The sandwich generation is a term used to describe people between the ages of 40 and 59, and refers to people who are caretakers for their aging parents and their own children. Usually, it’s women who are doing the caretaking of these two generations simultaneously.
Some women have full time jobs in addition to caretaking and are dealing with workplace stress. Some are dealing with the early stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia in their parents. And some are dealing with the draining costs of college for their own children.
These factors, along with all the daily stresses that come from life in general, can lead to high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, financial anxiety, depression, and overwhelm. These can lead to weight gain, poor sleep quality, and just lack of self-care due to time constraints.
Today some doctors are moving away from the practice of just throwing prescriptions at people and looking to help in more of a holistic way. Doctors are suggesting yoga and meditation and emphasizing the importance of movement and de-stressing.
But if you haven’t taken a yoga class before, you’ll probably have some questions before jumping into a regular practice. Here are some answers to some of the common questions I have been asked and if you have any other questions, please comment below and I will answer them as well!
What if I’m Stiff and Inflexible? (#1 Question!)
There are so many different styles of yoga that do not require flexibility to start. Gentle Yoga, Restorative Yoga and Chair Yoga are great classes to start with. As you continue practicing, your flexibility is guaranteed to increase!
Where Can I Do Yoga?
Yoga studios are popping up everywhere! Search on Google for “yoga classes near me” and go to the websites and see what kinds of yoga they offer. Yoga classes at studios can range from $5 for a community class, up to $20 for a regular class. In a major city like New York, they will probably cost even more.
Also, check out a gym or a YMCA. They often have classes as well, but you will probably need to pay for a membership to participate.
If you sign up for MeetUp.com, you can usually find some community classes on there as well.
YouTube is an excellent source of free yoga, but I recommend to watch the whole practice before you begin, just to make sure that it will work for you.
What Will I Be Doing? What If It’s Too Hard?
If you haven’t done yoga before, you should be looking for a Beginner/Level 1 class, Gentle Yoga, Restorative Yoga, or Chair Yoga (if getting on the floor is not available to you).
The studio/gym should have descriptions of the classes. You can always call and ask if the class that you are interested in is appropriate for your level of fitness and what exactly they do during the class.
Classes usually are between 45 minutes and 1.5 hours. I suggest looking for a shorter class to start, so that you don’t get overwhelmed.
Before the class starts, please let your teacher know if you have any injuries or recent surgeries that may be aggravated during the practice. They can help modify poses for you, so that you are comfortable throughout the class.
During that time, the class usually starts with a short meditation time to center yourself and focus on your breath. Then you begin with gentle movements, maybe moving your joints, then moving on to your whole body. At the end is Savasana (final resting pose), where you get to lay down and let your body assimilate everything you did at the practice.
At all times during the practice, you should be listening to your body, and noticing the difference between discomfort and pain. If you feel discomfort, then just back out of the stretch a little bit. But if there’s pain, come out of the pose altogether.
Your teacher should tell you what to do if you need a rest during the class (like sitting or coming into Child’s Pose). It’s more important – and very rewarding – to listen to your body and rest than to push yourself into a pose or holding a pose for longer than it is comfortable.
What Do I Need To Bring With Me?
What Are the Benefits and How Long Until I See Results?
For someone under lots of stress, yoga is a great method of self-care. You are taking a time-out from your caretaking duties for others, and taking the time to reconnect with your body and calm your mind. This can help “flip your switch” from the sympathetic nervous system – the flight or fight response – to the parasympathetic nervous system – the rest and digest response.
Getting a break from the demands of everyone else by taking time for yourself to do yoga, will refresh and renew you as you go back to your “duties”.
You may feel results from the very first class you take, like a feeling of relief and peace. But after a month of practicing regularly – even just once or twice a week – you should see increases in your flexibility and maybe some changes to your body.
For Those with Hot Flashes: Is it Air-Conditioned?
Well, if you suffer from hot flashes, you probably want to avoid Hot Yoga and Bikram Yoga. In both of these styles of yoga, the room is heated up to ~90-100 degrees.
Some studios have classes considered “warm” and they heat the room to about 80 degrees.
Gym/YMCA yoga is oftentimes cool – ~65-70 degrees, because they share the room with the aerobic classes.
Different teachers (even at the same studio) will have their preferred temperatures as well. If you get too hot, let the teacher know. Most teachers want you to be as comfortable as possible, and will open windows, or adjust the heat if they can.
Can I Change at the Yoga Studio?
Most studios have a restroom where you can change if you’re coming from work. Gyms, of course, have a locker room to change in.
Again, I’d like to stress the importance of self-care, especially to caretakers. You have an extremely tough job – I personally have 2 aunts in the “Sandwich Generation” – and I know how hard you work. I really hope that yoga can help more people de-stress, and I am happy to answer any other questions you might have. Please leave them in the comments!