The meaning of the Sanskrit word ‘yoga’ is ‘to join’ or ‘to unite’. The practice of yoga is known to form a union between the body, mind, and spirit. Having balance in these three areas often brings balance into the rest of one’s life.
Yoga for those with Alzheimer’s disease is a safe, effective way for them to stay physically strong as well as mentally engaged. Often exercise can stimulate areas of the brain that remain otherwise unused. A chair yoga class is a great first step for anyone looking to build strength and stay sharp.
During a chair yoga class all poses and stretches are performed seated in a chair or standing and holding on to the chair. This gives participants a good base of support while allowing them to stretch and strengthen safely.
The following exercises are examples of chair yoga poses that are appropriate for those with Alzheimer’s and can even be used for their own personal practice.
Seated Spinal Twist – Begin seated in a chair with both feet flat on the floor. Inhale the arms up overhead. Exhale and twist to the right. Place the left hand on the right knee and reach to the right as far as is comfortable with the right arm. Hold for three breaths. Inhale the arms up overhead again and repeat to the left.
Twisting poses bring circulation into the spine, release tight back muscles, and center the mind.
Single Leg Hamstring Stretch – Begin seated in a chair with both feet flat on the floor. Extend the right leg straight out and place a yoga strap or belt around the ball of the foot. Gently pull the leg up to release the hamstring and calf. Hold for three breaths. Repeat on the left leg.
Hamstring stretches relieve lower back pain, ease tension on the neck, and can create an inward focus while practiced.
Neck Release – Begin seated in a chair with both feet flat on the floor and the hands resting on the thighs. Inhale, lift the chin and look up at the ceiling. Exhale and lower the chin to the chest. Continue like this for six breaths. Be sure to stay in a range of motion that is comfortable and to use slow controlled movements.
Neck stretches loosen tight neck muscles, relieve headaches, and create peace of mind.