Written by Harry Cline
Self-care is crucial for preventing caregivers from getting burned out, but it can also add quality to your senior family member’s life. Finding the time for that self-care can be a challenge, but you only need small steps to make a major difference in your mental health. If you only have the time and energy for one self-care habit, you should use these tips to add a stress-relieving combination of meditation and yoga to your daily routine.
Mind-Body Benefits of Yoga and Meditation
The wonderful thing about yoga, especially when paired with meditation, is that it offers a host of physical and mental benefits to practitioners because of how it fosters the mind-body connection. For example, people may notice improved gut health when they start a yoga practice. The physical activity and stress-busting techniques of yoga foster a more balanced belly microbiome, which can result in benefits like a more regular bathroom schedule and better mental clarity. Similarly, yogis may experience better dental health. The practice requires you to focus on how you’re manifesting stress and tension in your body, which is often a clenched jaw or mental fog that prevents you from practicing healthy oral habits. Being aware that you clench your teeth when you’re feeling overwhelmed allows you to take a moment to relax any time you feel yourself getting anxious, resulting in improved dental health and a mood boost that encourages you to practice other self-care acts, like brushing your teeth.
Set Up Your Own Space for Relaxation and Practice
As you begin yoga and meditation, consider setting up an area in your home to make it easier to stick to your new habits. You don’t need a lot of extra room to make a difference. All you need is an area big enough for you both to comfortably stretch out and relax into your routines. Adding little touches, such as candles and cushions, will add to the ambiance of your new wellness corner and also make you want to spend more time in it.
Go to a Class Together
If you can make it to a yoga or meditation class, you can get a better understanding of how to practice these habits. You can expect to pay $10 to $30 on average for a drop-in class, but you might be able to gain financial assistance depending on your senior loved one’s health insurance. Some Medicare Advantage plans offer coverage for yoga classes. Go online to learn more about these plans. Keep in mind that this coverage is not offered by basic Medicare.
Honor the History of These Relaxing Self-Care Practices
Most people know that yoga and meditation are good for stress relief. That’s what makes these holistic rituals so beneficial for seniors and their caregivers. Practicing the mindful breathing that is so integral to these habits is what helps your brain and body respond more positively to stress. This is why yoga and meditation are finding their place in the treatment of physical and mental health issues. However, what many newcomers to meditation and yoga don’t know is the history behind these effective techniques. Studying the history of yoga can give you even more powerful insight into practicing mindfulness in all areas of your life. Plus, many feel comforted by the positive messages in these texts, which can help deepen your practice.
Modify Your Poses If Needed, but Focus on Breathing
It can be intimidating to start a yoga practice when you’ve seen photos and videos of people in advanced, perfect-looking poses. Striving for perfection, however, goes against the true intent of a yoga practice. Instead, look for modifications that allow you to practice in your own way. Know that your feet may never rest flat on the ground during downward dog, or that you may need a bolster or blanket for seated positions. There’s nothing wrong with modifying even the simplest of poses, especially for seniors with mobility issues, so long as you are not taking attention away from your breathing. Controlling your breath is a fundamental element of yoga and meditation, and can also help you stay calm in tense situations.
Use Online Tools to Begin and Deepen Your Practices
Attending yoga and meditation classes allows you to feed off the positive vibes of others, and it also gives you more personal instruction from experienced teachers. It’s also understandable that seniors and caregivers may not be able to leave their homes as often as needed, but luckily, there are plenty of online yoga resources that can give you pointers on poses, your breathing, and the various types of yoga. In addition to online yoga videos and tutorials, there are also quite a few visual meditation tools available. These guided meditations are a good way for seniors and caregivers to feel comfortable when starting their own daily practice.
When you are caring for a senior loved one, it can be easy to forget to care for yourself as well. However, yoga and meditation can bring peace and balance to both of your lives. Take a few minutes each day to be mindful and to stretch those tensions away.
Harry Cline is a retired nursing home administrator, father of three, and caregiver to his ninety-year-old uncle, so he knows how challenging and rewarding caregiving can be. He is the creator of NewCaregiver.org.
Photo Credit: Pixabay
Anietie blogs about what moves her which is usually yoga, the arts and love.