Yoga for Alzheimer’s disease – Is it possible? Do you know how stress is related to Alzheimer’s disease??? Studies have shown that high levels of stress or depression can worsen this condition. Also, they have found lowering the levels of stress can slow down its advancement.
I have read in a magazine that yoga and meditation has proven effective against Alzheimer’s. My uncle was suffering from the same disorder. His doctor used to advice him to practice yoga. But he never did that….
I know, there is no effective medicine for Alzheimer’s disease. Being a research student I am always curious in finding some new things. APOE is a gene responsible for this disease. I decided to target this gene and find some effective medicines for Alzheimer’s. My guide and all our team members went through certain methods like molecular docking and micro-array analysis tool. But our efforts proved unsuccessful.
One day I visited my uncle’s doctor to clarify all my doubts. He explained me the importance of yoga and the way it works. Patients who did regular workouts showed improvement in their verbal memory skills. Which helped them to recall directions while walking, remember names of everyone etc.
Vera Paley, a 91 year-old of Florida teaches yoga for such patients. She says,
”chair yoga is my favorite asana, I have been teaching this since 1982”.
This is a neurological disorder which destroys the brain cells. Associated with problems like thinking, memory and behavior.
It is seen in different stages. Lets learn about this in detail
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s in the early stages
- The person may find difficulty in performing his daily routine activities. Like writing, brushing, reading, eating, bathing etc.
- He may find it difficult to remember the recent activities.
- Problem with communication or language.
- One can notice sudden feelings of change in their mood and behavior.
- They sleep for more hours during day-time, instead of night.
Symptoms in the Middle age
- Lack of confidence.
- Showing anger towards everyone and everything.
- Difficulty in doing their routine work.
- Finding themselves in unknown location. When they are actually sitting in their own houses.
Symptoms in the old age
- Unable to recognize anyone.
- Need someone to look after them.
- Communication trouble.
- Short term memory loss. Getting scared to do anything or walk.
What are the benefits of yoga for this disorder
Yoga works by releasing the stress hormones. Hence, it gives strength to their mind, body and sole. It raises the level of concentration. Improves the functioning of brain. Enhances memory power naturally by regenerating the dead cells.
Chair yoga pose (Utkatasana)
Come lets begin, this imaginary chair pose with me!!
You can also call this powerful pose or fierce pose. Utkatasana is very powerful as it gives overall strength and stamina to your body. But for performing this, your quadriceps must be strong. This is one of the biggest muscle of our body. Lengthening of this muscle fights against all your knee problems. Workout this asana in the morning hours. There should be a gap of 4-6 hours between the meals and the practice. Another important point is, you should perform this with empty stomach and bowels. You may also workout in the evening hours in case of complications.
How to do?
- First, stand straight placing your feet at a slight distance. Now, extend your arms in the forward direction. Try not to fold the elbows. Palms must face downwards.
- In this step, slowly fold your knees and shove down your pelvis. It should look like, as if you are sitting in a imaginary chair.
- Come in a comfortable form. Now, conceptualize yourself reading a newspaper. While you hold this pose. Make sure your hands are parallel to the ground. Maintain your spine lengthened all through out. Just, calm your mind and relax. Stay in this pose for upto a minute. After this, move down and sit in Sukhsana.
Note for beginner’s: You can use the support of a wall in the beginning. Stand a few inches away from the wall. So when you bend, the tailbone will touch the wall.
Variation: Raise your body when you are in the pose. Now, release your buttocks down on the raised heels. Place your arms forward parallel to each other and the ground. Remember palms must face downwards.
Benefits: Regular practicing this asana stretches the hips, chest and spine muscles. Extends the torso and the lower back. Stimulates the muscles in the ankles, knee and the thighs. Tones the abdominal organs, diaphragm, heart etc. One can also lose weight from the buttocks with this asana.
- Avoid doing this asana in case of low blood pressure, headaches, insomnia, damaged ligaments, chronic knee pain.
