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Can Yoga Help Parkinson’s Disease

Finding The Right Class For You

How can you find a yoga class that works for you? Now that most classes are virtual, an online search will give you many options to choose from. Iyengar yoga focuses on longer holds and correct postures for the poses. It is a great way to learn how to do different poses correctly.

It uses a lot of props, including chairs, blocks, and straps to help you get into the proper position. However, if you are tremor dominant like I am, this may not work for you. The long holds aggravated my tremor during class, making it even harder for me. But I know other PWP who swear by this type of yoga.

I personally like vinyasa flow classes for several reasons. The flow from one asana to the next helps with flexibility, mobility, and balance. The constant movement from one posture to the next can also get your heart rate up, giving you some cardio benefits. But keep in mind that this is not a substitute for recommended high-intensity workouts like cycling.

Many senior centers and physical therapists offer chair yoga. For those who have trouble standing, this is ideal. Many of these classes will also help you learn how to get in and out of a chair more easily.

I Used To Suffer Parkinsons

Case study: Steve Peterson

I still have Parkinsons Disease. My specialist told me I always will.

But I dont suffer from the illness any more. And thats the difference.

Despite everything medical that was going wrong for me then my life is now back to normal.

Actually, a little better than normal.

Im one of thousands who have transformed their health. But I still feel blessed.

Let me tell you how this turnaround happened.

Yoga Visibly Reduces Tremors And Improves The Steadiness Of Gait

According to the National Institutes of Health, which evaluates the use of complementary and alternative medicine every five years as part of its National Health Interview Survey , yoga is among the leading alternative therapies in the United States. Thankfully, skiing appeared nowhere on that list. I could never ski, despite growing up in Buffalos notoriously snowy winters. In fact, I never really understood skiing, to venture downhill seemed a ridiculous idea; paying to swoosh, slip, oof. Now, living with Parkinsons, why hit the slopes when I can experience a tumble on dry land? No, I cant ski.

I can, on the other hand, practice yoga. It doesnt require any special equipment, clothing or weather. The yoga mat is a handy accessory, but its not necessary. Warm sunshine is a pleasant bonus, but the weather plays no role. Yoga pants? Yoga studio? Yoga music? All are add-ons. Ive practiced yoga on airplanes, at the kitchen counter, on the back deck in my pajamas while listening to robins sing.

Yoga Helps Speech Difficulties

Yoga on stimulating the dopamine-producing neurons lets nerves function efficiently to control your tongue, facial muscles, and other vocal apparatuses in PD patients. 

Lack of dopamine causes the nerves that control vocal apparatuses, to malfunction. Yoga will not only take care of the vocal system but also the nerves that control your respiration. After all, your speech starts from where the airflow starts, your lungs.

Yoga Remedies Urinary And Bowel Irregularities

Can yoga help Parkinsons patients?

Although, not a signature symptom of Parkinsons, yet patients of PD do suffer urinary and bowel disorders. Now, this is primarily because your bowel and urinary movements are automated by your nerves.

Thus, with most fundamental nervous disorders our urinary and bowel systems take a hit. Yoga poses will help your nerves to establish proper movement in your abdominal tracts, organs, and muscles.

You will find yoga poses that work specifically on the abdominal region. And you will find yoga poses that primarily stimulate your CNS, but indirectly benefits your gut surroundings.

How Does Yoga Help People With Parkinsons Disease

Yoga can have tremendous effects on the mind and body. It is thought to be very powerful for the autonomic nervous system, which can help manage stress. The stretches and poses are helpful for posture, which makes yoga good for ageing populations in general. For anyone who is spending too much time on Zoom, getting up and doing some simple yoga poses to break up the sedentary day can be very therapeutic.

Yoga may help with mood, especially anxiety and depression, and which are all non-motor symptoms of Parkinsons. Meditation may help cognition, and breathwork may help non-motor problems as well as autonomic nervous system issues that are exacerbated in Parkinsons disease.

The poses may improve balance, stretch tight body parts and allow for better range of motion, while the flow between poses is thought to improve cardiovascular fitness. Poses are modifiable, so the practitioner can increase or decrease the complexity of the pose to adapt to changing issues in the body day-to-day or year-to-year.

When Did You First Learn About The Benefits Of Yoga For Parkinsons Disease Symptoms

I have culturally been interested in , a holistic medicine system, for a long time. As a child, I grew up with many practices that were in this system of health even though my mother is a western trained family medicine doctor. fits into this system, which has been around for thousands of years and focuses on thinking about a person or patient in a holistic way. After the birth of my first child, I gravitated toward yoga to help my own sense of balance and wellbeing.

There are a lot of folks doing yoga here in California, US, and I see the benefits in my patients as well. As a physician who works largely with men who are veterans, it always amazes me to see the most seemingly unlikely patients thrive with yoga. A Latinx plumber in my practice really enjoyed yoga and looked better, both physically and mentally, after diving into his practice which he started after he was diagnosed with Parkinsons disease.

