Supported by the Wimbledon Foundation For Brian has developed one to one and an inclusive yoga class for people living with dementia in Wandsworth & Merton.

There is now evidence that the brain is plastic, therefore changes throughout an individual's life. Brain activity associated with a given function can be transferred to a different location, the proportion of grey matter can change, and synapses may strengthen or weaken over time. This process is also taking place in those with injury and diseases of the brain. Neuroplasticity is facilitated by close attention to finely graded activity, managing fatigue and avoiding stress. It is really important that any activity is enjoyable and validating, and a good fit with the needs of the family overall. People living with dementia can regain and learn new skills, in the right context. (Norman Doidge 2015).

Whilst there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, research suggests that yoga and meditation may play a role in prevention and improve symptoms and quality of life for patients and their caregivers.

Yoga and meditation can provide stress relief, improved memory, reduced cognitive decline, diminished depression and soothed hyper-arousal but also covey a powerful message of compassion and valued self-worth.

People living with dementia and their family carers can both benefit without the need to address issues of paying for care nor managing separation.

In a small British study, a holistic program including yoga and meditation was shown to ease the burden for people with Alzheimer’s and other kinds of dementias and their caregivers.

“This is an activity that caregivers and patients can do together” said study lead author Yvonne J-Lyn Khoo, a researcher with the Health and Social Care Institute at Teesside University in Middlesbrough, U.K. “Because everyone is doing the program together, caregivers have peace of mind to at least allow themselves to ‘let go’.

The study, which received assistance from the U.K. Alzheimer’s Society, was published recently in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies.

Yoga breathing techniques raises parasympathetic activity, enhancing control of blood pressure. In the long term lowering blood pressure brings about relaxation and reduces depression. There is good research evidence that slow breathing and savasana reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension (Hagins M, Rundle A, Consedine NS, Khalsa SB J Clin Hypertens (Greenwich). 2014 Jan;16(1):54-62. doi: 10.1111/jch.12244. Epub2014 Jan 4.)

There are many different approaches and interpretations of yoga, and there do not seem to be any studies on the specific effect of gentle yoga addressing the highly disabling dyspraxias seen in Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Procedural memory is relatively unaffected we find people living with dementia can cycle and learn to cycle, can swim and learn to swim, can walk long distances, but may struggle with dressing, getting in a car, or rolling over in bed.

The role of using yoga to facilitate the transfer of procedural movement to voluntary movement is being explored by For Brian, although research evidence for the benefits of yoga does not report on this issue. Qualitative feedback from a family reports that weekly yoga benefits sleep, getting in and out of the car, dressing, going up and downstairs and general flexibility. The gentleman in question had advanced young onset dementia and was very dyspraxic. During the previous year he has declined to the point he could no longer cycle and only walked short distances very slowly. He understood the context of our work, cooperated and responded, and was always relaxed and smiling afterwards. 

Case Study 

“Yoga helps me a lot … I am more relaxed and I feel happier”.

“the best exercise I have ever done, when can I do more?”