by Harry Cline
Seniors often feel helpless when it comes to their own wellbeing: they know they have to exercise and keep healthy habits, but they find it increasingly harder to do so as they age. Yoga and meditation may not seem like the obvious solution for this. After all, isn’t yoga about being ridiculously bendy, and doesn’t meditation take years of training to master?
Well, no, not really. Yoga and meditation can be undertaken with any level of fitness or focus. Both are ongoing, lifelong practices that you slowly build on with time, while also being easy to jump right into. What’s more, they have unique benefits that make them especially well-suited for improving senior health.
Eighty-seven percent of all fractures experienced by seniors are due to falls, and falls are most often due to a decline in balance. Yoga is an ideal exercise to work on improving balance, both during changes in flow sequences and in specific poses like Mountain Pose, Tree Pose, and Chair Pose. If you are scared you might fall, try starting out with chair yoga sequences - you can move on to standing balance postures as you become more comfortable with the practice.
Loss of flexibility is another common problem with seniors. Yoga is perhaps one of the best exercises out there for flexibility, since so much of it involves stretching different parts of your body. Many people worry that they won’t be able to start yoga because they are not flexible, but this is very much not the case. You build flexibility with time, and you can also use items like blocks, pillows, and straps to help you do the harder movements.
Improving Gut Health
The gut microbiome is an often-overlooked part of our health and wellbeing, but research continues to show its influence on body systems ranging from digestion to mood regulation. Studies have also shown that regular exercise is an effective way of boosting the gut microbiome. When you combine this with the fact that meditation can help gut health by reducing stress, yoga - as a combination of exercise and meditation - appears to be a great way to keep your gut healthy.
Building Muscle Strength
Seniors tend to lose muscle mass as they age, which can lead to problems like weakness, loss of balance, and difficulty living independently. As a bodyweight exercise, yoga strengthens muscles, but it does so in a gentler and less intimidating way than, say, lifting weights or doing intensive push-ups.
In fact, according to Gaiam, weights are best if you want muscle bulk, but yoga offers a more holistic and well-rounded approach to muscle building. This is much better suited to seniors who are practicing it to increase their independence and mobility, not the size of their biceps.
Fighting Depression & Anxiety
Yoga is a well-rounded, holistic, and adaptable form of exercise - but it’s much more than that. All exercise is beneficial for depression and anxiety, but yoga goes a step further by incorporating breathing and visualization techniques that make it a form of movement meditation. The combination of the workout with the meditative aspect is what makes yoga such an effective, science-backed source of support for mental health. With problems like depression and anxiety being worryingly common in seniors, yoga is an invaluable tool for improved emotional wellness.
Of course, meditation by itself also has many benefits, and seniors are encouraged to take up both practices for their mental health. While yoga brings the benefits of exercise, meditation allows you to truly focus and empty your mind with no distractions, a practice that has been shown to greatly reduce stress in the long run.
Lifestyle is one of the most important factors in determining a senior’s health. Genetics and natural aging may impact physical health to some extent, but seniors should always remember that they can always take control of their wellbeing through better lifestyle choices. Due to their many benefits for physical and mental health, yoga and meditation are great ways to boost your lifestyle without a significant commitment in terms of money or time. You can practice them for free, at home, whenever is convenient for you, providing a reliable foundation for enjoying healthy and happy golden years.
Harry Cline has years of experience being a caregiver to people of all ages. From raising his three children to caring for his elderly uncle, he 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.