As worldwide the population gets older we will see a lot more cases of age related illnesses, and one is dementia. In the following post I want to inform you what exactly is dementia, which types of dementia are known, what can be the causes and what can everybody do to improve conditions or do avoid getting it at all.
What is dementia?
Dementia refers to symptoms like memory loss, confusion and in general difficulties in every day life. Alzheimer’s disease (which causes mainly memory problems) is the most common cause for dementia. Dementia describes progressive conditions which affect the brain. The nerve cells in the brain which communicate with each other are damaged by dementia so that messages cannot be sent in a proper way which prevents a normal functioning of the body. Dementia mostly affects people over the age of 65 but also younger persons can get this disease.
Explanation of the different parts of the brain and their functions
Cerebrum – the outer part of the brain
Responsible for memory, conciousness, attention, language and thought
Responsible for personality, behaviour and emotions
Puts things in order when writing or reading or doing numbers
Responsible for understanding things we see and hear, remembering, recognizing and naming things
Processes information from our eyes
Controls movement, balance and posture
How are these parts affected by dementia?
Cerebrum – the outer part of the brain
Dementia with Lewy Bodies builds up lumps of protein which harm nerve cells, causing hallucinations and changes in consciousness
Frontotemporal dementia also caused by proteins harming nerve cells can cause inappropriate behaviour and personality changes
Proteins affect nerve cells and cause difficulties in seeing the location and nature of things
Affected by Alzheimer’s by building up two proteins damaging nerve cells, resulting in memory loss, disorientation, problems with language and speech
Also caused by proteins damaging nerve cells, results in seeing and recognizing things and their location
Proteins damaging nerve cells cause difficulties in movement, balance and posture
Symptoms of dementia
- Problems with memory
- Difficulites with information processing
- Troubled communication
Types of dementia
The most common types of dementia are:
This is the most common type of dementia. Caused by changes in brain structure – see above. Alzheimer’s develops gradually over time and can show the above mentioned problems: Problems with memory, information processing and communication.
The second most common type of dementia caused by less blood supply to the brain cells, mostly due to strokes. Change of personality and functioning will be the result.
Caused by harmful proteins and affects mostly people from the age of 45 or older. Can be difficult to diagnose because signs are not obvious – like change in personality and inappropriate behaviour.
Dementia with Lewy bodies
Caused by protein clusters in cerebrum and affects movement and motor control. Can cause falls, tremors, difficulty in swallowing, bad sleep, hallucinations.
You can see if you have an early stage of Alzheimer’s disease with a simple test. Download it here:
There is a maximum score of 22 (question 1 = 1 point, question 2 = 2 points, question 3 = 3 points, question 7 = 1 point, question 8 = 1 point, question 9 = 12 points, questions 10 = 1 point, question 11 = 1 point) on the SAGE test and points are given for correct answers.
Yoga and dementia – Best postures
There is a way in which you can try to avoid getting dementia or improve your condition when you are already suffering from dementia.
Chair yoga is a general term for practices that modify yoga poses so that they can be done while seated in a chair. These modifications make yoga accessible to people who cannot stand or lack the mobility to move easily from standing to seated to supine positions.
Many of the basic body mechanics of the individual postures are retained, no matter the stance of the practitioner. While seated on chairs, students can do versions of twists, hip stretches, forward bends, and mild backbends.
Here are the best poses:
- Sitting with your spine erect and long, both feet on the
- Hands on your knees or the tops of your thighs.
- Inhale and arch your spine, rolling your shoulders down and back.
- This is cow position.
- Exhale and round your spine, chin to your chest, shoulder and head come forward.
- This is cat position.
- Continue with cow on an inhalation and cat on an exhalation.
- Repeat as often as you feel comfortable.
Raised hands pose
Extended side angle
- Bring your left leg in a 90 degree angle outside the chair. Stretch your right leg to the other side.
- Bring your left fingertips to the floor on the outside of your left foot or to your left knee.
- Open your chest as you twist to the right on an inhale, bringing your
right arm and gaze up at the ceiling.
- Hold here for several breaths.
- Bring the right arm down on an exhale.
- Do the same position with the right arm down and the left arm up.
- Sit straight with your arms holding the side of the chair.
- Bring your right ankle to your left thigh, knee in line with your ankle as much as possible.
- Hold this pigeon pose for a couple of breaths.
- You might intensify the stretch by bending forward.
- Repeat with the left leg.
- Inhale to reach the right arm diagonally up and back. Bring your left hand to the outside of the right thigh.
