Yoga and meditation are well-known for their ability to make healthy connections between mind and body and bolster the emotional state of practitioners at any age. For seniors, yoga is a low-impact form of meditative exercise that enhances flexibility, balance, and lower-body strength while encouraging a healthy lifestyle. Meditation, too, confers a number of health benefits and infuses seniors with a heightened sense of optimism and a healthier perspective.
Seniors are often under the mistaken impression that yoga is only for young people who can handle difficult poses. There are many forms of yoga, including gentler variations that are perfect for older adults looking to improve muscle flexibility. As such, it’s important to begin with a live class rather than trying to learn on your own from a YouTube video, which might teach a level of yoga that’s too vigorous for a beginner. If you have a Medicare Advantage plan like one from Anthem Blue Cross, you’re likely covered for senior-friendly group fitness classes through the SilverSneakers program, meaning you could start practicing with an instructor’s guidance and with a group of peers for free.
It’s essential to assess your mobility and muscle strength objectively. Be aware that yoga is traditionally practiced on a special floor mat — if you’re unable to get down on the floor and back into a standing position with relative ease, you should opt for a low-impact class or even chair yoga, where poses are done from the comfort of a supportive chair. You can gradually work up to a more vigorous level of yoga as your mobility increases.
Like yoga, there are different kinds of meditation, and some are more involved than others. Beginners often find success by focusing on their breathing and repeating a mantra — a word or phrase — that helps the mind achieve a meditative state. Focused meditation is performed by maintaining a steady gaze on a specific object, perhaps a photo or figurine. Mantra repetition and focused meditation are practices aimed at establishing a mind-body connection, which offers seniors a number of health benefits, including improved cognitive functioning, decreased anxiety, and self-confidence. Meditation can be practiced independently at home, though it’s important to establish a quiet and peaceful space that can help you get started.
Yoga and meditation offer a number of incredible benefits that can affect your entire body. If you suffer from dental issues, for example, you might be surprised to find that yoga can help improve your oral health in a number of ways. Its ability to reduce stress in the body lessens inflammation, a common cause of dental problems such as tooth decay and gum disease, which can often lead to additional problems like depression and decreased self-esteem. Yoga’s ability to improve posture helps mitigate jaw pain by improving posture, thereby making it easier to talk, eat and sleep. If you suffer from dry mouth, yoga can stimulate the production of saliva, which washes away harmful bacteria, through special breathing techniques. Of course, yoga shouldn’t replace proper dental care, so find a dentist, brush and floss every day, and take good care of your teeth — your entire body depends on it.
Dental health is also closely tied to gut health and the maintenance of a careful balance between good and bad bacteria. Prebiotics and probiotics can help keep your microbiome in balance, which is tied to oral health. Prebiotics stimulate the growth and activity of intestinal bacteria, an essential factor in promoting your overall health and well-being. Regular exercise can also support your biome, as can practicing yoga on a regular basis.
Yoga and meditation are healthful practices for older adults — in fact, physicians often prescribe yoga for their older patients. Getting started the right way requires at least a basic knowledge of what yoga and meditation are, what they can do for you, and the best forms for you to begin with. Contact an instructor and ask a few questions so you know what to expect and how to get started on the path of a regimen with many proven mental and physical benefits.