Yoga Mats in rack

Yoga for Caregivers

2/7/17 by Parichay Rudina

​For the last few months, Wilder has been offering a Gentle Yoga for Caregivers class. Twice a month, caregivers come to our Community Center for Aging, roll out a yoga mat, and get into a comfortable position, usually lying down.

With dimmed lights, we close our eyes and start a body scan, slowly placing our attention on one part of the body at a time. We don’t try to change anything we’re experiencing. We just notice. Then we do some simple and gentle stretching, usually in a part of the body that tends to hold tension like the shoulders or lower back. We use chairs and yoga blocks to make sure we’re comfortable for the whole hour. Finally, we lie back down, rest, and focus on our breath.

That’s it. That’s our yoga class.

It may not seem like a lot. It may not seem like the type of yoga class you’ve been to before or imagine, but this hour gives us a chance to do two things that any yoga practice helps with: relaxing and paying attention.

Movements Encourage Relaxation

One of the key benefits of yoga is that it can help us relax. We intentionally move slowly in this class to counter the hectic and frenetic action that can be a trademark of caregiving. A darker room, closing the eyes, and spending time not doing too much helps the body’s relaxation response kick in. Our inhales and exhales slow down and can get a little deeper, and our muscles can release some tension because we’re supported by the floor. The gentle stretching we do aids in releasing tension.

Try it out: slowly roll your shoulders back three times. Now, slowly rolls your shoulders forward three times. It may feel better to close your eyes. You may not notice a huge change, but you may feel some release or a little lighter around the area where your neck and shoulders meet. One of the things we learn in class is that it doesn’t take much for our tension and stress levels to change.

Being Present

Paying attention to what is happening at any given moment is at the heart of yoga. You may hear people describe this as being present, mindful, or finding the mind-body connection. Whether we’re stretching, noticing sensation, or sitting still and breathing, paying attention to whatever we are experiencing is a powerful way to work with stress and encourage the body and mind to relax.

Again, try this out yourself! Put one hand on your belly. Take a normal breath in and feel your hand move outward. As you exhale, feel your hand fall inward. Do this a few more times, closing your eyes if that is comfortable. The more you do this exercise, the better it can feel.

Join Us for Gentle Yoga

Starting in March, Wilder’s Gentle Yoga for Caregivers class will move to the first and third Fridays of the month from 1:30 to 2:30 PM at 650 Marshall Ave. in Saint Paul. We hope we can spend this time deliberately slowing down and paying attention together.

Parichay Rudina is a social worker at Wilder’s Caregiving Services.

For more information about events and opportunities through Caregiving Services, visit our Caregiving Resource Center.

Photo credit: Ann Marie Michaels | yoga mats at my daughter’s Montessori school | CC by 2.0