- Look up towards your right hand to deepen the stretch.
- Stay in the twist for five breaths. With every inhale, get longer in the body; with each exhale, twist a little deeper.
- Slowly release out of the pose on an inhale.
- Switch sides.
- Sit straight, inhale deeply and lift your arms out to the sides, raise your hands up to meet above your head.
- Lace your fingers together, your pointer fingers and thumbs out.
- Point at the ceiling directly over your head.
- On an exhalation bring your shoulders down from your ears, shoulder blades sliding down your back.
- Continue to take deep and even breaths.
- Release your hands on an exhale and let your arms gently float back to your sides.
- Bring your left leg out on a 90 degree outside the chair, your right leg stretched out on the other side.
- Exhale and stretch the arms sideways, right arm coming forward and the left arm going back.
- Draw the left hip back and turn the torso to the left, so that it is aligned with the front of the chair.
- Gaze out over the right fingertips and hold this position for a couple of breaths.
- Repeat on the other side.
- Inhale and sit up straight, extending your spine.
- Exhale and press your sit bones into the chair.
- Your legs should be at 90-degree angles, knees directly over your ankles.
- On an exhalation roll your shoulders down your back, pull your bellybutton in toward your spine, and relax your arms down at your sides.
- Lift your toes and press your feet firmly on the floor.
Seated forward bend
- Sit with your spine extended and fold over your legs.
- You can start with your hands on your thighs and slide them down your legs.
- Take 5 or more even breaths in this pose. It massages your intestines, helping with digestion, as well as passively lengthening your spine and stretching your back muscles.
- When ready, inhale as you lift your torso back to an upright position.
- Take a breath and then, as you inhale, stretch your arms out to your sides.
- As you exhale, bring them in front of you, swinging your right arm under your left and grabbing your shoulders with the opposite hands, giving yourself a hug.
- If you have more flexibility in your shoulders, you can release your grip and continue wrapping your forearms around each other until your right fingers rest in your left palm.
- Inhaling, lift your elbows a few inches higher.
- Exhaling, roll your shoulders down, relaxing them away from your ears.
- Take a few breaths, repeating the elbow lift and shoulder roll if you like.
- Change arms so that your left arm is under your right arm.
Reverse arm hold
- As you inhale, stretch both arms out to your sides, palms down.
- As you exhale, roll both shoulders forward a little, which rolls your palms so they’re facing behind you, then bend your elbows and let your hands swing behind your back.
- Clasp hands in any way you like (fingers, hands, wrists, or elbows) and gently pull your hands away from each other without releasing your hold.
- If you gripped a wrist or elbow, note which side it’s on.
- After you’ve taken 5 slow, even breaths with arms clasped this way, reclasp the other wrist or elbow and hold for 5 breaths.
Simple seated twist
- Sit sideways on your chair, facing the right side.
- Inhale to lengthen the torso, then exhale to twist to the right. Hold onto the back of the chair for support.
- Hold for five breaths, lengthening on every inhale and twisting from the lower abdominals on every exhale.
- Release on an inhale. Then, sit sideways on the other side of the chair to repeat the twist on the left side.
Single leg stretch
Sitting up tall, stretch your right leg out, resting your heel on the floor, toes pointing up — the closer to the edge of the seat you are, the straighter your leg can get. But again, be mindful of how supported you are before folding forward.
- Rest both hands on your outstretched leg. As you inhale, raise up through your spine, and as you exhale, begin to bend over your right leg, sliding your hands down your leg as you go.
- Take this stretch as far as you like while not straining or forcing anything and still feeling supported, both by the chair and by your hands. If you’re able to reach lower on your leg, consider grasping the back of your calf or your ankle.
- Inhale and exhale slowly and evenly 5 times in this position, gently going deeper each time, and then release the pose by using an inhale to help you rise. Repeat this pose with your left leg outstretched, double-checking how supported your body is on the edge of the chair and realigning your right leg’s knee over your ankle before you bend over.
Take a few minutes to sit with your eyes closed and hands in your lap at the end of your practice. This seated savasana will help your body absorb all the good effects of the poses you have done and transition you into the rest of your day.
I cannot say that yoga will heal dementia but I can certainly say that by practising these poses you will feel better and by being more conscious of your body and mind, this will have an effect on your brain cells and improve connections between the different parts of your brain.
Old connections dry up and loose their function and you can by-pass them by creating new pathways.
SO GIVE IT A TRY – THERE IS NOTHING TO LOSE!