Should caregivers include yoga into their daily activities?

Studies indicate that reducing the burden of caregivers through therapies like yoga can help them be healthy and in turn care for patients better.

Manas Bhattacharyya’s day begins at 5:30 in the morning. After a quick protein drink, he heads to the gym near his home in Calcutta. His one hour exercise regime includes some light weight lifting, lathi (stick) exercises and then some yoga. “It’s a good combination so my whole body is well exercised,” says the octogenarian who after retiring from the Indian Railways became a distributor for Amway India.

Bhattacharyya is the sole caregiver to his 45 year son, Pinaki, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1993. “He came home one day and shut himself up in his room and didn’t come out for days. He had failed his Costing exam,” says Bhattacharyya, recalling the first time his family felt alarmed by his son’s behavior. “He said he could hear voices,” he adds. Since then, he and his wife dedicated their lives to caring for their son. “After my wife passed away last year, it’s just been me,”.  He attributes his ability to care for his son in the best possible way to his own selfcare regimen. “I believe that one should eat well, sleep well, exercise, and have a positive mental attitude,” he says adding, “my yoga practice has certainly contributed to my mental wellbeing and in turn to my positive attitude” and he’s not alone.

Certified geriatric care managers attest to this regimen as well.  Lucy Lomax, a certified Anusara Yoga instructor with more than 2,000 hours of teaching experience under her belt, has seen first-hand just how valuable a yoga practice can be for all types of people.  She says yoga’s holistic focus can be adapted to practically every skill level. A yoga practice isn’t just another way to work-out—it’s a personal journey—geared towards repairing and maintaining the natural connections between a person’s brain, body, and breath.

For the over-burdened caregiver, yoga has the potential to bestow a greater sense of physical and mental balance. Taking the time to do a regular yoga routine will allow a caregiver—whose personal well-being is so often put on hold because of their duties to their elderly loved ones—some time to let go and focus on themselves.

Lomax, who has taught classes to stressed-out caregivers, says that, in general, people are not always conscious of the massive amount of tension they hold in their body. This tension can manifest in tight muscles, overworked joints, and shallow breathing.  Devoting time to focusing on their breath and body alignment, may allow a caregiver to experience freedom from some of the physical and mental strain of their obligations. Yoga studios will usually have equipment that you can use, but it may not be possible for a caregiver to consistently get to a studio several times a week. You can pretty much do a yoga practice of some sort anywhere and at any time.

While it’s important to learn the right alignments for each pose (asana) from a trusted teacher first, Lomax says that once you get the basic movements down, even a ten-minute solo practice at home can be valuable. There are even websites that allow you to stream a variety of different yoga and meditation classes that you can do on you own.  A good place to start is https://greatist.com/move/free-online-yoga-videos

Our geriatric care managers can recommend these therapies when assessing you and your loved ones needs if appropriate.