January has come and gone, but your resolution to be more active doesn’t need to. Our guest blogger, Kathleen Beveridge, has provided some yoga tips that will keep your brain and body healthy, and help you stay on track with your workout routine.
Regular yoga practice, meditation and physical postures are starting to spread as more and more research is done on the benefits of these activities. Let’s discuss how yoga can help those with Alzheimer’s, as well as how yoga helps to stimulate brain health.
For those already diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, incorporating a regular yoga practice (with modifications and adjustments based on stage of the disease) allows for gentle physical activity, can help to reduce depression, and also provides social interaction. Yoga is based on muscle memory, rather than an intangible thought, yet this movement is actually beneficial for brain and body health.
Starting to practice before diagnosis, and practicing awareness on and off the mat stimulates the brain, allows it to focus, reduces stress, increases balance (which helps to prevent falls and injuries), and creates for a better overall mind/body awareness for acceptance of what is.
Caregivers should also be aware that practicing yoga is a great way to move from the stress of taking care of their loved ones and help to find time for themselves to detach. And, yoga is accessible anywhere at anytime.
If you are looking for gentle restorative postures with brain benefits, some of the best are inversions. No, not handstands or headstands, but downward facing dog, child’s pose, and even passive (or active) forward folds. These poses allow for blood to flow in the opposite direction (into the brain). This increase in blood flow stimulates the hippocampus in the brain. The hippocampus can reap full benefits with breathe awareness allows for growth in grey matter and thus, an increase in memory.
If you’re ever having trouble sleeping (and getting rest is key to brain health!) get out of bed, breathe deep into your lungs fully, and, as you exhale, bend forward at the hips and knees. Let your torso and head hang heavy, hands can be on the ground or holding opposite elbows, no effort, a completely passive forward fold. The blood moving to the brain and the head lower than the heart will trigger your body’s parasympathetic nervous system, responsible for resting/digestion and overall well being. Stay here breathing deep for a minute or two and then slowly roll up to standing, get into bed, and sleep deep.
It’s truly an accessible form of ‘fitness’ for everyone, as there are all types of classes for different ages and abilities. There are teachers who teach to those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and, with the same sequence of poses over time, the patient’s bodies can learn new tricks.
The best part is that the benefits of yoga extend to helping manage other conditions, such as heart disease and high blood pressure, which are often associated with Alzheimer’s.
We’re only given one body and one mind. It’s our life’s journey to take care of them and honour all they allow us to do, even as they change, year to year, day by day, and breath by breath.
Slowly roll the spine up, walk the hands up the legs, or exhale to stand up with a flat back.