Is This A Good Idea?

Is yoga good for dementia? I’d never given it any thought until recently. I was cleaning up my inbox when I came across a two month-old email from Margaret Manning, founder of (where I’m a guest blogger). Tangled in a spam filter, the email announced a new yoga for seniors video series.

Hmmm. That got me thinking: what about dementia? Is yoga good for dementia? Can people living with dementia do it? Is it too complicated? Does it require too much in the way of balance?

What about concentration? Would it be too frustrating for a person living with dementia to even try?

I think you’ll be as delighted as I am with the answers I found.


“Forbidden” Fun

An ex-boyfriend, originally from Manhattan and most recently from San Francisco, said of my hometown, “Wow, I’ve never been in a place so open about being so closed!” No one has ever described it better.

When I was in my early 20s, I saw a Newsweek cover story on an exotic, mystical form of exercise called yoga. The woo-woo bits sounded scary-thrilling and the exercise part appeared deceptively easy. It sounded forbidden…and fun. But mostly forbidden. I passed.


Yoga and Dementia

25 years later, yoga is mainstream–even in my hometown. You may already do it yourself, but have you ever considered doing it with your person living with dementia? We’re starting to get a picture of what yoga can do for both body and brain, and it’s impressive. Let’s start with the big benefit and add from there:

Yoga can improve dementia symptoms!

That one line alone is enough to make you think yoga pants just might be good for something besides a quick trip to Target, right?

As you know, I wholeheartedly and enthusiastically endorse anything and everything that improves symptoms and doesn’t include unnecessary drugs.

Shorter: yoga improves quality of life!

Yoga reduces stress.

In case you hadn’t heard yet, stress is all kinds of bad for you. Besides feeling like a walking pile of crud and interfering with your sleep, stress also messes with your hormones. Meaning your sleep will suffer, your weight will suffer, your brain will suffer. But that’s just you.

What about your parent or partner? Depending on where they are in the disease process, people living with dementia can be in an almost chronic state of stress. They spend every waking moment trying to make sense of their environment, connect with the people around them, and just fit in. Your loving support + yoga=much lower stress.

Shorter: yoga improves quality of life!

Yoga improves the ability to relax.

If it reduces stress, it only makes sense yoga improves the ability to relax, right? More than just the opposite of stress-inducing, yoga helps with mindfulness and meditation–two things that make relaxing much easier.

For people living with dementia, concentrating on something peaceful and relatively easy to execute is a godsend. The racing mind can focus and rest.

Shorter: yoga improves quality of life!

Yoga can be done in a chair.

Forget all that downward dog business; we’re going for safe, practical, and easy here. Margaret has partnered with her friend, Cat Kabira, for the Gentle Yoga for Seniors video series. And yes, they’ve done a chair version, too!

(Incidentally, if you want to see a great advertisement for yoga, just take a look at what Margaret has created. She’s the embodiment of living life to the fullest and a role model for me.)

Two other things I love about these yoga series? One, you don’t have to mess around with the DVR; each lesson is available online instantly. And two, you don’t have to leave your house! No need to get stressed to get out the door to go do something relaxing. <wink>

Yoga is a great way to connect.

Anything you can do with your parent or partner that doesn’t involve direct care tasks is a great way to connect. When you can do something fun, relaxing, and low-key together, you both finish with a sense of well-being. You’ve bonded and generated good feelings.

And you’ve done something kind for yourself, refilling your tank. That’s what allows you to be present and ready to connect with your loved one.

Shorter: yoga improves quality of life (for both of you)!

Is yoga good for dementia?

I’m going to give it an enthusiastic YES! and rate it a 5 star pursuit. I love that it has the bonus of being something you can do together that will make you both feel good. (If you want the definitive list of yoga benefits, go here. You’ll love all but #13!)

Ready to give it a try with your loved one? Check out Gentle Yoga for Seniors and let me know what you think! Did you find even more benefits than I named? 


Christy Turner is the founder of and has enjoyed the privilege of working with 1,123 people living with dementia and their families. Follow on Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube. Content varies across platforms.