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Yoga and Cognitive Enrichment

While research on preventing memory decline is relatively new, early studies imply that Yoga can have a positive impact. In most Yoga classes we learn new skills, we repeat patterns to exercise our brain, and our movements involve the use of more than one sense. In addition, making Yoga a part of our regular exercise routine will help us become more mindful in our everyday lives. All of these things may help to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s-like symptoms.

As we age, it’s normal for forgetfulness to become more frequent. However, when this forgetfulness interferes with normal daily activities, then it may be time to consult a doctor. Symptoms of various forms of dementia, with Alzheimer’s being the most common, may include:

    • trouble performing routine daily activities
    • challenges in managing finances
    • feeling disoriented in place or time
    • mood swings or erratic behavior
    • trouble with writing or speech

How does Yoga Help?

Most studies indicate that a complete Yoga practice is an excellent and comprehensive “brain exercise.” When symptoms of cognitive impairment are present, the practice may be shorter (between 10 and 30 minutes). Meditation practices may also be helpful to focus concentration and reduce stress.

Recommended Practices

  • Yoga Postures and Sequences
  • Meditation — including Visualization and Concentration
  • Pranayama (breathing practices)
  • Chanting

Organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation (http://alzheimersprevention.org) have shown positive results in decades-long studies. Brief Yoga practices (10-30 minutes) and chanting the Kirtan Kriya (Sa Ta Na Ma) on a daily basis were used in various studies to delay memory loss in Alzheimer’s patients. Additionally, Chair Yoga Dance coordinates the brain and body using music, and Gentle Yoga movements with focused breath may also be beneficial. Finally, exercises that engage the brain where opposites of the body move at the same time or cross body movements are considered beneficial.

If you are the caregiver of someone struggling with cognitive decline, you may also benefit from joining your loved one in a daily Yoga practice.

 
The Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation believes that the various parts of Kirtan Kriya are each vital to the whole, and recommends practicing it in the traditional way to fully reap the benefits of the exercise.

The Benefits of Chanting the Kirtan Kriya for delaying Alzheimer’s with Denyse LeFever, C-IAYT

Denyse LeFever explains why this particular Chant with specific mudras (finger movements) helps with brain health. The Kirtan Kirya is sometimes called a singing exercise, as it involves singing the sounds “Saa Taa Naa Maa” along with repetitive finger movements. This non-religious practice can be adapted to several lengths, but practicing it for just 12 minutes a day has been shown to reduce stress levels and increase activity in areas of the brain that are critical to memory.

Check out the full Kirtan Kriya 12-minute chant with Denyse LeFever on YogaVista.TV.

Fly Me to the Moon – Chair Yoga Dance with Denyse LeFever

Ready to dance a bit down Memory Lane? This song from Frank Sinatra is sunny, upbeat and will get you kicking your feet and having a grand ole time! Join Yoga Vista Academy Chair Yoga Teacher, Denyse LeFever, in this all seated Chair Yoga Dance. And make sure to share it with someone who knows and remembers this song from back in the day!

For more Chair Yoga Dances, check out our Yoga Vista YouTube Channel.

Collection of Videos

Note: This collection and the related videos are included in various YogaVista.TV subscription plans.

We have made it easy for you to begin a Yoga program focused on helping you find ways to improve Cognitive Health. We have created these Wellness Practices for Cognitive Enrichment that offer targeted videos to educate and empower you to take control of your own health. As a result, they will help your brain stay active!

Related Video Series

Short Practices to Improve Cognitive Health with Sherry Zak Morris

These short practices will challenge both your mind and body. They may seem challenging at first, but the more often you practice them, the better your memory and brain processing will be. Even if you have some cognitive decline, or have had a stroke or brain injury, studies are finding that doing patterned movements reinforces our brain’s neural pathways, and can even make new ones if some are damaged!

Sherry Zak Morris Short Practices to Improve Cognitive Health
Let’s have some fun together… moving, thinking and speaking to improve our cognitive health!

Related Resources & References

Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation – ARPF is dedicated to preventing Alzheimer’s Disease. They fund Integrative Medicine Research, provide Professional Educational Training, Outreach, and Memory Screening.

LoveYourBrain – Their mission is to improve the quality of life of people affected by traumatic brain injury through programs that build community and foster resilience.

Association for Rehabilitation of the Brain Injured – ARBI gives brain injury and stroke survivors a second chance at life by providing intensive community-based rehabilitation and family support in a nurturing environment.

Article on the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease

Article on the NeuroscienceNews.com

Journal Study on Spiritual Fitness: A New Dimension in Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention with Supplementary Material about practicing the Kirtan Kriya.

Safety Guidelines and Precautions

  • Check with your Doctor for any considerations before beginning any exercise practice.
  • Keep your movements slow and gentle.
  • Consider doing Chair Yoga practices, if your balance or gait is unstable.
  • A short practice may be better than none.

Before starting these Wellness Practices:

Ensure you have a release from your healthcare practitioner to do exercise. Also ask your practitioner if you have any movement restrictions resulting from your medical conditions. Above all, be mindful of any movement that creates a sharp, knife-like pain or tingling sensation.

CREDITS:  Author, Denyse LeFever, Certified Yoga Therapist

Editor, Sherry Zak Morris, Certified Yoga Therapist

Editor, Maria Perez, Certified Yoga & Group Fitness Instructor