Grow Old Gracefully With the Mindful Arts by Harry Cline
Introducing my newest guest blogger, Harry Cline who is working on a book for seniors and caregivers. His website is at newcaregiver.org
Aging throws a lot of challenges your way. Names and faces become harder to recall, joints start to ache, and sometimes, just moving about becomes a chore. While there’s no magical potion that can turn back the clock, there are ways to strengthen your mind, body and spirit to make life easier as you go through your golden years.
This is where yoga and meditation come in, and it’s easy to get started. All you need is a space in your home away from busy rooms (like the living room and kitchen) with a yoga mat, lots of natural light, and a few pieces of soothing decor, like nature-inspired photos or artwork. These ancient Indian practices help you in a number of ways, largely through rhythmic breathing and mindfulness, or focusing your mind on what your body is doing at one moment in time. That, in turn, leads to a mental and physical calmness that can have profound benefits for your mental and physical health. Here’s how.
Lower Blood Pressure
Let’s get down to the numbers. One study said that meditation results in a reduction of 10/6 mmHg (millimeters of mercury) in women and 13/8 mmHg in men, which seriously reduces the risk for any number of cardiovascular conditions, from atherosclerosis to heart failure.
Though scientists aren’t sure how, initial experiments show that mindfulness improves cognitive function, including memory recall. This may be through the improved blood flow to the cerebral cortex that happens by slowing down the heart rate through controlled rhythmic breathing.
Reduced anxiety is a major bonus, as it contributes to so many illnesses that plague the elderly that it’s hard to count. Mindfulness achieves this by reversing negative thought patterns, or rumination, and increasing control over random unwanted thoughts, as explained in an article from Be Brain Fit.
Increased blood flow helps carry more oxygen and nutrients to muscle tissue while helping to evacuate carbon dioxide more quickly. That results in a healthier body overall and a greater sense of physical well-being as you go about your day.
Easier Joint Movement
Arthritis is just another ailment that can be treated through meditation and yoga. Take it from an expert cited by the Arthritis Foundation, who recommends devoting at least one hour a day to one of the practices, though that can be divided into sessions of just five or 10 minutes each.
Yoga can even help you get around more easily and more safely, according to an article from the Reuters news agency. It states, “Yoga-based exercise programs can improve mobility among people over age 60 and possibly help prevent falls by improving balance.”
According to a study in Psychology Today, meditation has been shown in clinical trials to reduce chronic pain by 57 percent, while accomplished meditators can cut it back by over 90 percent. It’s not only physical discomfort, but also the mental anguish related to it.
How can you tap into these health benefits? It’s not hard. Both practices have been growing in popularity since the sixties, with over 20 million yogis in the United States today and over 18 million people engaging in meditation. To meet this demand, instructors have been opening up studios across the country to teach these ancient arts to anyone with an interest, and they can easily be found online. Be careful in choosing a guide who understands your physical condition and limitations.
It’s not just for the elderly, of course. Therapists are increasingly adding yoga and meditation as an alternative therapy for people struggling to recover from the damages of substance abuse. One reason is that it brings patients a sense of physical well-being, and that’s just as important as the mental and spiritual benefits of these practices, if not more.
Whoever you are, meditation and yoga offer a brighter tomorrow, so start today.
Image via Unsplash.