The benefits of yoga are well-documented by research. In fact, some researchers suggest that yoga may have the ability to improve sleep , decrease chronic inflammation , and even slow the aging process . One study  found that over the course of an 8-week yoga and compassion meditation intervention, familial caregivers of persons with dementia had statistically significant decreases in reported stress, anxiety, and depression, in addition to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Still looking for a reason to try yoga? Recent research  suggests that regular participation in yoga may be rather beneficial for individuals with dementia. Some of the benefits cited include decreased behavioral issues, increased physical functioning, and improved muscle strength and agility.
So what is yoga? “Yoga is an ancient East Indian practice that utilizes mind, body, and spirit to balance our systems. Yoga combines flexibility, balance, strength, breathing, and meditation through a series of stationary poses that use isometric contraction and relaxation of different muscle groups to create specific body alignments”  Yoga’s definition is very broad and can be interpreted in different ways. For instance, someone with limited mobility can implement yogic exercises in the form of chair yoga. Yoga instructors and enthusiasts can often recommend adaptations to traditional yoga exercises, if certain movements are problematic.
Try out some of the yoga poses below at home. If you prefer to follow along with an instructor, consider renting a yoga DVD for free from your local library or find free YouTube videos online. Be very mindful of physical limitations, and if necessary, consult a physician to ensure that this type of exercise is appropriate for you and your person.
My favorite….don’t forget to…
Rest in savasana when you need to take a break or at the end of your yoga routine. Let the tension from your body sink into the floor. Let all of the stresses from the day melt off of your body. Concentrate on the rhythm of your breathing as you deliberately and consciously take full breaths in and out. If your mind wanders, gently redirect your attention to your breath and the stillness of your body. Become aware of how good your body feels to rest and restore.
1 Danucalov, M. D., Kozasa, E. H., Ribas, K. T., Galduróz, J. F., Garcia, M. C., Verreschi, I. N., Oliveira, K.C., Romani de Oliveira, L., & Leite, J. R. (2013). A Yoga and Compassion Meditation Program Reduces Stress in Familial Caregivers of Alzheimer’s Disease Patients. Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine (Ecam), 1-8. doi:10.1155/2013/513149
2 Lavretsky, H. M. (2013). A pilot study of yogic meditation for family dementia caregivers with depressive symptoms: effects on mental health, cognition, and telomerase activity A pilot study of yogic meditation for family dementia caregivers with depressive symptoms: effects.. International Journal Of Geriatric Psychiatry, 28(1), 57-65.
3 Litchke, L. G., & Hodges, J. S. (2014). The Meaning of “Now” Moments of Engagement in Yoga for Persons With Alzheimer’s Disease. Therapeutic Recreation Journal, 48(3), 229-246.
4 Staples, J. K., Hamilton, M. F., & Uddo, M. (2013). A yoga program for the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans. Military Medicine,178(8), 854-860. doi:10.7205/MILMED-D-12-00536
5 Yadav, R. K., Magan, D., Mehta, N., Sharma, R., & Mahapatra, S. C. (2012). Efficacy of a Short-Term Yoga-Based Lifestyle Intervention in Reducing Stress and Inflammation: Preliminary Results. Journal Of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, 18(7), 662-667. doi:10.1089/acm.2011.0265