A Beginner's Guide to Yoga and Meditation for Seniors
Yoga and meditation used to be the domain of hippies and health fanatics, but those days are long gone. More and more people are seeking the benefits of these long-established practices, with seniors being just one of the groups getting involved. In fact, the number of Americans over 50 trying yoga has tripled since 2014, and this boom shows no signs of stopping.
But where do you begin? If you are a senior — or a caregiver to one — and have been wondering how yoga and meditation work and how you can get involved, read on.
A Brief Introduction to Yoga and Meditation
Yoga and meditation are often grouped together, and that’s because they are fundamentally linked practices. According to Yoga Journal, Hatha yoga (the physical practice we know today) was developed millennia ago to help prepare the body for meditation. Like yoga, meditation has its roots in Hinduism and has been recorded as a spiritual practice since 1500 B.C.E.
Meditation involves clearing the mind to achieve a sense of calm and, ultimately, enlightenment. However, in the modern world, it is more commonly used as a relaxation technique, usually involving a focus on the breath. Yoga can be considered a form of meditation, with some yoga practices focusing more on this aspect than others.
Why Are Yoga and Meditation So Beneficial?
While yoga and meditation are, at their origins, spiritual practices from Eastern religions, their benefits are a lot more practical. Yoga is a great form of exercise, with benefits including improved posture, bone strength, muscle mass, joint health, and flexibility. These are all important areas for seniors to focus on if they want to remain in good shape as they age.
Meanwhile, both yoga and meditation have been shown to be incredibly beneficial for mental health, reducing stress, and helping to fight depression and anxiety. Simply put, building a regular yoga and meditation practice keeps both your mind and body healthy.
Is Yoga Safe for Seniors?
Yes! There is a common misconception that yoga is exclusively a matter of contorting oneself into impossible, intimidating shapes, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. While some forms of yoga are quite intense, others are very gentle. Furthermore, you should never try to force your body to do something it can’t do. Yoga is a slow, gradual practice, and you can start off at any level. If you are worried about your joints, these tips can help you stay safe.
So How Do I Get Started?
Technology is your best friend here. Both yoga and meditation are extremely easy to start for free at home, so you can try them out before committing to a class. Most of the most popular options for at-home exercise for seniors apply to yoga and meditation, including:
YouTube Videos - There are hundreds of free yoga routines and guided meditations on YouTube, including many specifically for seniors. The most popular channel is Yoga with Adriene, which focuses on “finding what feels good” rather than trying to fit the postures. Try this gentle chair yoga for seniors, or one of her meditation videos.
Apps - There are plenty of yoga apps out there that include loads of routines, advice, and information. Apps are especially useful for meditation, however, with guided meditation apps being the easiest and most popular way to get started. Try Headspace’s free basics course to get a taste for it.
Video Games - The Wii has long been a favorite for seniors, and the Wii Fit series of games includes yoga exercises as well as some meditation and focus mini-games.
Yoga and meditation are accessible, flexible, and life-boosting practices. Their gentle nature means that they are ideally suited for seniors, and their health benefits can make your golden years safer and more enjoyable. There are plenty of free resources online to help you start your practice, as well as a huge global community of people to share your progress with. In short, taking up yoga and meditation may just be the best decision you make in your senior years.
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 care giving 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.