Yoga is an ancient Indian science, which has been used for centuries to create physical health, mental peace and intellectual clarity. In recent years, yoga’s popularity in Western countries has been on the rise, and people are now realizing its therapeutic benefits for the management of many chronic diseases, including Parkinson’s Disease (PD).
Yoga involves the practice of various asanas (yogic postures) and pranayama (modulation of breath). BKS Iyengar, one of the world’s leading authorities on yoga, has created variations of key yoga postures which help individuals with specific medical problems reap full benefits from the practice. Iyengar’s variations often utilize “props” (blocks, blankets, etc.) which make it possible for everyone, including those with major physical and physiological limitations, to perform the postures.
For example, yoga poses that target the torso help prevent rigidity and foster a sense of balance. Stiffness in the body’s core is one of the most debilitating symptoms of PD because it hampers a person’s ability to walk across a room or simply stand upright. Poses that strengthen the trunk tend to reduce stiffness and improve mobility. They give participants the energy needed to counteract insomnia and the lethargy that Parkinson’s brings on.
Yoga induces relaxation, which helps control tremors, activates affected muscle groups, and can be a steady reminder of where your body should be and how it should move. In 2002, a study performed at the John F. Kennedy Institute in Denmark recorded a 65 percent short-term increase in dopamine levels during yoga and meditation in the test group.