and Recipes The Yoga Rx for Dementia, Alzheimer's, and Memory Loss

The Yoga Rx for Dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Memory Loss


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Michael Trainer’s father, John, was diagnosed with dementia in 2012, shortly after he’d finished chemotherapy for prostate cancer. “Cancer was treatable, but dementia felt like a devastating diagnosis,” Michael says. Leaving his job to spend time with his dad, Michael first traveled with him to South Africa to forge new memories. Then, staying at home with him, Michael devoured every book and study he could find on Alzheimer’s disease—desperate to help his father retain those memories for as long as possible. He considered everything: “What doctors to see, what supplements to take, how to change his diet,” Michael says.


Asana and meditation were already part of Michael’s daily routine. He had studied both, along with Ayurveda, when he was on a Fulbright scholarship in Sri Lanka in 1996. Based on his own experience with yoga and what he was learning about cognitive decline and repair, he thought these practices might help his father. But his dad—a “meat and potatoes” kind of man—was 75 and set in his ways. “It was a challenge to implement new behaviors, especially amid the cognitive decline,” Michael says. “I had to learn to surrender.” But his dad did love classical music, and Michael came to think of it as meditation. “I started to see that it was serving as an anchor in his mind, like mantra; it had the power to bring him back to a calm place.” Sitting side by side on a white loveseat in his parents’ sunny living room, Michael and his father now spend hours in silence listening to the local classical music station. They breathe together, slowly, and Michael can see his father relax—closing his eyes, leaning his head back, and occasionally reaching out for Michael’s arm.

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