My first instance of teaching individuals with dementia and Alzheimer’s came when I started working at a local retirement center which specializes in this type of care. About 20 individuals showed up, and I loved them immediately.
We are taught in yoga teacher school to not practice along with the students; stick, if possible, with verbal instruction. This is the opposite of what needs to happen when teaching my students. Mimicking actions is much more effective than trying to explain positions to them. We had a wonderful time in our first class, but I was so nervous, I went through all of the asanas I wanted to cover in about 20 minutes!! We went through them again, only more slowly this time. I find that with each class, I am slowing down more (because both the students and I are more comfortable with each other), filling the time allotted. And it is such a joy, at the end of class, so see everyone smiling and relaxed. They all agree that in such a busy environment, a few minutes of peace and quiet are cherished.
The takeaway from this experience was to show them what the asana looks like; don’t explain it in detail.