Yoga for Compassionate Caregivers

By: Cindi Lee – Yoga Instructor
Contributor’s website: Cindi Lee Yoga

Dedicated to my Mom

As I mentioned in my last article, my parents came to visit me in LA from Cleveland, Ohio a few months ago.  It was eye opening for me to see how much my mom assists my dad with his daily needs.  From sun up to sun down, mom helps with everything from getting dad out of the bed, taking showers, helping in and out of the car, and making sure he has healthy meals to eat.  Due to my mom’s expert care and my dad’s willingness to get better, thankfully dad continues to improve.

Usually when I go to Cleveland, I visit for a week or two.  Working with dad everyday for a month gave me a whole new perspective.  I just can’t fathom what my mom takes on at her age.  Caregiving takes huge amounts of mental and physical strength.  This strength comes from pure LOVE.

I wanted to assist my mom as much as possible with my dad, give her a break.  I am going to be completely honest, I was happy to help and at the same time, I was exhausted!  Never underestimate the work of any caregiver.  I always knew my mom was a female warrior.   I was able to experience a sliver of what she goes through on a daily basis. 
I am in pretty good shape and the more time went on, I could feel my body getting tighter and hunched over.  I can’t urge caregivers enough to have as much compassion for themselves as they have for other people.  It is an absolute must for their health and wellbeing.  
One day during my folks vacation we went to Lake Balboa.  They loved how peaceful it felt.  I jogged a few laps around the Lake and when I came back, dad was taking a nap.  As dad was sleeping, I had an idea.  I wanted to come up with quick and easy yoga exercises for my mom and other caregivers to practice anytime of the day. 
People like my mom start caregiving from the minute they wake up until it is time to go to bed.  That makes it challenging for them to carve out extra time away to workout on their own.  Many of my students in LA are taking care of their aging parents.  I can see the effects it has on their bodies over a period of time.  The yoga exercises shown below are with the patient and a wheelchair.

*Before you get started please make sure the wheelchair is locked on both sides.  Preferably your patient is sitting in the wheelchair for more weight.  

Forward Fold, the counter pose to Chest Opener
  • Stand with your back against the back of the wheelchair.  
  • Grip the handles of the wheelchair.  
  • Bring your feet together or keep them hip with distance apart.  
  • Take an inhale, exhale forward fold.  To your own degree, take your forehead towards your shins.
  • Stay in the forward fold for deep 3-5 breaths.  On an inhale, lift up flat back.
Calms the brain
Helps relieve headache
Improves digestion

Squat- My teacher always says if you can do one pose a day, let it be a squat.  
  • Facing the chair, grab the handles.  Take a big step backwards.
  • Bring your heels in and your toes slightly out.
  • Keep your feet flat on the ground and bend your legs deeply.  
  • Sink your lower body towards the ground, lengthen your spine and your arms.  
  • Take 3-5 breaths.
  • On an inhale slowly come to standing.  
Stretches the ankles, groins, and back torso
Tones the belly
Opens lower back

Standing Side Bend

  • Stand 3-5 feet away from the wheelchair so your left arm is straight, your left hand is gently grabbing the handle.
  • Stretch your right arm up and over your right ear.
  • Lengthen both legs, your spine, and both arms.
  • Twist your belly button up towards the sky. 
  • Look underneath your right bicep, gently twisting the back of your neck.  
  • On an inhale, slowly lift up and release.  Switch sides.
Stretches the sides of the torso and spine
Opens the shoulders
Stimulates abdominal organs

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Yoga Tips
If you are a caregiver there are so may places in LA where you and your patient can both relax and rejuvenate yourselves.  My parents and I loved going to Balboa Park, the Japanese Gardens, the Huntington Gardens, and Laguna Beach.  It was healing for all of us!

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Contributor’s website: Cindi Lee Yoga

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