- Consult your doctor, if you are having problems like lower back and shoulder pain.
- In case of neck pain, look straight and set your gaze in the forward direction.
Preparatory poses: Virasana, Bhujangasana, Adho Mukha Svanasana.
Follow up poses: Tadasana, Uttanasana.
How to perform the following preparatory poses
Virasana yoga for Alzheimer’s disease
- Start from kneeling down on the ground. Where your thighs should be placed in a vertical mode to the floor. The inner thighs must touch other.
- In the 2nd step, keep your feet a little apart. The upper part of your feet must be placed on the floor. Now, squeeze the upper part of the foot rigidly in the direction of the ground.
- Breathe deeply and sit back halfway. Making your body slightly bent in the forward direction. Next, sit down on the ground in between your feet.
- Place your hands on the knees and sit in Dhyana mudra. Then, meditate and chant “Om”.
- Stay in this pose for 1-3 minutes and then release.
- Repeat the same steps everyday.
How to do Dhyana mudra
Touch the nib of your hand’s index finger to the head of your thumb. Let the other three fingers remain straight.
Bhujangasana yoga for Alzheimer’s disease
- Lay down on your belly on a mat. Make sure that your legs are flat. Other regions like the hips, thighs and toes are touching the floor.
- Keep the lower body grounded. Now, raise your torso and begin curving your back.
- Stay in this pose for 10-15 seconds. Turn back to the starting position. Don’t forget to lower your torso slowly. Otherwise this may lead to some side-effects.
Adho Mukha Svanasana yoga for Alzheimer’s disease
- Stand on the mat keeping your flat feet and spine erect. Now, place the hands on either side of your body. Palms should face your thighs.
- Then breathe in a normal way. Gently bring your body and head forward when your palms touch the mat. You should face in the downward direction.
- In this step, extend your left leg backward slowly. Continue the same steps with the right leg. Ensure both your hands and feet are in co-ordination. So you will not lose balance and fall down.
- Next, inhale deeply and tuck the belly in. Remain in this pose from 60-90 seconds.
- Then, exhale completely and return to the initial state. Practice 5-7 times.
How to perform the following follow up poses
Tadasana yoga for Alzheimer’s disease
- You should stand on the ground, making your spine erect. Placing the feet together.
- Place your hands by the sides with palms facing your thighs. Then, inhale deeply holding the palms with fingers. Bring your hands over your head. Extend to the maximum level.
- Now, raise your eyes to gaze at the ceiling. Hold this pose for 30-60 seconds. After this, exhale slowly. Relax and return to the normal state.
Uttanasana yoga for Alzheimer’s disease
- Start from tadasna. Lengthen your hands up. Inhale while stretching the hands up.
- Now, inhale and bend your body from the hips in the forward direction. Remember not to bend your body from the waist. Also, try to keep your knees straight.
- Then keep your hands besides your feet. Squeeze the palms rigidly onto the floor.
- Fold your hands from the elbows, where your elbows are placed on the outer side of the calf muscles.
- Hold this pose for 1 minute and then return back. Repeat these steps 10 times every day.
Do you know kirtan kriya (a 12-minute meditation exercise)?
This is a kind of meditation, which has been originated from kundalini yoga tradition. It is also called as singing exercise. One has to say Saa Taa Naa Maa along with repetitive finger gestures. Here, the mantra Sat Nam means “my true essence”. Practicing this for 12 minutes a day can lower the level of stress. This can stimulate the areas of the brain which are central to memory.
How to perform?
- First, sit on the floor making your spine erect. Now, close your eyes and come to a meditative state. Repeat the Saa Taa Naa Maa mantra.
- For the first 2 minutes sing in your normal voice. Then for the another 2 minutes sing in a whisper. Again, for the next 4 minutes, sing in a silent mode.
- Then reverse the order. To come out of the pose, inhale deeply. Extend your hands above your head. Then bring them down in a sweeping motion by exhaling.
