Tell Me Something Good

By Meghan Manas | Office Manager

We are excited to introduce a new feature, “Tell Me Something Good,” that we plan to include twice a year in The Advisor magazine.  If you know or would like to nominate someone who is doing good or interesting work in our community, please contact Meghan Manas, mmanas@bwfa.com or 410-461-3900.

Cathy Rees earned a master’s degree in nursing from Georgetown University and practiced nursing in a variety of settings for 30 years. Two years ago, to help deal with her impending “empty nest,” she became certified by the Yoga Alliance as an RYT200 (a registered yoga teacher with 200 hours). Now she’s training to become an RYT500 through the Columbia Yoga Center.

Teaching yoga has more than fulfilled Cathy’s need to stay busy and active. In early November, she returned from an eight-day training course where she earned her certification in Therapeutic Yoga for Seniors at Duke Integrative Medicine in Durham, North Carolina. The intense and informative program, she said, will truly enhance and refine her teaching.

Cathy started teaching yoga at Copper Ridge and Fairhaven last February. At Fairhaven she teaches gentle chair yoga and gentle mat yoga for the independent living residents twice per week, as well as classes for the assisted-living and nursing-home residents. At Copper Ridge she teaches three levels of dementia yoga to the assisted-living residents who have moderate to severe dementia and who are somewhat ambulatory, as well as those who are confined to wheelchairs and have more severe dementia—including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, frontotemporal dementia, and many others.

Cathy is working with the Director of Health and Wellness at Copper Ridge as well as the neuropsychiatrist to develop a “Yoga for Dementia” program that can be taught to other yoga teachers who serve a similar demographic.

“The dementia population tends to be an underserved population,” she said, “perhaps because it is considerably more challenging to teach yoga to this group as compared to a level-one yoga class where everyone can follow your instructions and remain alert throughout the class.”

To Cathy, the work they do at Copper Ridge is incredibly rewarding. “If I get a smile or eyes following me or small movements of fingers or toes, I am successful,” she said. “I have learned to detach from expectations and let the energy create its own sense of balance in the space.”

A physician who specializes in dementia care once asked Cathy, “What is your goal for teaching this population?” She replied with confidence: “Merely to facilitate present- moment joy in the student.” If the research could be funded, she said, she would love to prove what she knows to be
true – that smiling and laughing and feeling loved by another human being can soothe the nervous system and perhaps lower the amount of anxiety medication that people need.

“If I could help to reduce even one dose of medication per day, I would feel measurable success,” she said. “However, knowing in my heart and seeing in their eyes that we have connected as two loving human beings is reward enough and keeps me going back day after day.”