Group of seniors attending yoga class and sitting at exercising mats
When it comes to keeping seniors fit and healthy, caregivers are tasked with important responsibilities. Whether you’re a hired professional or a family member with a big heart, making sure your senior client stays active— in mind and body— is a big part of your job description. But what if there was a way where you could help yourself and your senior strengthen, relax and tone the mind and the body? Enter yoga.
If you didn’t know it already, yoga can be done by anyone. You don’t have to be able to touch your toes to practice yoga. If you can breathe, then you are already doing it! If you’re a caregiver looking to add yoga to you and your senior’s day, here are a few tips to help you start and keep a routine going.
Tip #1 Set Up a Space
Making a designated yoga space is a great way to keep your practice on the forefront of your mind. It’s also a good way to make your yoga time together a noteworthy time, which will help your senior feel special. You can use a whole room or part of a room, just as long as there is room for a yoga mat or two and access to Wifi. You’ll want to watch a few yoga videos (there are thousands of free ones online) so you understand how to correctly do a pose. While you don’t need a full-on home gym to practice yoga in your house, an area dedicated to health and fitness takes you one step closer to making it a priority.
Tip #2 Put It On Your Schedule
While one major lesson we learn from yoga is flexibility, in the beginning, you might want to make it a scheduled activity for your senior. Not only will it help you both see results more quickly, but it will also help yoga become an important daily habit. If your senior needs a little boost after they wake up, practicing a few senior-centered sun salutations before breakfast will get the blood pumping and breath flowing. If your senior charge often becomes sluggish in the afternoon, a gentle vinyasa practice after lunch will boost energy, aid in digestion and build muscle strength. If falling or staying asleep is an issue, a nighttime relaxation practice could help you both unwind. Stick to your schedule for at least 21 days to see if a habit forms.
Tip #3 Practice With Your Friends
Nothing keeps us working out quite like an accountability partner, someone who is in this with us, doing it alongside us and relying on us to help them stay the course. As a caregiver, you know friends and family who may like to get involved. Go to a class together, play yoga games on Wii Fit or watch YouTube videos to learn new poses and flows. Your gentle encouragement to make yoga a social occasion can help guard against senior isolation and add an additional activity to your senior’s week. Ask if inviting a few people over to practice yoga together might be fun.
Tip #4 Make it Meditative
Yoga is an exercise for the body and the mind. From slow, gentle yoga to hot, upbeat vinyasas, yoga is a moving meditation. It takes effort to hold poses and stretches, and if you let your mind wander, you’ll begin to fall out of the pose. In this way, yoga helps us stay attuned to the present moment , a type of mindfulness that has been shown to reduce anxiety, manage stress and reduce fear. If you finish your practice with a five minute savasana, you’ll be able to maximize the mental meditative state. End lying on your back with closed eyes. Focus on each breath , making the inhale the same length as each exhale. Every time thoughts intrude upon your savasana, just bring your focus back to those slow, even breaths.
Tip#5 Cost Shouldn’t Be An Obstacle
Many people associate yoga with the affluent or young people with more disposable income. In fact, yoga can be affordable for anyone . Whether it’s through in-person classes, wellness centers, or yoga videos online, yoga is a practice to be enjoyed by all age groups and incomes. Seniors in particular often have a fitness program subsidy through Medicare Advantage or Medigap Plan, so it’s worth reviewing any literature or resources to see what’s covered . Alternatively, many senior centers offer free yoga classes for the community. You may be surprised what you find with a little investigative work.
A caregiver’s relationship with his or her client is paramount to providing good care, for yourself, too. If you encourage your senior to practice by getting on the mat with them, you’ll help inspire a healthy habit for the both of you.