Being a senior can be challenging, and so can being a caregiver. Building flexibility and strength in mind and body can ease the stresses that often accompany aging, as well as caring for someone who is growing older. There are many ways that seniors and their caregivers can incorporate activities that promote health and well-being.
Spiritual healer, motivator and coach Autumn Asphodel invites you to take a look at a powerful exercise option you can start today, as well as a few poses you can work toward for mind and body health and wellness.
Yoga for a healthy mind and body
Yoga is a 5,000-year-old practice for a healthy mind and body, and even doctors today see the value and benefit of regular yoga. Not only is it one of the most effective exercises you can do for health and healing, it is also one of the most accessible. But the benefits of yoga go far beyond building muscle and improving flexibility. You can also ease the aches in the mind, including worry, anxiety, stress, and frustration. Often called a moving meditation, a yoga practice encourages you to be attuned to the present moment. That leaves no room for focusing or even ruminating on some situations that might cause seniors distress, like finances, medical concerns, or challenges with family and friends.
Poses for seniors and caregivers
Yoga consists of hundreds of poses, with modifications and variations on a vast majority that make them accessible to most people. You can even bring in props to help deepen poses. Since seniors can face many unique physical difficulties, staying safe and taking it easy at first is crucial to avoid injury during your practice. This is true for caregivers, too. Some common poses and modifications include:
- Pigeon pose: A hip-opening yoga position that helps elongate muscles to improve flexibility, pigeon pose is a deep hip opener. You position the front leg bent so that the foot is below the opposite hip. The back leg is straightened out behind you. You can work on the pose with a truly powerful modification. Sitting upright on the glutes, you can bend one leg and put the ankle of the opposite leg on the top of the thigh. This variation makes the pose accessible to almost anyone.
- Tree pose: An accessible balancing pose that can help calm the mind and strengthen the body, tree pose provides both grounding and growth. Plant one foot firmly on the ground and bring the opposite foot to the outside of the ankle, calf, or thigh. Be sure to avoid the knee. To modify the pose, stand next to a wall and use it to secure your balance.
- Forward fold: Gently work out tight hamstrings by deepening your standing forward fold. Always keep a slight bend in your knees so you don’t strain your lower back, and try to keep your back as flat as possible. Squeezing your shoulder blades together can help. You can also do this pose with a chair or while seated—often called staff pose—for additional support while you work on improving flexibility.
Where to practice yoga
The benefits of yoga can easily be attained right at home. You can follow along with any number of free online yoga videos on sites like YouTube to help learn and practice poses and flows. Seniors who would prefer to practice yoga in a more professional setting can sign up for a yoga class at their local senior center. They may even be able to take free yoga classes depending on their health insurance. Certain Medicare Advantage plans also provide access to fitness programs through SilverSneakers.
Alternatively, you could create a dedicated yoga space in your home. You don’t need much for your space either: a yoga mat, props, ambient lighting and a diffuser can set the tone. Simply clean and declutter your preferred area, and try a cleansing ritual to remove any negative energy.
How to support yoga
Regular yoga practice can certainly provide seniors and their caregivers plenty of health benefits, but like all exercises, yoga should be accompanied by other healthy habits. Aside from a proper diet and a good night’s rest, make sure you’re taking a daily multivitamin. A good multivitamin ensures you’re adding essential nutrients to your body, which you might not be getting from the foods you’re eating. Also, getting enough B vitamins can improve your energy levels and positively impact your mood. Focusing on good health in all aspects of your life will ramp up your yoga practice.
These poses target the pain points many seniors feel, from achy joints to tight muscles to neuropathy. But they also help ease the physical and mental stress many caregivers face every day—like stiff muscles from helping people get in and out of the bath or tight hips from a work day spent on their feet. Plus, it can be a great bonding experience for seniors and their caregivers to practice together.