At a time when the Covid-19 pandemic continues to upend the lives and livelihoods of people globally, this year’s theme ‘Yoga for Well-being’ couldn’t be more pertinent.
The message of Yoga in promoting both the physical and mental well-being of humanity has never been more relevant.
A growing trend of people around the world embracing Yoga to stay healthy and rejuvenated and to fight social isolation and depression has been witnessed during the pandemic.
Yoga is also playing a significant role in the psycho-social care and rehabilitation of Covid-19 patients in quarantine and isolation. It is particularly helpful in allaying their fears and anxiety.
Beyond Yoga being a way to gain strength (of mind and body) the true meaning of Yoga according to Patanjali, is the union of body, mind, soul, and spirit. We suffer because of the illusion of separation between our individual consciousness from universal consciousness (Brahma).
The Yoga Sutras are a practical way to guide our spiritual journey of remembering that union.
The Patanjali Yoga Sutras define asana as “Sthira Sukham Asana.” That which is stable and comfortable is an asana. Any posture done with awareness in a stable and comfortable manner constitutes an asana. Keep this in mind when performing asanas.
Recognising this important role of Yoga for holistic well- being – How can our seniors move more deeply into the true essence of Yoga? Dr Kintu Chandiramani shares her teachings to benefit all of us.
Yoga may hold a key to ageing well, and has great benefits for body, mind and soul:
The practice of yoga has been around about five thousand years with its origin in India and involves the combination of spiritual physical and mental elements.
It is so powerful that regular practice can help you attain success and abundance, loving relationships, higher states of consciousness including intuition, creativity, insight, imagination and inspiration.
- As we age, it’s important to incorporate physical activity into our daily routines to help maintain a healthy lifestyle. With a regular exercise routine, seniors will feel more energetic and can help manage the aches and pains that come with ageing. This leads to a more independent life where you’re staying safer and feeling your best.
- Yoga has been called one of the best forms of exercise for older adults. Over time and with the proper classes, seniors can improve their flexibility and balance, enhance their strength and boost their mood.
- Benefits of Yoga for Senior Citizens – Retirement is the perfect time to try some new things and pick up some healthier habits you may not have had time to consider in your working years. If you’ve never tried yoga before, check out a class and experience some of the benefits of yoga for seniors like:
- Strengthens bones – Yoga for seniors can help prevent the onset of osteoporosis, which causes bones to become brittle or weak. Osteoporosis occurs when the creation of new bone can’t keep up with the decrease of bone mass and density that occurs with ageing.
- Reduced stress – Yoga offers a relaxing way to let go of the tension you’re holding in your body, especially in your shoulders and upper back. It’s been known to help relieve some of the stresses that lead to hypertension, which in turn leads to not needing as many medications on a daily basis. Yoga also helps reduce anxiety, lowering your heart rate, blood pressure, and helping you breathe easier.
- Improved Sleeping Habits – Because yoga for seniors can be so relaxing, many individuals report that they are sleeping longer and more soundly, which can often be an issue for older adults.
- Enhanced Balance, Flexibility, Mobility and Strength – The slow, measured movements involved with yoga poses can lead to better balance and movement, which can also help prevent falls. As falls are the leading cause of injury among seniors, yoga helps provide the tools you need to improve your mobility so you can get around more safely.
- Lessen The Risk for Depression – Yoga is a mood-booster; the combination of movement, breathing and meditation can create an overall sense of well-being. Plus, because yoga is done in a class setting with your peers, you’re getting the benefit of staying socially active, as well.
- Alleviate Aches and Pains – Even if you have some physical limitations, yoga can help ease the aches and pains associated with ageing. Yoga can be especially beneficial to those suffering from osteoarthritis, teaching you how to breathe and relax through any chronic pain you may be dealing with.
- Corrects Posture – Daily yoga improves your poster making you walk better and sit up straighter at your desk.
- Supports Heart Health – Studies have shown that regular yoga can reduce your cholesterol levels and even slow the progressions of heart disease when combined with dietary changes and stress management. It also improves your circulation. People who practise yoga regularly have lower blood pressure and pulse rate than those who dint.
- Cultivate Self Awareness – Since yoga strengths your mind-body connections, it helps you to manage unpleasant emotions batter then reaching for external distractions to suppress those feelings, hence less chance of emotional eating.
- Increases Your Energy Levels – Regular yoga practice is said to awaken the mind energy centres (called chakras) in your body.
- Reduces Inflammations – Chronic inflammation in body is associated with the serious health disease like diabetes, cancer. A regular practice improves chronic levels of proinflammatory markers like cytokines
Yoga is also Anti–Ageing.
If you’re interested in trying out a yoga class, make sure you do a little research before you jump right into it. Many senior centre offer yoga especially for older adults, and these instructors will be well-versed in the techniques most beneficial to seniors.
If all the yogic asanas are done with proper breathing practice with ujjayi, kapalabharti, anulom vinolom and bharmari these can also help for good digestion of food and most of all improve lung capacity and immunity, especially in these Covid times.
When you exercise your body releases endorphins, these endorphins interact with our receptors in our brain that reduce perception of pain and old people usually have some osteoarthritis and thus the yoga will help these elderly people to manage their day-to-day activities.
There is added benefit when yoga is done early mornings and in the bright morning sunlight, the Vitamin D status is well maintained.
For Senior Citizens with Joint Pain and Mobility Issues: –
- They should start with simple stretching exercises.
- They can start doing simple standing or sitting asana which are not to challenging and difficult.
- They should not do forward bending in the standing position.
- They should do breathing exercises daily (Pranayam)
The Spiritual – The spiritual aspect of yoga is its ability to cut to the very core of who a person is, and to provide the discipline to develop the intuitive wisdom needed to live a creative and productive life. The person who takes the first step on the path is exactly where he or she needs to be to further this spiritual journey. The spiritual aspect of yoga can help yogis develop integration of the inner being as well as oneness with the Supreme Consciousness. And it all starts with the body and the asanas or postures.
When we practise yoga with a spiritual outlook, we acknowledge that the end purpose is transformation and awakening of our true Inner Self. Awakening of self means realising our highest potential. Realising our hidden potential allows us to express the fullness of our divine essence and to thereby make the greatest possible contribution to the world.
Some of the easy yoga poses one can start with are:
- Pranayama – (Breathing Practice)
- Padmasana – Lotus Pose
- Viirabhadrasana – Warrior Pose
- Balasana – Child’s Pose
- Vrkshasana – Tree Pose
- Shavasana – Corpse Pose
Dr Kintu Chandiramani is a senior Paediatrician , practising in Bandra, Mumbai, since the last 33 years. She did her MD in Paediatrics and a Diploma in Child Health (DCH) from the Topiwala National Medical College and has worked in the UK for over seven years where she specialised in Neonatology and Child Development.
A yoga enthusiast, she practises yoga daily. In recent months, she has helped many patients recover from Covid by advising them on improving their immunity and importance of Pranayam in our day-to-day lives.