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June 23, 2020

The Benefits of Chair Yoga for Persons with Dementia

When caring for a loved one with dementia, it’s important to find engaging activities to help keep them active. Thankfully, chair yoga is a great option! There are benefits of chair yoga for everyone. It’s an opportunity to stretch, strengthen, and improve flexibility with the safety of a stable chair for balance. It also provides important breathing and relaxation techniques through stationary poses and guided relaxation of various muscle groups.

Chair Yoga May Improve Quality of Life

According to a recent Florida Atlantic University study, chair yoga may help improve quality of life in dementia patients. The study involved older adults with moderate-to-severe dementia. Participants attended 45-minute sessions twice a week for 12 weeks. Results showed that more than 97% of the participants fully engaged in each session.

According to the study’s lead author, Juyoung Park, Ph.D.:

“It is fascinating that, although some participants showed mild levels of agitation or wandering in the intervention room prior to the yoga session, they became calm and attentive when the yoga interventionist started demonstrating yoga poses. Although they did not understand the interventionist’s verbal instructions due to their cognitive impairment associated with advanced dementia, they followed the instructor’s poses.”

Chair Yoga Can Improve Balance

In another study, also involving Dr. Park, chair yoga was found to improve balance in Alzheimer’s patients, indicating that motor learning is still possible. This eight-week study involved twice weekly, 50-minute chair yoga sessions.

Among the study’s findings were that participants demonstrated a consistent and statistically significant increase in their balance control from the beginning to the end of the chair yoga program, with balance ratings continuing to improve one month after program completion. The study’s authors attributed this result to increased body awareness that was cultivated during each chair yoga class.

Chair yoga exercise therapy helps enhance the quality of life for those individuals experiencing dementia. For caregivers caring for a loved one at home, even small increments of better balance and less agitation are a welcomed relief. For some, it could make the difference between continuing to care for a loved one at home or placing that individual in a facility.

Local Help Now

At this time, the Alzheimer’s Project is not providing respite care at our adult day sites, which, at some, included chair yoga exercises. In the interim, we do have Ageless Grace on Thursdays with Marghi in our Online Support Group. We also have two Gentle Yoga videos donated by local instructor Lisa Wixted with Connections Yoga. If you search online, you can find even more excellent chair yoga videos for seniors and persons with dementia. Those by Sherry Zak Morris are particularly engaging, tailoring music to a range of motion exercises.

Helpful Resources

Join the Alzheimer’s Project Online Support Group for fun and engaging activities, like Ageless Grace, for caregivers and their loved one with dementia.

Gentle Chair Yoga for the Spine donated by Lisa Wixted with Connections Yoga

Gentle Chair Yoga for the Whole Body donated by Lisa Wixted with Connections Yoga

“Can’t Stop the Feeling” in my Body Chair Yoga Dance with Sherry Zak Morris

I Can See Clearly Now” – A Reggae Chair Yoga Dance with Sherry Zak Morris, C-IAYT

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