In this article we feature a new writer on our blog, Harry Cline. Harry 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.
We hope you enjoy Harry’s article: “Practicing Yoga Confidently as a Senior”
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As a senior adult, you are probably set in your ways. You have lived much of your life and are confident in who you are. But don’t ignore the fact that it’s never too late to learn something new. If you’ve never tried yoga and meditation, your senior years are a perfect time to introduce a new practice into your life. Here are a few ways to get started:
What Yoga Is
At its core, yoga brings several aspects of your existence together, including your body, your breath and your mind. The actual word “yoga” comes from the Sanskrit word “yuj”, which means “to unite.” There is no age requirement – people of any age can benefit from uniting their bodies and minds in a relaxed state of harmony and joy. Add meditation to the mix and you can see how yoga can increase both your mental and physical well-being.
While you may feel intimidated to join a class full of experienced participants, yoga is about working on your own body and mind, not comparing yourself to others. Focus on the present moment and don’t give thought to others. Start slowly and gently with a class for beginners to help you learn basic terminology, poses and methods. Progress will come as you consistently work; you’ll be surprised to find yourself doing poses sooner than you think.
Mindfulness, or being aware of what is happening right now, in front of you, adds a mental and spiritual dimension to yoga. Start by paying attention to your breaths, the position of your body and how your body feels. You don’t want to get to the end of class and realize you don’t remember anything that happened. While all yoga includes awareness of your mind, some classes focus more on guided meditation than others. If this interests you, don’t be afraid to explore more meditation techniques.
Adapting for Seniors
Work within your comfort zone as you learn yoga. Keep checking your internal compass and focus. If you can smile and you feel comfortable, keep it up! If you’re feeling unhappiness because of discomfort or pain, something isn’t working right and you should back off until you return to a state of comfort. You don’t have to accomplish an elaborate, pretzel-like pose to do yoga. As long as you are moving with purpose and awareness of your mind and body, you are doing yoga. Your flexibility, stamina and fitness will improve over time. You don’t even have to leave your home to meditate and do yoga. Set up a calm space at home that’s quiet and relaxing.
Help for Addiction Recovery
If you are recovering from an addiction even as a senior, yoga can play a vital role in your recovery. It provides a physical practice that gives you a way to feel good without relying on a substance. Yoga also helps you connect with something bigger than yourself and empower yourself as you make progress toward healing. Cultivating mindfulness and calmness can also help ease your anxiety, reduce your cravings and quiet your mind, which are all keys to staying away from addictive behaviors.
Yoga is a natural way to build community as you learn and grow with others. If you’re looking for a group of seniors to become a part of, a local yoga class can bring your body, mind and spirit together with others focused on the same objectives. Yoga communities tend to be inviting and non-judgmental, and you can quickly build camaraderie based on your shared experiences.
It’s never too late to start yoga. In fact, your senior years are a perfect time to show others that learning and growing never stops. Find the right class and jump right in – the benefits may just extend your golden years even further.