Many caregivers and senior care facilities are encouraging chair yoga for their patients. Majority of the research that is available to us supports that exercise is extremely beneficial to the function of our brains. For those with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, exercising regularly shows improvements in cognition, fine motor skills, posture and more. While there is no cure yet for the illness, exercise is a sure way to improve the quality of your loved one’s lives. What makes variations of yoga, like chair yoga, potentially more beneficial than other forms of exercise is the added element of mindfulness.
Seniors who practice chair yoga can learn to be alone without feeling necessarily lonely. The practice encourages sitting with one’s feelings in a non-judgmental manner. Chair yoga is an easy way to move and get exercise almost anywhere. Also, integrating a mindfulness practice into an exercise regimen enhances mood, improves memory and and promotes calmness.
The Benefits of Yoga on the Body and Mind
- improves core stability, overall strength and balance
- promotes mobility and improves flexibility
- increases oxygen intake and develops lung capacity
- helps to promote feelings of well being and overall stress reduction
- lowers blood pressure
- it is possible for all levels of mobility to participate
- gives meaning to every day through activity
- creates a sense of well being
The Latest Research on Chair Yoga for Seniors with Dementia
A recent study examined whether or not patients with moderate-to-severe dementia would benefit from chair yoga. The 8-week “Sit and Fit” program involved twice weekly 60-minute classes. First, there was 20 minutes of breathing (pranayama) to help centre the mind. Next, they did 30 minutes of physical postures (asana). Each class finished with 10 minutes of guided meditation. All nine participants attended 100% of the classes and experienced remarkable changes. Furthermore, the authors of the study noticed increased balance and a greater general sense of well being. In addition, they saw all patients complete “all aspects of the program, and did not lose interest in participation.” This is particularly interesting considering that most who suffer from Alzheimer’s or Dementia will experience greater difficulty while sticking to tasks. While this is a small sample size, this initial data is promising.
Practicing Chair Yoga with Your Loved One’s
Chair Yoga is available in many Senior Care Facilities, community centers and yoga studios. At many community centers they do have specific programs that are centered around yoga for seniors. Bringing your parent to one of those programs can be a great outing for them if they are living at home. Family yoga is also widely run throughout many city programs, you could have all of your family join. This is a great way to be doing something productive while spending time as a family.
If you plan on bringing your loved one to a yoga session, make sure they are in the right clothing. Yoga often says to have no shoes on, but that always poses the risk of slips and falls in seniors. Gripper socks or slip resistant socks will allow them to participate properly as a yoga student while remaining safe. Make sure they have stretchy elastic waist pants, so that they are not constricted when doing the poses. Finally make sure they are comfortable, with clothes that will keep them covered even if they have to bend over or sit down.
Be prepared with lots of water in case they need a break. Even a sweater in case you enter a center with air conditioning. Always be prepared for it not to go well the first time. Often things might not work on the first try with patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s, so don’t be disheartened if it’s a bit rocky at first.
Yoga at Home
If you are the caregiver for your loved one and care for them at home, you can use the resources below to create a practice. Also, you’ll have the added perk of practicing alongside with them, reaping the benefits of chair yoga in for yourself. It’s a nice way for both of you to bond and connect on a regular basis.
You will need access to a chair with a sturdy backing. Put it in an area where there isn’t any sharp edges that anyone can fall into if they lose their balance. Making sure that the space is safe, think about dedicating a portion of a room to yoga. This way when you leave then can continue to practice safely if they choose to. Always have proper footwear close to the area, whether this be grip socks or booties with a slip resistant sole. Something that’s easy for them to slip in and out of when they practice.
Use the following links for follow along videos and step by step instruction to guide your own practice at home:
***Please note that you should always talk to your doctor before starting this or any exercise program. While the resources listed above are helpful, Silvert’s and the Giving Care Team strongly recommend using a certified chair yoga instructor to ensure a safe practice.