If you’re a senior with a growing interest in yoga, keep in mind that yoga can help relieve many of the mental and physical problems common among older adults, such as stress, depression, and joint pain. It also offers many benefits for caregivers, which means yoga can be an enjoyable activity for you and your caregiver to do together. Don’t be scared off by images of people twisted into complex poses. Yoga is a holistic, soothing discipline that’s highly adaptable to diverse groups with different physical needs and capabilities. However, you should know what you’re getting into first and find the right instructor and form of yoga before getting started.
Which Yoga Style Is Right for You?
There are different forms of yoga and different levels of intensity. If you’re new to the discipline and lack flexibility, begin with a gentle Hatha yoga class that’s better suited to your body and needs with poses that emphasize easy stretching. The optimal situation is to find a happy medium with a form of yoga that won’t risk injury while helping you achieve greater flexibility and muscle strength. Integral and Kripalu yoga work toward an integration of mind and body that incorporate spiritual growth through chanting and breathing exercises as well as meditation.
Some seniors may need the support of a chair or the weightlessness of water in order to perform yoga exercises. Starting with a gentle yoga class will also help your caregiver get into the swing of things with calming, stress-reducing movements.
The Right Instructor
One of the challenges seniors face when starting yoga is finding an instructor who has experience working with older adults. Many yoga studios and community centers offer classes specifically for older students, so look for a class led by a teacher who stays involved with students on an individual basis, and one in which it’s not difficult to keep up with the instructor. Another option is to join a local gym that offers yoga classes through the SilverSneakers program. If you’re insured through a Medicare Advantage plan like a Humana plan, you may already be enrolled in this program.
Always consult a doctor before beginning a yoga class. There may be certain movements that could cause injury or aggravate an existing condition, and it’s always important to talk to a doctor with whom you’re familiar, especially if you’re over age 65, out of shape, and have high blood pressure, arthritis, or other health issues. Also, don’t forget to make your yoga instructor aware of any health problems you may have.
Sometimes, the body manifests problems that arise from seemingly unlikely connections, for example, the connection between depression and dental health. Depression often leads to self-neglect, with one of the symptoms being poor periodontal health. The mind-body connection that yoga can establish is one of its most important benefits. When you’re feeling better about yourself, you’re less likely to engage in substance abuse or ingest foods that could damage your teeth and gums. Yoga’s ability to reduce stress can help eliminate jaw problems and muscle soreness that may contribute to headaches and other problems. If you are suffering from jaw pain or other dental issues, use an online locator to find a dentist to treat the problem before it gets any worse.
The mind-body connection also reveals the effect yoga can have on your gut. Yoga can be a way to detoxify your body, which helps to relax the gut and regulate your digestive system. Studies have found that the immune system and emotions are also connected to the gut, so focusing on your gut can really help to increase your overall well-being. Paired with a healthy diet rich in probiotics and prebiotics, yoga is a wonderful method of promoting gut health.
Self-sacrifice is a hallmark of caregiving but it comes at a cost. Caregivers often experience high levels of stress and tension, and their own well-being often takes a back seat to that of their care subjects. Difficulty breathing, muscle tension, and painful joints often affect caregivers, which is why yoga is an ideal activity for caregivers. It helps improve flexibility, reduces stress, and alleviates depression, all of which are familiar problems for caregivers.
Seniors and caregivers gain many benefits from doing yoga. It’s also a good bonding activity since the caregiver and care subject can support and encourage each other. Caregivers work off stress and tension, while seniors with depression and anxiety may expect to find that practicing yoga helps them gain a more positive self-image.