Caregivers play a vital role in the lives of others, and it is crucial for them to prioritize their own well-being through yoga.
My experience as a caregiver
In February of 2017, my parents asked me a question that would change the course of my life. We knew that my grandfather’s health was slowly declining and that he’d need round the clock care and companionship, and we didn’t want to put him in a nursing home. His home was where my mom spent most of her childhood, where my grandfather spent over 40 years of his 63-year marriage raising a family with my grandmother who passed in 2009, a place we could always call home and the hub of all family gatherings.
Moving him from his home would be detrimental to his health so when they asked me if I would be willing to move in and care for him, I didn’t hesitate for a single second.
At that time, I was in a transitional phase with my personal training business and I saw this as an opportunity to refocus my energy and be open to what was next for me.
Over the next 1.5 years, I would spend every day with my grandfather, oversee his schedule and care from the various home health aides, maintain the home, cook, run errands, prepare snacks and make sure that my grandfather knew he was not alone every night and every morning. I comforted my grandfather when he was in pain, listened to and recorded many of his stories and advice, reconnected with family who regularly came to visit, and it was during these years that I completed my first 200-hour yoga teacher training.
My grandfather passed quietly in the summer of 2018 while I was home with him, just us two. His legacy lives on and I am forever changed by the privilege of being his caregiver.
With all the beauty that came with being a caregiver, there were moments that required immense physical, mental, and emotional strength. Some days felt longer than others, and there were times when my grandfather struggled with intrusive memories, insomnia, pain and fear.
I know firsthand that taking care of others can leave the caregiver neglecting their own self-care. I often reflect on my yoga studies during that time and how much of that training and daily practice kept me grounded.
I’m passionate about yoga for caregivers because cultivating a daily practice of deep breathing, self-reflection, mindfulness and the physical practice helps caregivers prioritize their well-being and approach their actions and emotional bandwidth in a more sustainable way – this is a win-win for everyone.
How does yoga benefit caregivers?
• Yoga helps caregivers build strength, flexibility, and balance, which can alleviate physical strain and reduce the risk of injuries as they care for those who, in some cases, are unable to move or walk without assistance.
• Yoga’s emphasis on deep breathing and mindful movement helps caregivers manage stress, release tension, and improve emotional resilience.
• Through the practice of yoga, caregivers can learn to engage the body’s relaxation response and find moments of inner peace amidst the challenges they face.
• Yoga encourages self-compassion and self-care by providing a dedicated space and time for caregivers to nurture themselves. Each time they practice yoga, the caregiver is reminded that their own well-being is important and deserves attention and care.
• Practicing yoga can provide caregivers with a sense of community and support. Joining yoga classes or support groups specifically tailored for caregivers allows them to connect with others who understand the unique experiences.
I’m grateful for the intimate time that I got to spend with my grandfather in his final years; I understand that not all families are in a position to provide that level of care to their loved ones at home. That was a time of deep growth and even with the support of my parents, family and friends, there were many times when being a caregiver felt heavy.
Caregivers play a vital role in the lives of others, and it is crucial for them to prioritize their own well-being.
Yoga offers caregivers a holistic approach to self-care, addressing the physical, mental, and emotional needs that are specific to the act of caregiving. By incorporating yoga into their routine, caregivers can experience improved physical health, reduced stress, enhanced emotional well-being, and a renewed sense of self.
Remember, taking care of yourself is not selfish – it is an act of compassion that enables you to continue providing your invaluable support while prioritizing your health and wellbeing.