We often think of those who practice yoga as thin, flexible, people in strange poses. However, this is not the case for many people. Yoga can be beneficial for all kinds of people. A certain type, done in a chair, is helping Alzheimer’s patients and caregivers connect through yoga.

This article in the Baltimore Sun explains how Catherine Rees, a registered nurse, taught gentle yoga classes at a local senior center. After seeing the benefits, she came up with the idea to cater a class specifically to those with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. She began this brilliant idea, at no cost to students, at The Yoga Center of Columbia. Her goal was to not only help the person with Alzheimer’s, but their caregiver as well.

Phyllis Dua (in photograph with her daughter Pam Dua) has Alzheimer’s and has greatly benefited from the classes. She often walks in the room, not remembering that she had been there the week before. Yet as soon as the class begins, she and her caregiver are smiling and hugging throughout the “partner poses”. As Rees says,

“As the disease progresses it’s wonderful to know that they’ll still have the memory of the touch and the way they were with each other, and that’s going to take over for the words”.

Rees has noted that caregivers and Alzheimer’s patients often walk in behind each other, looking tired and stressed out. But when they leave, they are usually holding hands and smiling or laughing. Dua’s caregiver says the class benefits them even outside of the yoga center. She says it gives her tools to use on tough days. Doing the stretches and exercises together at home can help give them something to focus and work on.

Alzheimer’s often robs patients and families of important connections and memories. These classes have been described as heartwarming because of it can help keep these feelings alive. These classes provide touch, collaboration, and laughs to all involved. The emotional and cognitive benefits are amazing.

Photo Credit: Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun