The Power and Potential of Yoga, Meditation, and Breathing for the Caregiver

By Baptiste, Sherri | Career Planning and Adult Development Journal, Winter 2007 | Go to article overview

The Power and Potential of Yoga, Meditation, and Breathing for the Caregiver


Baptiste, Sherri, Career Planning and Adult Development Journal


As counselors and coaches, you want to help your clients enjoy fulfilling personal and professional lives. Supporting caregiver clients so they can achieve a healthy balance in their lives can be challenging because they tend to be focused on helping other people rather than themselves. One way to assist caregivers is to introduce them to simple, doable techniques from yoga, meditation and breathing.

Yoga is the oldest system of self-development known and is actively used today by the millions of people. Yoga practices incorporate slow, steady natural weight-bearing, flexibility-enhancing postures that are ideal for everyone. Yoga, meditation and breathing can help your clients learn about themselves, listen to their bodies, increase flexibility and range of motion, release stress, handle challenges, grasp opportunities, improve concentration and respond to life in a more joyful way. Yoga is a positive foundation for life because of its well-balanced approach for body, mind and spirit.

What Research Shows

Why are body-mind-spirit techniques so helpful? While many practitioners experience numerous benefits in their own practices, research has documented some specific benefits.

Benefits of Yoga. Yoga offers physical benefits for people of ages, including:

* Increased strength and resiliency

* Improved immune function

* Decreased pain

* Decreased blood pressure

* Increased respiratory efficiency

* Increased energy level

* Improved sleep

* Improved flexibility and range of motion

* Improved posture (Lamb 2001)

Yoga also produces psychological benefits, including

* Increased quality of life

* Increased concentration and better mood (Casden 2005)

* Increased coping skills during periods of stress (Oleshanksy 2004)

* Lower levels of anxiety (Sharma et al, 1994)

* Increased self-acceptance, attention and memory and decreased depression and hostility (Lamb, 2001)

Benefits of Deep Breathing. Pranayama breathing is a practice of voluntary breath control that refers to inhalation, retention and exhalation performed either quickly or slowly (Jerath 2006). Research has demonstrated that it can positively improve psychological or stress-related disorders, immune function, hypertension and asthma (Jerath, 2006).

Benefits of Meditation. Research shows that even brief training in a simple meditation technique can improve negative mood and perceived stress in healthy adults (Lane, Seskevich & Pieper, 2007). Another study looked at the techniques of mindfulness meditation, with its emphasis on developing detached observation and awareness of the contents of consciousness. It found that meditation may represent a powerful cognitive behavioral coping strategy for transforming the ways in which people respond to life events (Astin, 1997).

Why Mind-Body Techniques Help Caregivers

While yoga is helpful for all people, it can prove especially beneficial for caregivers. Caregivers' jobs typically require them to be emotionally and sometimes physically strong in the face of daily challenges and change. When working with clients who are scared or suffering, caregivers need nourishment for their own tolerance, spiritual and emotional flexibility to thrive. Practicing body-mind-spirit techniques will improve the caregiver's well-being, which will have a positive domino effect on the care of the patients.

Caregivers may have moments of doubting their own ability, potential and control. While they may feel that they need to give their all to their clients and ignore their own needs, the truth is that they do have a choice. They have the right to take charge of their own lives first and then offer a great quality of care, understanding and compassion in the long run. Yoga, meditation and breathing techniques can help them still their minds and tune into what they want and need. …

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