Alzheimers/Dementia: The Benefits of Yoga and Exercise

Recently, as I have been offline, so to speak- developing my Alzheimer training course- I have been doing a lot of reading, talking and discussion about various strategies for proactive programs to work with Alzheimer and dementia patients– particularly as they are progressing into the moderate to severe stages of the conditions.

I have been reading and discovering through my own work, what an impact exposure and seemingly low-impact things.. can have in the support of brain… and more… what I refer to as ” being present.”

We CAN improve and change our circumstances. All too often, it seems, a diagnosis/condition like Alzheimer/dementia… is what cancer had been 40 years ago, a sealed fate, at which the patient was at the mercy of… granted with most cancer protocols… the patients have higher survival rates, but still within the mainstream paradigm, rather than more of the self-empowerment ( which is my gig/shtick:), of… what do I need to know, change, and do ( differently:)….

I think a lot can and could… and more importantly, NEEDS to be done, proactively and holistically, with a population that is now- in the west- quickly approaching the age where this is going to become an epidemic issue. This is even more true, given the degradation of our lifestyle and health, in comparison to what our current seniors lived in terms of health and lifestyle ( our parents generations)…

The moderate to severe population of Alzheimer/ dementia also seems to be one of those overlooked populations.. where- once they are no longer able to advocate for themselves.. that less and less is done for them in terms of “rescue” and more energy is put into keeping comfortable, modifying moods, and ” slowing progression”… which is admitting defeat before the battle, so to speak. Rather, I think it would be good to see.. a shift into a mindset that says: we need to work HARDER.. to recover ground… just like learning disabled students should be pushed harder ( with correct supports) to CLOSE that gap… before it is too wide to cross ( usually around 7-8th grade)… and the student “gives up” any hope of being a student.. and becomes the failure, class clown, etc.

Anyway- I think with Alzheimer’s and dementia, also.. it is imperative that we work HARDER and SMARTER… to try to recover lost ground and bring as much back as possible, and maintain a routine and regimen that supports optimal brain function. The current model of.. status quo and slow decline… just won’t cut it, as more and more of the baby boomer population become part of those rising statistics.

What I found when working with a client at a BoneBuilders exercise class.. the first time there was a good degree of trepidation, and within the first 20 or so minutes, the stress level heightened.. and I respected and honoured that- working more on the long-term results than the immediacy. I diverted and reassured a few times.. but understood and intuited what the actual limit was. We left early, in good stead, as she made farewells to the group and the group was very positive and supportive even upon her exit.

The following time– the time frame lengthened and the stress was less. After about 3-4 visits.. she was able to stay for the duration. Each time the stress decreased, her enjoyment was high. the difference here though, may be that there is higher interaction.. where she would “chatter” and people were very supportive. Each week she learned-remembered more and more of the routines. and although i was mentoring her through all of them, lifting-coaching an arm or leg etc… she was willing and over time, helped more and more- beginning to do a good portion of it with the coaxing-prompting of my holding, stretching etc,.

SO, based on my own client experiences with BoneBuilders classes in Vermont- my thought was. how could this be applied to yoga or other environments: where the setting is a little more specialised and accommodating. It would seem to me, in a regular yoga class that others may find the random ‘chatter” distracting and a nuisance- even if being supportive of the other person… they ultimately are there for their own experience. hence my thought about a niche-based program… where mentors worked client-students through routines, that were a little more social-supportive oriented than a traditional yoga class might be, did that make sense?

I think the mild Alzheimer/dementia patient probably could do well, but what about that next level- a population that seems very under-served…? I think it could be extremely beneficial- if, especially as a few people have noted.. the lifestyle-dietary changes that often accompany self-awareness journeys

Maybe there needs to be a specialised niche within the niche.. where a yoga or exercise program can be developed, geared toward moderate to advanced patients.. In this instance each client-student-patient is working with a “mentor” to teach their BODY… the motions.. which goes into muscle memory, and informs the brain… In this way, new pathways can be built.. the brain oxygenates etc and can begin to receive the various benefits that yoga can impart… plus, it is social.. it is brain stimulation– any time we learn/ experience something new… the brain benefits. :)…

I think that the benefits of yoga — or other social exercise groups– to mind, body and spirit! so long as the environment is such that the level of ability is always monitored by the “mentor” and gives breaks ( step out for a walk or bathroom etc).. so that, like a special needs classroom…. there is a more relaxed focus on curriculum, so to speak, and more on the emotional-mental of the student.

What experiences have any of you had, working with or improving the health and wellness of Alzheimer patients or family members ( or yourself?)…



I am an Education Specialist, Health Coach and Author. I work with aspects of the teachings I have learned from Andean shamanic and cosmology, to health, nutrition and education.  Everything is energy. Energy must flow. Like water, when it does not flow, it stagnates and is not healthy. These techniques help your life to flow. I have been initiated into many of the ancient lineages and learned ceremonies, rites of passage and healing techniques.  I have worked as a healer and done workshops and taught some of these aspects – passing the teachings on.

Author of:
Dancing in Your Bubble : ancient teaching, modern healing
Natural Support for Alzheimer’s
Getting a Handle on Happy : find and fix causes of stress and depression
The Naturally Smarter Kid : a parent’s guide to helping kids succeed in school and life
Cafe of the Hungry Ghosts : behind the veil of ordinary – a paranormal-ish fiction book