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Yoga and Parkinson's Disease

According to the National Institute of Health, yoga is one of the leading alternative physical therapies in the United States. The benefits of yoga are being heralded by a number of reputable medical organizations.  Yoga only requires two things: breath and an open, receptive mind.  A yoga practice begins with breath as most forms of exercise do. The coordination of the breath and movement are essential for a comfortable, safe practice of any "fitness" routine.

One area we can still control in our frantic lives resides in controlled thoughtful breathing. According to the Parkinson's Research Foundation (PRF), "Controlling your breath helps in moments of panic such as feet sticking to the floor when walking." 

Controlling the breath is essential for a meaningful yoga practice and helps us cope with our discomforts.  It also helps us concentrate on our form. The benefits of yoga include:

  • Increased flexibility.
  • Increased muscle strength and tone.
  • Improved respiration, energy and vitality.
  • Maintaining a balanced metabolism.
  • Weight reduction or maintenance
  • Cardio and circulatory health.
  • Improved athletic performance.
  • Protection from injury.

Yoga stays with the breath through the poses. As you learn the poses your breath will lead to the motion. Your awareness of the position of your body becomes automatic with your breath. Inhaling invites us to set our set ourselves as muscles release and joints open. The exhale lets you settle in further and prepare for the next move.  In a study on yoga and Parkinson's at Kansas University Medical Center, Yvonne Searles, PT, PhD, said, "I think I was most amazed by the visible reduction in tremoring and improvement in the steadiness of gait immediately following the yoga sessions."

The coordination of body and breath allows the focus on you and temporarily leave the world outside.  Yoga is not competition. You do what you can. You are encouraged to find ways to modify the pose if it does not work for you. No pain no gain does not belong in yoga. If it hurts do not do it. It is also important to consult your physician before beginning new physical routines/practices. 

Yoga helps improve your balance, flexibility and muscle tone. Find a beginners yoga class and tell the instructor about your limitations. The instructors want to know about you less able issues and will help you avoid poses that might injure you. More importantly they will help you find modifications that you are capable of executing. Yoga practiced at a studio is fun; you will make new friends and find motivation to continue.

There are a number of ways to practice yoga at home either from a DVD or the television. Another way to practice yoga is from guided classes on the internet. You can use your tablet and set it up in convenient location and follow the class. The Pad Go Round allows you many ways of to support or mount your tablet to follow a yoga class.