Written by Active Minds on Friday the 2nd of June 2017.
There have been a number of studies run in recent years looking at the benefits of undertaking regular meditation or yoga sessions for people living with dementia. In fact, in 2014, a study, in association with the Alzheimer’s Society, investigated the positive effects a holistic programme (including yoga and meditation) had on people living with dementia and their carers. The study found that these types of relaxation exercises proved to significantly ease stress in the participants.
Furthermore, a separate study undertaken by a team of neuroscientists at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), found that yoga and meditation were more effective in reducing pre-Alzheimer’s cognitive impairment than memory-boosting exercises. The study also showed that the participants had reduced depression and stress, as well as improved coping skills, which is important when coming to terms with a diagnosis such as dementia.
What are the benefits of meditation and yoga?
Reduces Stress – Taking time out of your day to concentrate solely on yourself, your breathing and your body has huge benefits in reducing not just your daily stresses, but how your mind and body tackles individual, stressful scenarios, such as a dementia diagnosis.
Boosts Health – Both yoga and meditation focus on breathing, which in turn increases blood circulation and reduces hypertension, leading to a healthier mind and body.
Improve Memory – For people who are in the very early stages of dementia, with mild cognitive impairment, practising Mindfulness, a very popular meditation technique, has been shown to lessen hippocampal atrophy (often an indicator of conditions such as dementia).
Similarly, people who undertake regular meditation sessions have been found to have better neural connectivity in their Default Mode Network – a part of the brain involved in day-dreaming and mind-wandering, as well as thinking about others, thinking about themselves, remembering the past, and planning for the future.
Exercise – Yoga is a gentle form of exercise, suitable for all abilities, ages and stages of dementia. Yoga helps strengthen muscles and increase stability, thus reducing the chance of falls etc.
Social Activity – People living with dementia can often feel isolated, so taking part in group activities, like yoga and meditation, will encourage them to socialise and meet people. Feeling lonely and isolated is thought to increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, so undertaking group activities early on in life is incredibly beneficial.