Good news is on the horizon. Pandemic restrictions are easing, masks are coming off and people are feeling more comfortable getting out and being with friends again. If you have spent too much time sitting at home and need to get out and stretch, perhaps it’s time to try yoga.
Yoga is an ancient practice that involves movement, meditation, and breathing techniques to promote mental and physical wellbeing. The traditional practice of yoga was quite rigorous. But, many schools of yoga have now simplified the techniques and made it easy for people of all ages and abilities to do.
For years, I’ve worked with Boston Senior Home Care (BSHC) to offer wellness and fall prevention programs, including yoga, for older adults and people with disabilities in their Supportive Housing program. During the pandemic, that practice continued but, like most health and wellness programs, we turned to virtual programming to keep residents safe. Two yoga programs that were converted to an online, virtual format were mindfulness and laughter yoga. BSHC’s tenant resource coordinators were invited to join the virtual sessions along with residents. Those virtual classes proved to be time well spent for all involved.
While mindfulness and laughter yoga are vastly different, they both provided a practical and accessible way of helping older residents cope with social isolation. For eight weeks, residents learned about mindfulness and its benefits to their health, wellbeing and resilience. Each week, I taught new mindfulness techniques and then work done with residents in the prior week’s class were reviewed and performed to help participants deepen their mindfulness practices. At the conclusion of the mindfulness program, laughter yoga was then introduced.
The eight weeks of mindfulness yoga training were spent in relative silence by practicing calming breathing exercises, listening to sounds to increase focus, and scanning the body for tension. But, the laughter yoga program that followed was the complete opposite. With laughter yoga comes chanting, “Ho Ho, Ha Ha Ha” and “Yay!” Happiness was in the air! Attendees learned about the many health benefits of laughter yoga, and they experienced an aerobic exercise that helped them reduce stress, boost their immune systems, burn calories, and lifted their spirits.
During the challenges of the pandemic, came peace of mind and laughter. Both of these qualities are foundational to becoming healthier and happier people – today and beyond. Perhaps it’s time for you to give it a try!
About the author, Debbie Lyn Toomey MSN, RN, is the owner of Ultimate Healing Journey, LLC. She is a keynote speaker, mindfulness practitioner, laughter yoga leader, and corporate trainer. Debbie authored the book, The Happiness Result – More time, More health, More love, More success.