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Yoga, Alzheimer’s, and Caregiving

A 2014 study, The Effect of Chair Yoga in Older Adults with Moderate and Severe Alzheimer’s Disease, published in Research in Gerontological Nursing, was recently a focus of a Yoga U article, Yoga May Aid in Treatment of Stroke, MS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and More, Research Review Finds. Ruth McCaffrey’s study asked 9 older adults (average age 83) with Alzheimer’s Disease to participate in 8 weeks of Sit N Fit Chair Yoga. The study showed positive results for physical functioning, walking, gait/speed, and balance.

One with the disease who practices yoga could potentially expect increased body awareness, improved memory and cognitive function, and overall emotional health. The article also cites yoga as being a benefit for caregivers: “Research has also focused on the ability of yoga and mind-body practices to reduce life stress in those caring for elders with dementia. Interventions the incorporate yoga and meditation are reported to lead to significant reductions in caregiver depression, stress, anxiety, and poor life satisfaction, and improvements in self-efficacy and cognitive functioning.”

Just as you can’t fill a glass from an empty pitcher, you can’t provide for others if you don’t make self-care a priority. Try these yoga poses to re-focus on yourself and replenish some of what you’ve given:

Forward Fold: stand with your feet parallel, about 2 fists apart from each other. Inhale and bring your arms up over your head. Bring your palms together, and let them flow past your heart-center as you dive your torso forward. Let your head, neck, arms, and hands release completely. Shake your head gently ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to release some tension. Bend the knees slightly to release low back tension, or straighten the knees to stretch the hamstrings.

Child’s Pose: come to your hands and knees. Bring your knees wide and let your big toes touch. Sit toward the heels and let the torso relax to the ground. Let your arms stay long on the ground or stack your palms under your forehead as a pillow. Close your eyes and breathe for at least 10 deep, slow breaths in and out of your nose.

Reclined Bound Angle Pose: lay on your back with the soles of your feet together and your knees wide. Bring a pillow or rolled blanket under each knee for support, let your head and arms relax.