Weekly Newsletter

May 1, 2024

Yoga for Caregivers and Care Receivers for

Stress Management & General Well-being

Thank you to Alexandra Mohamadi, DPT, OCS, FAAOPT, RYT 200. In addition to being a doctor of physical therapy, Dr. Mohamadi is a certified yoga instructor (trained in India). She brings yoga into her physical therapy practice to help her patients and clients manage stress and chronic pain.

Please see link to recording of this Webinar from April 24th, here below:

Caregiver stress: it is known that caregivers have high rates of depression; and various physical symptoms related to chronic stress like insomnia, physical pain, etc.

How can yoga help? The word YOGA means to yoke together. Specifically the mind and the body and the spirit. From a more Western (evidence based) point of view.

The bio-social model: 

  • The mind affects the body 
  • The body affects the mind
  • Together they affect social connections

Well-being! Not just surviving, but THRIVING!

What is Yoga?

YOGA is considered a “subtle science” dating back more than 4500 years. It was most developed in India. But it has become an integral part of western holistic medicine. It is now widely practiced in the US and studied extensively. It is not a religion. It is a “practice”.

There are many types and aspects of Yoga — that have been developed over all these years and across the globe. Here are a few of these.

  • Pranayama — focus on breath
  • Asana — focus on postures
  • Restorative — using props for less stress on the body
  • Vinyasa — also called “flow” yoga
  • Yin — slow paced
  • Hatha — involves holding postures

More from an evidence based, scientific point of view:

Yoga affects the autonomic nervous system. This controls “involuntary” physiological processes — like digestion and arousal. 

Commonly understood as:  

  • Fight or flight or sympathetic nervous system versus
  • Rest and digest or parasympathetic nervous system   

What happens if your body and mind are always on RED ALERT (fight or flight mode)? Ready for the next shoe to drop (frequent experience for caregivers).

It’s a setup for chronic illness, fatigue, insomnia, diabetes… 

Yoga can affect your autonomic nervous system (rest and digest) by increasing blood flow to the brain and other vital organs like heart, lungs, stomach, etc.

Here are some easy, short practices to combat chronic stress and allow for good sleep, digestion, and an increased sense of well being:


How to do Box Breathing:

Step 1: Breathe in, counting to four slowly. Feel the air enter your lungs.

Step 2: Hold your breath for 4 seconds. Try to avoid inhaling or exhaling for 4 seconds.

Step 3: Slowly exhale through your mouth for 4 seconds.

Step 4: Repeat steps 1 to 3 until you feel re-centered.

Here are more YouTube videos that Dr. Mohamadi, has vetted to get started with some other simple a yoga practices: 

Consider starting a GOOD HABIT — HOW to start a new, GOOD HABIT

This is a subject that has been recently well-studied and here is some great advice for how to create a GOOD habit:

  1.  Find a habit you already have. You know, like a morning cup of coffee. Or feeding your dog — etc.
  2. Pair the habit you want to start with that habit: Feed the dog, then sit down and do 3 minutes of box breathing (see above for instructions).
  3. Start with “small doses” and BUILD on that.

Per Dr. B.J. Fogg — “Habits are like plants”:

Forming a habit is like growing a plant. Let me explain . . .

  • You start with something tiny (a seed or a sprout).
  • You find a good spot for it in your garden (proper soil, light, moisture).
  • You nourish your tiny plant so the roots get established.

As you do these three things, your tiny plant will take root and thrive.

Let's apply the points above to how habit formation works:

  • You start with a tiny behavior.
  • You find a good spot in your daily routine for this tiny behavior.
  • You nourish your tiny behavior so it gets firmly established in your life.

As you do these three things, your new habit will take root and thrive. With practice, you will form habits quickly and easily.

Of course, you won't be perfect. Just like with gardening, there is some trial and error -- always something to learn. But you will get better. You will learn new skills and gain confidence. And this, in turn, can change your life in big ways.

What about Yoga for your loved one with dementia?

Some steps:

  1. Be willing to try things.
  2. Be intentional — you don’t have to know what you’re doing. Just know what your intention is.
  3. What is your intention?: To help your loved one relax. To connect (eye to eye — heart to heart).
  4. Have an idea of some things you want to try:
  • Slow full breathing.
  • Giving your full attention to your loved one (without expectation)
  • Model some easy slow movement — example could be:

Lacing your fingers together

Putting your hands on your heart or chest

Stretching your arms up toward the ceiling.

Wrapping your arms around yourself.

Here’s some simple graphics of examples of modeling movement for your loved one with dementia or cognitive impairment:

Printable Chair Yoga Exercises

If the person you are caring for is not able to “get the hint” and follow you — you can try physically assisting and helping them move.

  • Use your best intuition about what your loved one is enjoying.  
  • Use eye contact.
  • Use a gentle voice.

Also, check out this resource from Institute on Aging: “The Benefits of Mindfulness and Yoga for Alzheimer’s and Dementia Patients" — very helpful!

— Susan Musicant, Injury Prevention Coordinator at DayBreak

Email: susan@daybreakac.org

Upcoming Events & Workshops:

Empower Change Through Giving

Together, we can make a meaningful difference in the lives of

elders and family caregivers who selflessly support them.


DayBreak is committed to empowering elders and supporting caregivers.

If you know an older adult in need of our care and coordination services, or a family caregiver seeking assistance, please encourage them to reach out to us at:


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