniors to get started in yoga and meditation — all it takes is a yoga mat and a commitment to practice. You can take yoga classes for seniors, but you can also practice yoga at home with a computer and an internet connection. A simple video search for “yoga for seniors” will bring up a long list of options to watch.
With so many types of yoga to choose from, a senior who is new to it might not know where to start. Hatha yoga is a basic, beginner practice that can introduce you to easy poses and breathing techniques. Iyengar yoga is suitable for seniors, especially those with injuries, and it requires the use of some easy-to-obtain props such as blocks and bands. Kundalini yoga, meanwhile, is preferred for spiritual and meditative practice. Another type of yoga that uses props, restorative yoga, challenges the mind by centering your body and breath and promoting mindfulness.
Since yoga requires you to hold poses, you should stretch before and after yoga practice, as you would with any type of exercise. Stretching should be part of your daily routine when you wake up each day. Not only does stretching ease stress, tension, pain, and stiffness from last night’s sleep, but it can also help you get your day going and prevent future injury. Stretching at the end of the day can loosen tight muscles and prepare you for a night of well-rested sleep.
If you’re a senior or a caregiver to a senior who is interested in getting started with yoga, it’s not as intimidating as it seems. You might be overwhelmed with information and choices, and it might make you want to give up. Yoga shouldn’t be dismissed before you give it a chance to improve your life, as it’s a journey worth exploring. Take a deep breath — now, release and relax. Your new exercise program is about to get exciting. Your mind is about to reach a new level of calm.
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.