Life after retirement can be complicated. On one hand, no more work means a reduced amount of stress. However, this can also lead to a lack of mental and physical stimulation, which can exacerbate the traditional aches and pains associated with life as a senior. To maintain their energy, sense of adventure, and general fitness, many seniors are turning to meditation and yoga as gentle tools to heighten their mental, physical, and emotional fitness. Here are some ways you or your loved one can get started.
Should seniors meditate?
Seniors are living longer and, as a result, are more susceptible to developing neurodegenerative diseases. According to Flowing Free, regular meditation has been linked to improved recall abilities, more effective cognitive functions, and a reduced likelihood of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. It also helps to slow your mind, allowing you to feel more focused and alert, which also improves your ability to sleep through the night. Deep breathing, a key part of meditation, enriches your blood with oxygen, eventually improving digestive functions. Finally, achieving a level of quiet and comfort with yourself releases good-feeling chemicals called endorphins, which can help reduce depression.
How to begin meditating
While group meditation classes are available (and help provide a sense of belonging and community), you can also meditate by yourself in any location you like. One easy way to begin is to set a time each day to sit in silence, free from distractions (such as a loud television or radio), for a short period of time. This can feel awkward, particularly if you are new to meditation, but do your best to clear your mind. Over time, this will start to feel much more natural.
If you want to take your meditation practice a step further, consider setting up a meditation room in your home. The key to creating a relaxing space where you can clear your mind is simplicity, according to HomeAdvisor. All you really need is good lighting and a timer, but you can also incorporate aromatherapy if you would like. When it comes to decor, use soothing colors and accents from nature. Minimal outside stimuli will make it easier for your mind to stay focused.
Should seniors pursue yoga?
The term “yoga” encompasses a wide variety of techniques, strategies, and activity styles, including gentler approaches that are less stressful on the joints, which are perfect for seniors who want to get in shape while minimizing injuries. Many recreation centers and gyms offer yoga classes designed specifically for seniors. Some varieties of yoga incorporate chairs to help those with difficulty balancing, while others are held near the pool as an offshoot of water aerobics. Many yoga poses fundamentally incorporate aspects of balance, and can help improve the muscles that control stability, which often grow weaker with age. Yoga’s gentle, sustained poses can also help with flexibility, and can even ease the aches associated with arthritis.
While this is true of all forms of yoga, yoga designed for seniors is even better at being a calming experience that reduces stress in general. Over time (and with sustained, regular practice), this can help lower your blood pressure, minimize anxiety, and reduce the need for medication. Finally, once many seniors retire, they experience isolation. Joining a community is extremely healthy and beneficial for self-esteem and positivity - regular yoga classes can help provide friendship through shared interests.
How to begin practicing yoga
To begin practicing yoga, check your local senior center, retirement community, or health club for beginner classes tailored toward seniors. If you have been inactive for an extended period of time, it may be helpful to begin to prepare with several simple poses to get your body used to activity again. Start with several basic stretches. Daily stretching, particularly when supplemented with exercise classes, can help to ease tension, stress, pain, and overall stiffness.
Try following your stretching routine with several basic yoga poses A triangle pose, in which the legs are spread and the arms are perpendicular to the ground, can help unlock and stretch your hips. Standing spinal twists, in which you rotate your body from side to side with your arms outstretched, can improve stability and arm strength, and straighten your spine. The cobra pose, in which you lay on your stomach and lift your head and chest toward the ceiling, is a great way to improve blood circulation and strengthen your back and shoulders.
Even after retirement, it is important to stay physically and mentally healthy. Meditation and yoga can be great ways to get your blood pumping and your mind moving while also helping to create a supportive community of like-minded friends.
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 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.