Yoga is one of the best practices that an older adult can pick up. Not only does it bring about physical health benefits such as flexibility, mobility, and bone strength, but the meditation aspects also promote mental health by reducing stress and boosting cognitive function. While you may not want to dive straight into a 90-minute session, starting off gradually with gentle yoga is a great way to add many health benefits to your life. If you’re a senior or caregiver looking to better your overall well-being, here are five tips for starting in yoga and meditation.
Get the Equipment
One great thing about yoga: It takes hardly any equipment. You need a non-slip yoga mat, which you can find for around $30 on Amazon. You need comfortable workout clothes — and that’s pretty much it. Find whatever you’re comfortable in, whether it’s leotards and tights or shorts and a T-shirt. Like with any activity, there are optional accessories you can add to your practice (for example, foam blocks, which can set you back around $8 depending on where you shop), but these are not necessary to complete a successful yoga session.
Make a Space
Once you have your gear, it’s time to make a yoga and meditation space. This is especially important if you plan on practicing primarily in your home. Even if you go to a facility for classes, having your own dedicated area will come in handy on days when you don’t feel like leaving the house. Make sure your designated area leaves you room to comfortably practice, even if it means moving out some of your furniture or other items. Decluttering your space is essential for fostering peace and calm, so consider putting some of your belongings in storage.
Look for a Yoga Class
It can be rewarding to do yoga with others, since it’s an opportunity to make friends. If you feel like practicing outside of the home, search online for a yoga class near you. Yoga classes can be costly, so find out if your medical insurance covers the costs. Basic Medicare doesn't offer this coverage, but Humana offers certain Medicare Advantage plans that do. You can learn about them on their website.
Find Your Way
There are many branches and styles of yoga, and it can feel overwhelming when you’re getting started. The key is to research the different kinds, consider your current health, and choose one that best meets your needs. For instance, Hatha is one of the best overall branches of yoga for beginners because the classes are typically slower-paced and each pose is held for a few breaths. Kundalini yoga is another type that works well for beginners because of its repetitive nature. There is also an emphasis on spirituality and mental health in Kundalini. A typical session will consist of repetitive physical movements, meditation, and breathing exercises.
Commit to Your Practice
Once you’ve found the type of yoga you want to practice, commit to fulfilling your goals. Set realistic goals; otherwise, you run the risk of burning out and/or giving up early. For instance, rather than committing to 90-minute sessions five days a week, start with 30-minute sessions three days a week. Think practically about your daily life and figure out what will fit in without you having to make extreme schedule changes.
It’s important to note that even if you practice yoga three days a week, it can be beneficial to incorporate meditation in your everyday life. Furthermore, keeping a progress journal of your physical and mental health can provide motivation for you to keep going.
If you want to improve your health and overall well-being as a senior or caregiver, yoga could be the practice for you. Start by purchasing a non-slip mat and workout clothes, and create a comfortable space in your home. Look for a local yoga class, research the different kinds of yoga, and choose one that will fit your needs. Finally, make a realistic commitment to your yoga practice and stick to it.