Benefits of Yoga and Meditation for Seniors and Caregivers
Yoga for Seniors and Caregivers
Seniors and caregivers both face a litany of physical and mental health problems stemming from aging, stress, isolation, and lack of activity. Stress, in particular, is damaging to the body’s systems and major organs and to the brain’s cognitive processes. Lacking the ability (and opportunity) to engage in rigorous exercise, seniors and caregivers stand to benefit materially from the many benefits that yoga and meditation can bestow.
Research has shown that meditation and yoga for seniors, which combine meditative discipline and a purposeful flexing of muscle groups, can improve digestive health, reduce stress, lower blood pressure, improve sleep patterns, and alleviate feelings of depression.
In fact, meditation just 10 to 20 minutes twice a day relaxes the central nervous system and keeps cortisol levels under control. Together, yoga and meditation have been proven effective at enhancing feelings of well-being and overall health in many people.
Many older adults are reluctant to try yoga because they associate it with images of young people engaged in impossible-looking poses they could never duplicate. Fortunately, chair yoga adapts those same poses to chair-based exercises, meaning you can achieve the benefits of yoga without getting up out of your chair. You gain the same benefits as traditional yoga without risking muscle pulls or tears and aggravating joint pain, which often cause older people to be leery of trying yoga. Chair yoga is an excellent exercise alternative for caregivers, who may spend hours every day in a sedentary situation. In addition to its many physical and psychological benefits, yoga builds confidence among people who may have given up on the idea of ever regaining the flexibility and muscle strength they once had.
Most people associate meditation with mental processes, a discipline that can help keep seniors sharpen and bolster memory. But science has shown that regular meditation can alleviate many physical ailments common among the elderly. Meditation can reduce inflammation, improve circulation, manage chronic pain, reduce feelings of loneliness (a major cause of health problems among the elderly), and help cure insomnia.
A Meditative Space
Older adults can easily set up a meditation room in their homes. Locate a quiet and relaxing space; avoid any room that could distract your attention with concerns or interruptions by other members of the house. If possible, find a room that affords a view of greenery and natural elements, which can enhance one’s ability to focus, preferably one with adjustable light and the ability to reduce or block out natural light. Light scented candles and introduce calming, meditative music that aids your ability to concentrate. Include flowers and other appealing visual accents.
Remember, the idea is to create a relaxing haven where you can concentrate your energies and relinquish day-to-day cares.
Above all, a meditation room should be free of clutter and kept well-organized. Remove any unnecessary objects and make room for a mat, rug, or pillow — whichever you choose to sit on during meditation. Some people decorate meditation rooms with religious items such as a rosary, crucifix, or Buddha figurine. Others decorate with photos of loved ones. However, it’s essential not to overdo it and complicate your meditation space, making it too busy or cluttered to be an effective meditation room.
Older adults are at risk for a great number of maladies that are only exacerbated by their inability to engage in regular exercise and the deleterious effects of isolation and inactivity. Yoga and meditation offer a viable alternative that can keep seniors and their caregivers active and alert.