Your immune system works 24/7 to fight off illnesses. When it recognizes a threat, it responds by attacking the viruses and bacteria it sees as a problem. When your immune system isn’t doing well, you start to feel sick, tired and run down.
What can you do to help your immune system win the fight against unwelcome guests? Get a good night’s sleep, exercise regularly, eat well, and lower your stress and anxiety levels. Two easy ways to manage stress are by practicing yoga and meditating.
Yoga and meditation for seniors are low-impact, adaptable, mindful practices that can boost your mental health, soothe chronic pain, and help you feel balanced and energized.
Benefits of Meditation for Seniors
Meditation provides all kinds of health benefits for seniors. When you meditate regularly, you may notice a number of benefits to your mental and physical well-being.
Yoga and meditation call for letting thoughts flow in and out and staying in the present moment. This can both improve your focus and give you a longer attention span, especially as you’re focusing on a series of yoga poses.
Helps With Pain
Many seniors may avoid forms of exercise because they have chronic pain. Doing yoga and meditating regularly can help with pain.
As you’re guided through a yoga practice, the instructor may call out a body scan that draws your attention to the good sensations you may feel while practicing. This could be physical sensations like the strength in your legs, the feeling of the ground pushing against your feet, or how a stretch feels in your core.
When something stresses you out or when you’re constantly anxious, your body reacts by putting you in fight-or-flight mode. When this happens, your immune system is suppressed while your body fires up your adrenal glands to release a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline increases your heart rate and blood pressure. Cortisol increases sugars in your bloodstream and alters your immune system.
Meditation and yoga helps shift your nervous system from “fight or flight” to “rest and restore.” Slow breathing activates the vagus nerve – a long nerve that runs from the base of the brain to the abdomen and helps regulate heart rate, mood, digestion and immune response.
How Meditation Boosts Your Immune System
Meditation is about focusing on the present and observing and accepting thoughts as they occur without judgment. It helps calm the mind and body, which is good for your immune system.
As the tension in your body decreases, so will your stress levels. Added benefits of meditation for older adults include better focus and improved sleep. It may even offset age-related cognitive decline.
If yoga is your preferred method of meditation, look at these four yoga poses to boost your immune system:
1. Legs Up the Wall
This is a great grounding and calming pose because all you do is lie with legs elevated up a wall and rest. Start by sitting with your right side against a wall. Lie down then swing your legs up the wall so they’re resting against it.
Lie on a mat if that’s more comfortable, and feel free to put a pillow or blanket under your head for comfort. If you’re a beginner, you may feel your legs shaking. But this pose over time will help create space to sit with your thoughts. Hold for a few breaths or as long as it feels good.
2. Sun Salutation
To practice sun salutations, stand with your feet slightly apart. Keep arms at your sides, with palms facing forward. Raise arms up above your head toward the sky and then slowly reach your arms back, arching your back and opening up your chest.
Each day you do this, you may find that your chest is able to open more and more. Fold forward to reach toward your toes. Hold for a few breaths at the top of the pose and then in the forward bend. Repeat if desired.
3. Seated Forward Bend
Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out straight in front of you. Keeping your torso long (don’t curve your back), fold forward and reach for your toes. Reach as far as you can without shaking or being uncomfortable.
If your hands can make it to your knees or shins, rest your hands on your legs and stay there for a minute. With time and practice, you’ll eventually be able to reach farther.
4. Half Pigeon Lying Down
This pose helps you release tightness in your hamstrings. Lie on your back and bring knees up toward your chest. Fold your right leg, so that your heel rests on the left knee and your right knee sticks out to the side. Reach behind your left leg and pull toward you.
You should feel a stretch in your hamstring – that’s when you know you’re in the pose. Hold for about a minute or a few breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Types of Meditation
There are all kinds of meditation to try. You’ll be able to find the one that resonates with you most. Here are a handful of meditation types that might be right for you:
When you practice focused meditation, you’re finding a sight or sound to focus on. You could count how many breaths you take, listen to the repetitive sound of something soothing, or watch the sky.
Gentle movement meditation allows you to connect your mind and body and to remain in the present. This doesn’t have to be a traditional practice like yoga. In fact, you may find that a slow, gentle walk is your form of movement meditation.
Tai chi is a popular form of movement meditation that can reduce stress and helps you practice mindfulness.
In mantra meditation, you focus on a word or phrase and repeat it. Your attention is in how it feels to say the word, hear the word, and you can choose the volume of your chant.
Mindfulness meditation allows you to notice your thoughts but not apply judgment or dwell on them. As the thought comes in when you inhale, it also leaves when you exhale. This helps you remain present.
Tips for Older Adults To Start Meditating
When you’re starting your meditation practice, you may not know how to begin. There are all kinds of resources to help you find the type of meditation that works best for you.
If you feel you need someone you lead you through meditation, you can find guided meditation online. As you listen, the narrator will take you through the meditation and offer cues to help you get the most out of your meditation.
There are loads of YouTube videos to help you get started with meditation. Apps like Headspace and podcasts such as Ten Percent Happier are great ways to learn more about the benefits of meditation.
Here are some tips for beginning your meditation journey:
- Sit in a quiet space.
- Set a timer. As you get more comfortable with meditation, you can increase the time limit.
- Focus on your breath.
- Take note of your thoughts.
- Be kind to yourself.
Take the Stress Out of Life at Sedgebrook
Yoga and meditation are just two ways Sedgebrook residents lower their stress levels and maintain wellness. They also don’t have to worry about the furnace going on the fritz or shoveling snow off their driveway. To learn more about all the ways we make life less stressful and more enjoyable, get in touch.