yoga for long term careBy Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

How can Hatha Yoga be used for long term care? All forms of Yoga have reached far beyond the ashram, studio, and fitness center. Hatha Yoga, and its many sub-styles, has reached the largest worldwide audience. Hatha can be physically challenging, restorative, relaxing, or therapeutic, depending on the Yoga teacher. For this reason, it would be prudent for every Yoga teacher to continue his or her education, for the safety of students, in all walks of life.

The practice of Hatha Yoga is an excellent way to help residents, in long-term care facilities, maintain their physical and emotional health. Yoga asanas (poses) help to strengthen muscles and bones, as well as increasing joint mobility and overall spinal flexibility.

The Yoga breathing exercises (pranayama) help to increase lung capacity and strengthen the heart muscle. These breathing exercises also help to combat stress and depression. Additionally, participating in a regular Yoga practice, connects long-term care patients to an overall sense of purpose and engagement within their community – further enhancing a sense of wellbeing.

The effect that a regular practice of Yoga asanas has on an individual is amazing. The asanas stretch and strengthen all of the muscles and ligaments in the body. The physical practice of asana also keeps the joints mobile and the spine flexible. Furthermore, the poses help to maintain bone density, a good sense of balance, and coordination.

These are all very critical aspects of maintaining the physical health of a long-term care patient. Often, long-term care patients spend long hours in bed, sitting in a chair, and sometimes, even in wheelchair. A regular practice of Yoga asanas will help residents to maintain a degree of comfort and mobility within their bodies.

Pranayama techniques, or Yogic breathing exercises, are another core element for maintaining the health and wellbeing of long term care patients. Often, these patients are experiencing a variety of cardiovascular health issues, depression, and stress. The passive, rhythmic, and slow breathing exercises will help to calm their anxiety and depression by lowering cortisol levels.

Deep breathing exercises will also reduce problems with insomnia that many seniors experience. Pranayama exercises have also been clinically shown to help manage diabetes and lower blood pressure. Of course, these exercises also strengthen the heart and lungs. A strong and healthy heart will go a long way in enhancing the health and longevity of many long-term patients.

A vibrant and regular Yoga practice will also support long-term care residents in maintaining a good level of activity, while maintaining bonds through social engagement with other residents. Study after study has documented the absolute importance of staying active and engaged in one’s community, in order to ward off isolation and depression.

Long term care helps patients live happier and quality-filled lives, if they stay active. Yoga is a very positive way to stay active. Not only will long-term care residents benefit from the positive effects of a regular Yoga practice, they will also benefit from a sense of interconnectedness with their community, and a sense of purpose, in attending a series of Yoga classes.

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