6 Wonderful Ways Seniors Benefit from Yoga and Meditation
Author: Harry Cline, founder of NewCaregiver.org: The New Caregiver’s Comprehensive Resource: Advice, Tips, and Solutions from Around the Web
Being a senior comes with many enjoyable perks. You have more time to engage in the activities you love, years of wisdom to share with others, and a unique perspective on the world that helps you appreciate the little things. Aging can also present its fair share of challenges—like joint and muscle stiffness, age-related illness, and mental health disorders. Fortunately, yoga and meditation provide a wide range of benefits that can help seniors enjoy their golden years in greater health.
1. Yoga Improves Joint and Muscle Flexibility
It’s natural to lose some flexibility as you grow older. This is due to lower water content in the tendons and a thinning of the cushioning cartilage in the joints. The resulting stiffness tends to limit mobility and can even cause pain in many cases.
Adding stretches to your daily routine is one of the best ways to relieve joint pain and muscle tightness, giving you greater flexibility and improving your joint health. The gentle movements involved in yoga will improve the functionality of your joints by maintaining their full range of motion. Yoga will also strengthen the muscles that support your joints, protecting them from unnecessary strain during gardening, cooking, playing with grandchildren, or just going for a walk. Also, spending just 5 minutes stretching is a perfect way to reduce stress during a busy day!
2. Yoga Reduces Your Risk of Injury
According to Verywell Health, falls are the leading cause of injury for seniors. Yoga can help reduce your risk of experiencing a fall by improving your balance, mobility, strength, and flexibility. Since yoga reduces the fear of falling, many seniors have enjoyed greater confidence and independence as a result. In your yoga routine, include some yoga poses that strengthen your core and incorporate balance. Downward dog, chair pose, and tree pose are excellent options.
3. Yoga Wards Off Age-Related Illness
Some types of yoga can be a workout on their own. Like all forms of exercise, yoga can help seniors fight off problems with blood pressure and respiration. Since yoga involves a focus on the breath, the practice can help you get more air into your lungs and improve oxygen circulation throughout the body. Vinyasa yoga is the perfect style if you’re looking for something gentle on your body that will still increase your heart rate for a good exercise session.
4. Meditation Boosts Your Memory and Cognitive Skills
Though there are many different ways to meditate, the main idea is to relax and focus on the flow of your breath as it enters and leaves the body. Meditation practice helps train your brain to focus on one single thought. This sends a healthy increase in blood flow to your brain during your practice, but can also reduce distracting thoughts from invading your mind as you go about your day. In fact, meditation has been found to encourage the growth of new brain cells and reverse age-related memory decline.
5. Meditation Can Improve Your Mood
Meditation also has several mood-enhancing benefits. Meditation reduces negative emotions like stress, depressive symptoms, and anxiety while improving our ability to regulate mood. Mindfulness meditation is specifically focused on adopting a sense of acceptance toward yourself and your thoughts. If you’re interested, check out this beginner’s mindfulness meditation guide by HuffPost Healthy Living.
6. Meditation Improves Digestion
It is common for seniors to experience problems with the digestive system. Fortunately, meditation can relieve some of these issues. One often-overlooked benefit of meditation is increased oxygen in the blood—this helps the stomach and intestines operate more efficiently so they can digest your food properly. Additionally, meditation's anxiety-reducing benefits allow the body to focus on digestion instead of firing up the fight-or-flight response. If you’re having problems with cramping, bloating, or heartburn, give meditation a try.
Whether you're fighting chronic illness or interested in preventing age-related decline, practicing yoga and meditation on a regular basis can make a noticeable difference in your physical and mental health. You can still enjoy these benefits even if you can't get behind the spiritual side of these wellness strategies. Many people approach yoga and meditation as simple exercise, stretching, and relaxation tools. In the end, the most important thing is to practice the wellness techniques that make you feel good!