When I was 17 years old, my father passed away from Alzheimer’s disease. At that time, Alzheimer’s disease was still unknown or misunderstood by most. Now over 20 years later, it’s rare to find someone who hasn’t been personally touched by Alzheimer’s disease and it’s heart-wrenching effects. However, simultaneously we have learned a lot about this disease and although a cure does not yet exist, we are starting to discover many potential preventative measures centered on brain health and longevity. Two practices in particular that have been getting attention for contributing to a healthy mind are yoga and meditation.
Most of the time, disease creeps up on us when we least expect it. Up until that moment, we may have ignored our health and wellbeing, believing that we were invisible and that we could somehow avoid disease with very little effort. This is certainly not the case for everyone, but I believe that a society that was once primarily focused on relieving symptoms and curing disease has turned a corner to a more preventive approach based on good health practices.
Whether you or your loved one has already been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, there are many things you can do to prevent, slow and even potentially, reverse, the memory loss and brain degeneration associated with this form of dementia as well as others. A healthy diet primarily centered on plant foods (whole fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, beans, sea vegetables, and live “superfood” supplements) is a great start as well as regular physical and mental exercise to stimulate the brain. Mental exercises such as crossword puzzles, games, reading, etc. have all been associated with maintaining good memory function and brain health.
In recent years some great research has been conducted relating to meditation and the prevention and/or delay of Alzheimer’s progression. Of particular interest is the work done by Dharma Singh Khalsa, M.D., founder of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Foundation in Tucson, AZ. He and his foundation are behind the creation of a Kundalini yoga technique called Kirtan Kryiya, a meditation practice that involves repeating a mantra while employing simple hand techniques for 12 minutes each day. In 2010, a research study was conducted on 15 participants experiencing memory problems, between the ages of 52 and 77. Cognitive tests and brain images were collected and the results showed that after 8 weeks of repeating this daily practice, participants had increased cerebral blood flow in their frontal and parietal lobes as well as improved their performance on cognitive tests related to general memory, attention and cognition. Dharma Singh Khalsa’s work has been published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and recognized by the Alzheimer’s Association, bringing further awareness to the effectiveness of alternative health practices in improving brain health. 
In other forms of yoga, many claim that the body, mind and concentration practices associated with yoga are beneficial to those trying to maintain or improve their brain’s capacity to remain vital and active. By helping to balance the body and mind, yoga can support you in keeping your mind sharper by increasing your mental activity and memory as well as improve your concentration and optimal use of the mind. In my viewpoint, yoga also helps with letting go of fear and worry associated with memory loss or even just the possibility that it may happen in the future (especially present for those that have a family history of Alzheimer’s disease). Yoga helps you focus on the present moment and connect with a deeper part of yourself, each other and the environment. This can instill a sense of trust and acceptance that all is as it should be, providing a peace of mind that supports wellbeing and excellent mental health.
Yoga and meditation appear to be great approaches to preventative health care as well as slowed progression of existing disease and conditions. As alternative methods are further studied and embraced as truth, I believe that more and more people will reap the benefits of a holistic approach to health. This is great and encouraging news!
 Doheny, K. (2010, March 3). Can Meditation Reverse Memory Loss? Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/news/20100303/can-meditation-reverse-memory-loss
Published On: June 27, 2012