Yoga for Parkinson’s Disease may help in more ways than you think. Parkinson’s Disease, a degenerative brain disorder involving the nerve cells responsible for voluntary movement, is diagnosed in about 60,000 Americans a year. Tremors, a shuffling walk, muscle stiffness, depression and dementia are among the symptoms. The percentage of older Americans suffering from Parkinson’s disease is growing exponentially. Tremors, a shuffling walk, muscle stiffness, depression and dementia are among the symptoms. The percentage of older Americans suffering from the disease is growing exponentially. This has prompted countless medical studies, therapy programs and community centers for Parkinson Disease patients and their families nationwide.
One such center is right here in my home town, Sarasota, Florida. Parkinson Place is a bright, cheery place where patients and their families receive fellowship, counseling and medical services, along with a full schedule of exercise classes targeted to counteract the debilitating symptoms they may be experiencing due to Parkinson’s Disease. The most popular class is ‘Gentle Yoga and Meditation’ taught each Monday at 10 a.m. by Lynn Burgess, 500-hour E-RYT and owner of local studio, YOGA FROM THE HEART. There’s good reason for its popularity.
Yoga is one of the leading alternative therapies used by Americans, according to a National Institutes of Health survey on alternative medicine use. The focus on yoga as a possible therapy for Parkinson’s stems from its gentleness and its emphasis on breathing, strength and flexibility. For the past four years, students at Parkinson Place have gotten up early on Monday mornings, and found their way to the mat, for just such reasons.
Classes start with slow, basic exercises done sitting, standing or lying down. Gradually, the participants build up to more difficult poses. In additional to the usual yoga props of a mat and block, there are chairs to help maintain balance. Yoga, when consistently practiced, has made their symptoms—and lives—easier to manage.
“I’ve noticed visible reduction in tremoring and improvements in steadiness of gait in people who participated in yoga sessions,” commented Lynn Burgess. So have the students. As the mats are rolled up and put away in the prop closet, many students have reported increased mobility and less fear of falling as benefits of their continued yoga practice. Their efforts on the mat yield greater peace and calm in their daily lives as well.
Yoga is, indeed, “good medicine” for us all.
Dianne Ochiltree is a writer and 200-hour RYT with Yoga Alliance. She is a proud graduate of the Teacher Training program at Yoga from the Heart, where she can be found teaching chair yoga in addition to her duties as Teaching Assistant for Lynn at Parkinson Place in Sarasota. Dianne is also a published children’s author. For more information on her books, go to dianneochiltree.com.