Special to Palmetto Counseling’s Blog | November 1, 2018 5:55 PM EDT
This issue features an article by Harry Cline

Beginning a new exercise program in your seniors years can be daunting. It’s important to stay fit, but you might be concerned about overexerting yourself. For seniors and their caregivers, yoga can be the perfect solution.

What is yoga?

If you are new to yoga, understanding the basic concepts can help you feel more confident about participating. You might have notions of trying to wrap your legs behind your back and do a handstand, or repeating mantras for hours on end. As the Yoga Alliance explains, yoga is a system of techniques and guidance for enriching your life. There are many varieties of yoga, and the experience and practice are highly personal. Yoga and meditation are connected. The positions you engage in while practicing yoga are designed to help prepare the mind and body for meditation. In a sense, yoga helps you relax and stretch your body, while meditation helps you relax and stretch your mind.

Learning to meditate

Meditation involves self-awareness, relaxation, and focusing on sensation. Psychology Today explains there are a number of important benefits of meditation. You can better manage pain, improve your immune function, and experience a greater sense self-control. Meditation can even boost your brain power, helping you to be more focused and improve your memory. You can learn to meditate by engaging just a couple minutes at a time, thinking about your breathing and what you are feeling. Ideally, you will set aside a quiet space for meditation. To reap the most benefits, consider establishing a meditation room or area in your home dedicated to quiet contemplation. Opt for a relaxing and uncluttered area, preferably with a tranquil view of nature. Choose soft colors and natural textures for the space, and consider altering the lighting in a way that allows you to regulate for your comfort. You may wish to add an aromatic scent to your meditation space with candles or incense.

Yoga has much to offer

In many ways, yoga is an ideal form of exercise for older adults. It’s easier on your body than more intense fitness programs, such as running or weightlifting. At the same time, there are several key health benefits of yoga. Participating in a regular yoga program can increase energy levels, improve strength and flexibility, and improve posture. Routinely practicing yoga can counteract many of the concerns seniors experience, such as slowing the loss of bone density, improving balance, enhancing mobility, and alleviating joint pain. Some studies indicate that, when older adults participate regularly in yoga, they enjoy significant weight loss, staying about 20 pounds lighter than their non-practicing peers. You can even slow the aging process and extend your lifespan.

Getting started

There are a couple of popular yoga styles for beginners. One is chair yoga, which is considered a hybrid yoga practice since it is a modified version of traditional yoga. It’s a stable option for those with limited mobility and can be performed almost anywhere. The only things you need to participate in chair yoga are a sturdy chair and comfortable clothing. You can follow along with step-by-step instruction on how to do basic chair yoga poses. Another good option for beginners is gentle yoga. You will need a mat, some floor space, and comfortable clothing to get started. It’s a low-impact form of yoga involving both seated and standing poses, along with some balancing and bending exercises. Before you begin practicing any new exercise program, you should discuss your personal circumstances with your physician.

Yoga is a viable exercise option for almost anyone, regardless of age or athletic ability. The practice has much to offer seniors and their caregivers, and getting started is not hard. Add yoga and meditation to your lifestyle so you can enjoy better physical and mental health.

About the author

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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