We often think about yoga and meditation as mindfulness exercise for a certain age group; adults in young to middle age. Over the years, there has been a significant increase in introducing both of these techniques to children but what about seniors? As people increase their awareness around exercise and healthy eating, the age where someone is considered a “senior” can certainly shift, but let’s focus on those in their seventies and up. How can we introduce or reinforce the techniques of mindfulness in this group?
Deep breathing: As we age, our respiratory system can begin to break down. As our lives become more sedentary, we don’t use our lungs as much to expand and contract and the muscles that support our diaphragm get weaker. Deep breathing is critical for seniors to keep their muscles strong, their lungs elastic and to keep things moving through their respiratory system.
Meditation: As we age, our focus shifts. We can start to worry about our death, illness, leaving our family and our finances. This can create tremendous anxiety. There is no better time to start or continue with a meditation practice. This can be done sitting in a chair, closing the eyes and simply bringing the attention to the breath. Incorporating meditation into every day can help us, as we age, transition gracefully into our final days.
Seated stretches: Yoga for anyone with limited mobility can be modified so that the person is seated in a chair. Moving the arms up and stretching towards the ceiling, placing hands on the sides and twisting from side to side and squeezing and releasing the hands are all simple movements that can relieve muscle tension and soothe stiff joints.
Being in the learning mode: Mindfulness comes from increasing your focus on one thing. This can be experienced in more than just meditation and yoga; you’ll find it’s part of simply learning something new. When we try new things, we feel alive, engaged and energized. These are all mindful qualities. For older people who have never tried yoga or meditation, an introduction to these techniques can reinforce to seniors that learning always happens, regardless of age.
Connection: Often, as people age, they lose control over different aspects of their lives. They may move into a nursing home. They may be on many medications. They may have to use a cane, walker or supplemental oxygen. They may feel like their body is not their own. Mindful techniques can help older adults feel a sense of connection to their body. This can be critical for creating optimal health, even as they manage the ongoing changes in their body.
We wish you twenty minutes of mindfulness every day!
By contributing writer, Karen Fabian, Certified Baptiste Yoga teacher, founder, barebones yoga, www.barebonesyoga.com.