By Harry Cline
Photo via Pixabay
Yogis have known the amazing benefits of yoga for over 5,000 years, but it took some of us in the western world a bit longer to catch on. When renowned cardiologist Dean Ornish, M.D. published his research in 1992 about yoga and meditation reversing heart disease, the medical community listened. Today, yoga is being recommended by doctors across America for everything from back pain to chronic stress. If you’d like to know more about the benefits of yoga and meditation for older adults, as well as how to get started, read on!
Benefits of Practicing Yoga
- Research indicates yoga lowers blood pressure and helps with cardiovascular health.
- Yoga helps you increase muscle tone, balance, and strength. It also improves posture. Studies show that the weight-bearing aspect of yoga helps with low bone density, so you’ll reduce your risks of osteoporosis.
- Yoga has been shown to ease all kinds of aches and pains.
- Besides helping your body, yoga improves your mood and your mind. While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, research suggests yoga and meditation may play a role in prevention and improving symptoms.
- Science supports yoga and meditation for people with anxiety attacks, insomnia, depression, and stress. Wellness expert Dr. Frank Lipman says you can’t always change a stressful situation, but you can change how you respond to it. He’s a huge proponent of yoga and meditation, saying, “Meditating regularly is the easiest way to rewire your response system.”
- Attending yoga classes establishes a sense of community. These types of social connections have been shown to play an important role in maintaining health and well-being as you age.
How to Get Started
To find older adult-friendly yoga classes, check:
- Local age-friendly/community centers
- Retirement communities
- Community centers
- Religious organizations
- Health clubs and gyms
Explore the internet for free or low-cost yoga classes. [Cumberland-North Yarmouth Community Recreation offers two types of yoga for older adults and others: Kripalu and Vinyasa. Click here to register.]
All you’ll need is a yoga mat and comfortable, stretchy pants, and a close-fitting top. (Loose T-shirts tend to fly up over your head in certain poses.) Yoga is done barefoot, but if you’re uncomfortable with that, there are yoga socks with grips on the bottom that will keep your feet from sliding around on your mat.
When it comes to meditation, there’s a tendency to make it more complicated than it really is. You do not need a three-day meditation course in Sedona to meditate! Also referred to as “mindfulness,” it’s simply a matter of sitting down every day in a quiet place and focusing on the present moment and on your breath. Breathe in, breathe out, and repeat. Will your mind wander? Of course it will. When it does, gently bring it back to focusing on your breath. Start with just three minutes per day. The more you practice, the easier it becomes. The goal is to become in touch with your body and be fully present in the moment. There are also plenty of guided meditations available online.
Creating a Place for Meditation in Your Home
Having a special place in your home for yoga and meditation elevates its importance in your life. Create a space in which you’ll look forward to spending time every day. All you need for your own meditative sanctuary is your yoga mat and perhaps a chair or meditation cushion. You choose the rest to set the mood — perhaps some candles, a few spiritual objects of meaning to you, soothing music, or an aromatherapy diffuser.
As you turn yoga and meditation from a “should do” into a lifestyle choice, you’ll be amazed as you feel every part of your body rejuvenated. You won’t complain about the changes you see in your mirror either! Yoga and meditation have been a fountain of youth for a growing number of older adults. There’s never been a better time for you to try it.
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.