Although once limited to India and other areas of the East, yoga has become a global phenomenon over the past decade, and its physical, mental, and spiritual benefits are now widely acknowledged in the West. Millions of people in North America are now flocking to a daily yoga practice to keep fit, become more flexible, and find a reprieve from the stresses of a fast-paced life.
Most people in assisted living facilities are no longer bombarded by the typical stresses of work, children, and financial burdens. However, this is not to say that they are without stress. The loss of independence and feelings of impotence that come from requiring care can be a very stressful experience. In addition, as conditions such as Alzheimer’s and the mental decay associated with aging begin to have an effect, the natural response is to become frightened and defensive.
Yoga can help with all of these issues. A daily asana practice strengthens the core, improves balance and flexibility, and helps to develop proper breathing techniques—all of which are very important for the aged and infirm. In addition, a daily yoga practice can improve mood, relieve stress, and create feelings of empowerment and independence, counteracting the negative mental effects related with requiring a caregiver. Finally, physical yoga (asana and pranayama) are stepping stones toward the spiritual benefits of a holistic yoga practice, and can provide great spiritual comfort and growth. This is especially valuable for the elderly, who are often troubled by thoughts of their mortality and the fear and uncertainty of death.
When developing a care routine—whether private or in a group setting—consider working yoga into the program. Ultimately, our goal as caregivers is to assist those under our care in living as normal and independent a life as possible, and yoga is a great way to do this.