Caregiving requires immense strength and compassion. After giving so much of yourself to another person, you need opportunities to refill your cup. Yoga and meditation allow you to care for your body, mind, and spirit without pulling you away from your caregiving responsibilities. Not only are yoga and meditation easy to fit into your day, but you can also practice them with your senior loved one. Both seniors and their caregivers have a lot to gain from yoga and meditation.
The gentleness and adaptability of yoga make it an excellent exercise for people of all ages and ability levels. Yoga gently stretches the muscles to release tension and improve flexibility. As a caregiver, it’s a simple way to relieve the pain and stiffness that arise from transfers and other physically demanding caregiving duties. Stretching also alleviates muscle tension from psychological causes; when your muscles are growing tight and painful from stress, stretching triggers your relaxation response so you’re mentally and physically at ease.
Seniors, too, benefit from yoga. Whether practicing alongside a caregiver or adapting poses for chair yoga, senior yogis enjoy increased strength and flexibility. In turn, they lead more independent, vibrant lives and are less likely to suffer a fall. Seniors who do just 15 minutes of daily exercise are 25 percent less likely to suffer a disability or injury than those who do not.
Seniors shouldn’t let health problems keep them from practicing yoga, provided their doctors clear them for exercise. Yoga improves common health issues such as arthritis, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. Yoga may even protect against cognitive decline and dementia. What’s more, yoga can be modified to meet your current health and circumstances.
Additionally, yoga can do wonders for other areas of physical health, particularly the gut. When good bacteria thrive in your gut, other areas of your health improve, such as your immune system and mood. A diet rich in probiotics and prebiotics is essential to keeping your gut healthy, but exercise can also contribute positively to your gut — after all, exercise improves your stress levels, which are also connected to what you eat. When paired together, practicing yoga and taking care of your gut can really give you that boost you need to stay happy and healthy.
Yoga and meditation have a lot in common. They both reduce stress and improve mental clarity. However, while yoga can be fairly athletic, meditation is all about the mind.
Meditation relieves stress, boosts empathy, and improves cognitive functioning. These are important benefits for caregivers who have to provide compassionate, skilled care for a senior loved one. Without tools like meditation, caregivers are prone to chronic stress and burnout.
Meditation offers similar benefits to seniors. It’s known to ease symptoms of depression and anxiety, improve cognitive function, and reduce perceptions of pain. Meditation can also help people overcome insomnia, a common complaint among seniors.
Getting Started with Yoga and Meditation
There’s no need to choose between yoga and meditation. Incorporating both practices into your daily routine offers the greatest benefit to your health and the health of your senior loved one.
Meditation is a simple practice, but you may struggle to stay still and focused at first. It’s better to start with short meditations and increase their length over time than to start with long meditations and give up because you’re frustrated.
For meditation that you and your senior loved one can practice together, sit in a quiet room, close your eyes, and pay attention to your breath and physical sensations. For a more in-depth explanation of this basic meditation practice, known as mindfulness meditation, Headspace points out it’s best to start by focusing on your breathing. For the best results, try to meditate daily before bed for improved sleep or in the morning for an uplifting start to the day.
If you can, set aside a room (or even a part of an existing room) for a personal meditation space where you can retreat, relax, and tune into your thoughts without any distractions or disturbances. If you have an unfinished basement, for example, set aside some money in your budget to hire professionals to turn this space into a nice, quiet place for you to meditate. Just keep in mind that the price of this project will change depending on the size of your basement and the materials you want to use.
When practicing at home, online videos are a convenient way to get started with yoga. You can find videos tailored to beginners, chair yoga videos, and countless other resources, and even enhance the experience with a 3D sound from a soundbar. However, like any exercise, there’s a risk of injury if you execute a pose incorrectly. Starting your yoga practice with a series of classes gives you the necessary foundation to practice safely and learn the best adaptations for your body. Small group practices and private sessions are best for seniors and caregivers who need hands-on assistance. Better yet, consider immersing yourselves in yoga at Sewall House by booking a retreat. It’s an ideal way to get comfortable with the practices and also enjoy the ultimate self-care experience.
Caregiving is demanding work. Aging, too, has its challenges. No matter which side of the equation you’re on, yoga and meditation can help you conquer stress and stay mindful, focused, and compassionate in your daily life.