About a third of American adults care for an ill or disabled relative each year. If that’s you, you also need to set aside time to nurture yourself, too.

“Self-care is essential,” says Anne Lamantia, a registered nurse and a yoga instructor in Glen Allen. “I believe it is imperative to learn to take care of your own needs first and foremost. This is one of the reasons why caregivers become depleted. Without self-care, our health and well-being go by the wayside or  [they] suffer.”

Lamantia says yoga is a wonderful way to replenish your mind and body. It’s why she’s organizing a class just for caregivers. “It is important to nourish ourselves daily,” she says. “Yoga has many benefits. It affects the musculoskeletal, central nervous system, circulatory, endocrine, digestion and all the body processes.”

Lamantia says that the physical benefit of yoga for her is immediate and positive. “My mind slows down,” she says. “I find myself in the moment. I feel at ease.” 

There’s more to yoga than learning poses. Lamantia wants the classes for caregivers to be a safe place where they can share what is happening in their lives. “They really need support because they do so much for everybody else — but what do they need?” she asks.

The classes will also provide a sense of connection among caregivers, Lamantia says, which is much needed especially because of the COVID crisis, during which many caregivers may have felt increased isolation and loneliness.

Deanna Meadows Dolan, a Richmond-area private duty certified nursing assistant, says she is interested in learning how yoga can help reenergize her body and mind.

She has both an Alzheimer’s client and a dementia client.

“Being a caregiver, especially for Alzheimer’s patients, gets very heavy at times,” Dolan says. “It’s so hard watching the mind wither away from a once vibrant, beautiful person. Physically, they’re healthier than me. Yet I have to do everything for them.”

Try This

Feeling burned out from caring for a loved one? Here are two yoga exercises recommended by Anne Lamantia that boost physical and mental health. 

Child's Pose

  1. Kneel on a mat and with feet touching, rest your buttocks toward the heels of your feet.
  2. Bend forward at the waist toward the floor.
  3. Extend your forearms on the floor, and as you continue to move forward, tuck head neck and shoulders as your weight shifts into the forearms.

Along with deep breathing exercises, child's pose can calm your mind, reducing anxiety and fatigue. “It’s very comforting to the body when you go into the child’s pose,” Lamantia says. 

Yoga Nidra

  1. Lie on your back on a mat with palms facing up.
  2. Put a bolster or other pillow under your knees. (You may also place a small pillow under your head.)
  3. Close your eyes and “sink” into the floor. Notice your thoughts and allow your muscles to relax for a period of time (10-12 minutes).

“Thoughts are not as consuming,” Lamantia says. “It’s a reminder to stop, pause and relax throughout your day.”

If you are interested in learning more about yoga classes for caregivers, contact Lamantia at [email protected].

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