How to do Saa Taa Naa Maa mudra
- Mudras or finger positions play an important role while performing this kriya.
- When you say Saa touch the index fingers of each hand to the thumbs.
- On Taa tap your middle fingers to your thumbs.
- On Naa join the ring fingers to your thumbs.
- On Maa touch the little fingers to the thumbs.
Pranayama yoga for Alzheimer’s disease
The practice of pranayama carries blood and oxygen to our brain and other organs. Controls the autonomic, sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems. Patients suffering from Alzheimer’s will get more calmness and peace to the mind.
Bhastrika Pranayama yoga for Alzheimer’s disease
This pranayama is also called as Bellows breathe. It is one of the basic forms of pranayama.
How to do this?
- Sit in a cross-legged position. Then breathe deeply through both the nostrils. Now, feel the nostrils fill air into the lungs, abdomen filling outwards and the diaphragm moving downwards.
- After this exhale. While doing this feel the diaphragm moving upwards, lungs deflating and the abdomen moving inwards. Continue for 5 more times.
Kapalbhati Pranayama yoga for Alzheimer’s disease
Kapalbhati is also called as Shining forehead breathe. This is effective in eliminating stress. Beneficial for respiratory disorders, digestion, constipation and gastritis.
How to do this?
- Sit comfortably in a cross-legged manner. Next, straighten the spine, relax your abdomen. Take few breathes for a few seconds to relax your body and mind.
- Then start exhaling through your nose. Note on each exhalation your abdomen should sink in. This process should take place in a steady rhythm. While, inhalation must happen automatically. Try upto 100 exhalations at a stretch. Initially beginners can perform 50.
Anulom Vilom pranayama yoga for Alzheimer’s disease
You can also called this as alternate nostril breathing. This technique uses one nostril at a time.
How to do this?
- First, sit comfortably and close your eyes. Then close the right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale deeply from the left nostril.
- It should make you feel that the diaphragm, lungs and abdomen is filled up with air. Now, hold your breathe on removing the thumb from the right nostril. Use the middle and ring fingers to close the left nostril. Exhale slowly from the now open right nostril. Keeping on alternating the nostrils and continue for 5 more times.
Bhramari Pranayama yoga for Alzheimer’s disease
This is a great stress buster, which is also called as Bee Breathe.
How to do this?
- Sit in padmasana, keeping the legs crossed. Straighten your spine and relax.
- In this step, use your thumbs to close both your ears. Then with the middle finger of both the hands, lightly press your closed eyes. Next, with the index finger squeeze your temples lightly.
- Keep the index finger and little fingers on the bridge of the nose. Breathe in and out through your nose. By making a humming sound and chanting Om in your mind. Perform this 11-21 times.
Udgeeth Pranayama yoga for Alzheimer’s disease
This is a chanting exercise, where you have to chant Om. Popularly used by both kids and adults to destress themselves. Boosts the memory power in kids. It involves inhalation and exhalation for a longer duration.
How to do this?
- First, sit in Sukhasana or Padmasana. Now, take deep breathes. Then on exhalation chant Om as long as possible. Better results can be obtained on holding the breathe for a longer time.
- One chanting completes one round. Before moving into the next repetition: Relax and close your eyes, breathe normally for 15 seconds.
- Continue this for 2-3 minutes in the initial stages. After attaining perfection repeat for about 10 minutes.
You can also try stress balls. These days, everyone is facing the same problem of stress. My friend, Ruth always complaint about stress, depression…. So, on her birthday I gifted her a set of stress balls. Thinking, what else could be a better gift than this for her. This is a type of toy available in different shapes and sizes. Using stress balls is a form of physical therapy.
Alzheimer patients need utmost care. I never taught yoga can give comfort and relief from pain for such individuals. Its true, I now believe, what B.K.S Iyengar has said “ Yoga is a gift for older people”.