Dr Indu Subramanian has practiced yoga for two decades.

Why Do We Get This Illness

Parkinsons Disease is a degenerative brain illness.

Why does our brain health start to degenerate?

It degenerates due to a loss of nerve cells in a part of the brain called the substantia nigra.

These nerve cells in the substantia nigra manufacture a neurotransmitter called dopamine. But as the nerve cells die off less dopamine is created.

We need dopamine.

The loss of dopamine leads to the loss of body control and leads to a whole cascade of other physical and mental symptoms that combine to steadily ruin a persons life.

Theres a simple, well-understood trail from good health to Parkinsons:

Nerve cells dying off in the substantia nigra > reduced dopamine production > Parkinsons Disease

However, almost all modern-day medical treatments start at step 2 reduced dopamine. Were trying to increase dopamine.

Which sounds sensible at first. But the problem is that were tackling a disease that has already started.

And were not addressing it at the point of its underlying cause.

Its like being in a sinking boat and constantly bailing out the water instead of fixing the leak.

We can bail for so long. And then we sink. 

The reason why most people eventually get so ill with this condition is because almost no treatments tackle step 1 the dying of the substantia nigra cells.

Yet doesnt it make sense to address the initial cause of this dreadful condition?

Of course it does.

Ive learnt a lot about this disease..

Yoga: Alignment Of Mind Body And Spirit

Feb. 06, 2018

Yoga involves a set of postures and controlled breathing to help attain good physical and mental health. Many studies have proven that these exercises help achieve good health.

Studies have also shown that regular practice of yoga for people with Parkinsons can help control the disease and improve the condition. Stiffness in the bodys core is one of the most debilitating symptoms of Parkinsons because it can hamper the ability to walk across a room or simply stand upright.

Restorative poses and gentle twists that strengthen the trunk are believed to reduce stiffness and improve mobility.

Some benefits include:

There are 3 components to any good yoga program:

  • Controlled breathing
  • Postures
  • Meditation


How Shifting Thought Patterns

As the months went on, Howard found that his adrenaline-driven, judgmental, critical mind was holding him back from making progress. As he began to shift his habitual thought patterns into ones of acceptance, forgiveness, compassion, and love, he began to feel noticeable improvements in his symptoms.

On June 9th, 2010, nine months after Howard noticed his internal tremors, his symptoms suddenly decreased by 50 percent. Three days later, he awoke to find his symptoms completely gone. Ten years later, he is still symptom-free.

Howard now coaches people with Parkinsons to help them reduce their symptoms and in some cases become symptom-free. You can read the stories of Tony C., Helen Gill, Marie, Pratima, and Betty M.all of whom were diagnosed with Parkinsons and used Howards Parkinsons Recipe for Recovery® to become symptom-free. 

Standing Forward Bend Uttanasana

The standing forward bend will help you develop more control over your muscles. This pose will help you increase your mobility and flexibility. Restricted movement and rigidity that are signature symptoms of Parkinsons, could be reduced by this pose. The standing forward bend will restore your control over your lower back, hip, and leg muscles.

  • Stand straight in a mountain pose.
  • Keep your legs hip length apart, and upper body erect.
  • Now bend your body from your groin region, and bend forward your upper body.
  • Bring your upper body down without bending your knee.
  • Try to touch your forehead to your knees.
  • Try grapping the sides of your knees and support pull your bend. This will help you make up for the lacking muscle strength, and focus on the stretch.
  • Hold your pose for 5 breaths or 10 counts and release.
  • Repeat the pose thrice

It will be easier to bend down in one swift motion, but do not do it. Bend slowly, containing the pressure build up throughout your body. This pressure build up will open up your muscles and stimulate your nerves.

Yoga Nidra Increases Dopamine Release

In 2001, researchers demonstrated for the first time how a conscious experience is associated with the release of a neurotransmitter. During Yoga Nidra meditation, which reduces stress and is known as yogic sleep, participants experienced a 65 percent increase in endogenous dopamine release.

And in 2013, researchers used fMRI and EEG to observe the brain activity of an experienced meditator as he entered jhana, a meditative state of ecstatic joy. They were able to see how he voluntarily stimulated his dopamine/opioid reward system using only his own internal mental processes.

Taking Dance A Step Further

Yoga Therapy: Relief from Symptoms of Parkinsons Disease ...

Pamela Quinn, a professional dancer and Parkinsonâs coach, tells WebMD that when she was diagnosed with the disease in her 40s, she thought it was the end of dancing.

âBut dance became my savior, not something that needed to be discarded, and the reason is that itâs physical and social and, together with music, has the power to change oneâs mood. And this unusual array of elements is particularly suited to help people with Parkinsonâs,â she says.

