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Teaching Kundalini Yoga to Alzheimer’s Patients

By Alana Carver

I have taught the Basic Spinal Energy series and Kirtan Kriya very successfully to the Alzheimer's patients in my local senior’s home. The Kriya was adapted to wheelchairs and chairs because the students were not mobile. The participants loved it and the nurses and helpers noticed improvements within a week or two with the students practicing just once a week. Here is how it came about:

I went to my local senior housing thinking I would volunteer to teach yoga. I thought that if my grandmother was still alive I would teach her Kundalini Yoga so why not offer it to my local seniors? I was certain that I would be able to adapt the postures to the more active seniors who lived in our new senior housing facility so I went and had a chat with the activity coordinator.

The Ayre Manor in Sooke is home to all of the seniors from my community who have decided that they would prefer to live in a centralized, supported environment. There are townhouses, apartments and locked down facilities for dementia patients. My plan was to teach Kundalini Yoga to those who were ambulatory and tell those people they could invite their friends and families to participate as well.

I walked in to the front desk of the independent living building inquiring about offering classes and I was instructed to go into the building next door where the activity coordinator had her office. I located her right away and made an arrangement with her to come next Tuesday and every Tuesday thereafter to teach a yoga class at Ayre Manor. She said I should meet her at her office the next week and she would show me around to where I would be teaching.

The next week I arrived all shiny bright in my whites prepared with a plan to teach Basic Spinal Energy Series and Kirtan Kriya to the seniors. I located my coordinator and she showed me into a room. I was early, of course, because I am hyper-punctual, so no one was there yet. After I created a circle with chairs (I thought I would assess the mobility of the seniors first before I asked them to sit on the floor), I sat and waited for my seniors to arrive.

After a few minutes a helper appeared with a woman in a wheelchair. I thought to myself how wonderful that she wants to try to participate even though she is in a wheelchair.

Then, one after another, my students made their way into the room. They have dementia, they wandered, they have cognitive issues, they have mobility issues, there are some of whom I was not even certain they were aware that I was there to teach them.

As I looked at this hodgepodge assembly, I wondered how I was ever going to make sense of this group. I asked the students to rub their hands together and instructed them to tune in. Somehow everything was okay and the Golden chain provided all that I needed to get the job done. By the end of the class the students were smiling and I was relieved. The next week as they filed in, one lively student with dementia said to me, “You are that woman with the beautiful voice.” I thought to myself, “How amazing that you remember me.”