Yoga for Parkinson’s Disease

Yoga is a popular complementary therapy for Parkinson’s disease (PD), helping PD patients increase flexibility, improve posture, relax tight, painful muscles and instil confidence. A study by American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA) confirms that Yoga Therapy has visibly reduced tremors and improved the steadiness of an individual’s gait.

The discipline of Yoga includes Pranayama (breathing practices to develop greater self-awareness), a series of Asanas (Static Postures) and Hatha Yoga (physical practice to address strength, flexibility, balance and mind-body-breath connection). Just like other alternative treatments of PD, Yoga Therapy has to be individualized in order to yield best results.  

Since Yoga, with both functional and psychosocial benefits, improves the sense of well-being among Parkinson’s patients, it saves PD fighters from slipping into clinical depression and anxiety.

How does Yoga for Parkinson’s disease work?

The issue of mobility has important implications for falls in Parkinson’s disease. Various research studies mention that Yoga improves balance (though one-leg postures) and reduce the fear of falling. Standing Yoga can improve functional mobility targeting the hip extensor, knee extensor and ankle plantar flexor. This supports centre-of-mass during walking and may improve the PD fighter’s overall stability. Since Yoga postures require isometric contraction of specific muscle groups to stabilize the body, these are helpful in improving muscular strength.

Yoga practices that involve sound chanting can be effective in gait training by providing a steady rhythm for gait and stride. Yoga promotes greater hip mobility that may translate into improvements in shuffling gait experienced by PD patients. Many studies document that movement with music improves walking endurance, the range of motion, strength and hand coordination.

Stooped posture in PD can be associated with short spinal flexors and weak spinal extensors. Improved shoulder and spinal flexibility support a more upright posture. Asanas such as Utkatasana (Chair Pose), modified Navasana (Boat Pose), or variations of Salabhasana (Locust) strengthen core and aid in countering the rounding shoulders thus attempting to reserve stooped posture.

Additionally, starting with dynamic movement can initiate the loosening process for tight muscles, a common PD symptom. Seated or Standing “Joy Kriya”, Leg Swings, Seated or Standing Dancing Warrior, Dynamic Camel, Chair Bharadvajasana and Singing Snake are among most commonly prescribed dynamic Yoga.

The psychosocial benefits associated with Yoga are also important for management of PD symptoms. Unlike conventional dopaminergic therapy, Yoga offers improved confidence and self-efficacy. With Pranayama, the calming effect of Yoga may lessen perceived stress, enhance relaxation and sleep in PD.

Commonly prescribed Yoga

Many postures like Mountain Pose (Tadasana) and Warrior Pose (Virabhadrasana) reduce stiffness and improve balance and flexibility. Other commonly prescribed Yoga for Parkinson’s fighters include:  

  • Trunk circles to invigorate the entire body and relieve stiffness in the hips and side body.
  • Uttanasana to elongate the middle and lower back, stretch the hamstrings and quiet the body.
  • Virabhadrasana to strengthen leg(s), improve balance, and boost self-confidence.
  • Jathara Parivartanasana (Revolved Abdomen Pose) to encourage trunk rotation and promote calmness.
  • Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose) to relieve lower-body stiffness and combat fatigue.