When she was first diagnosed, she wanted to have a second child and was âdetermined to find non-chemical ways of improving my gait, balance, and postures.â She began to discover âcues, external prompts that facilitate movement, which are naturally embedded in the dance form.â

When the iPod was developed, it allowed Quinn to âtake dance experience and integrate it into everyday life.â With that, she was not only dancing in a studio; whenever she was walking and wearing headphones, she was âreinforcing good movement patterns with music.â

Quinn, who today takes medication and continues to dance, says she is an âoutlierâ in terms of Parkinsonâs disease progression.

âIâve had this disease for over 25 years, and Iâm doing fairly well, which I attribute to the dance background and also integrating these techniques into everyday life so itâs not just once a week in a dance class setting,â she says.

The Power Of Positive Thinking

In addition to mindfulness and mindful movement, there is a commonality among people who reduce or eliminate their motor symptoms: they believe they can get better. Expectation induces neurochemical changes in the brain. Researchers at the University of British Columbia demonstrated that simply believing their symptoms would improve triggered the release of dopamine in Parkinsons patients. Further research replicated the results.

Likewise, studies like this have shown that motor function in Parkinsons patients improves when they receive placebo treatment or have the expectation that their symptoms will improve.

On the flip side, believing you will not improve deactivates the dopaminergic system. So in addition to stimulating neurogenesis and boosting dopamine with exercise and stress reduction, believing that you can improve is essential in your recovery.



Reprinted with permission from com

Sarah Warren St. Pierre is a Certified Clinical Somatic Educator and the author of the book Why Were In Pain. She was trained and certified at Somatic Systems Institute in Northampton, MA. Sarah has helped people with chronic muscle, and joint pain, sciatica, scoliosis, and other musculoskeletal conditions become pain-free by practicing Thomas Hannas groundbreaking method of Clinical Somatic Education. Sarah is passionate about empowering people to relieve their pain, improve their posture and movement, and prevent recurring injuries and physical degeneration.


This Simple Remedy Changed My Life

Simple lifestyle improvements transformed my entire life. Its done exactly the same for thousands of other very ordinary people who thought theyd suffer their illness for life.

It requires a small initial effort. Not much. But a little more than unscrewing the lid on a jar of chemicals.

For the millions who see drugs as their only hope there are thousands like me who know for an absolute fact that theyre not.

Which is why we dont suffer those nasty symptoms anymore while they still do.

How Yoga And Meditation May Change The Brain

Yoga is one of the leading alternative therapies used by Americans, according to a National Institutes of Health survey on alternative medicine use.

Collectively, recent research studies of the effects of meditation practice demonstrate that meditators realize significantly higher attentional abilities, enhanced cognitive abilities and brain structural changes, according to the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences . There is increasing research evidence to support the practice of meditation techniques to help improve cognition and memory in patients with neurodegenerative diseases, the study states.

Recent Studies on Yoga and Meditation include:

  • Randomized working memory capacity trial

The results of a randomized trial of undergraduates published in the journal Psychological Science showed that participants who spent 10 minutes per day performing mindfulness meditation realized improved working memory capacity and Graduate Record Exam performance. After just two weeks of daily meditation, participants performed an average 16 points higher on the verbal portion of the GRE and demonstrated improved ability to attend to a task without distraction.

  • Neuroimaging studies of meditation

In the second study, brain scans were taken of individuals who had never meditated before and again after enrolling the participants in an eight-week meditation-based stress reduction program. Study participants were asked to meditate for 30-40 minutes per day for eight weeks.

How To Retrain Movement In Parkinsons

In his book The Brains Way of Healing, Norman Doidge describes how John Pepper consciously retrained his movements to overcome his foot drag and tremor. John was diagnosed with Parkinsons more than 20 years ago but first started getting symptoms almost 50 years ago. He decided to begin his recovery in 1998.

John first focused on his walking, gradually training himself to fully support his weight and use both sides equally as he walked. It took him a year to internalize all of the changes and begin to walk normally. Then he decided to take conscious control of his tremor. Now, you would never know by looking at him that he has Parkinsons. He doesnt have a shuffling gait, he swings his arms when he walks and has no visible tremor. He does not appear rigid, is able to initiate new movements fairly quickly, and has a good sense of balance. John has been off Parkinsons medications for nine years.

Yoga Poses For Parkinsons

Yoga stays with the breath through asanas, or poses. When moving, for example, into virabhadrasana any one of the warrior poses our breath leads the motion. Our awareness is right there, too. The inhale invites us in with it as muscles release, joints open. The exhale lets us settle in further. It doesnt matter if your version of a warrior resembles a knight or a pawn. Feel the flow, watch the rigidity loosen, notice both the softening and the strengthening. In a study on yoga and Parkinsons 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.

If your mind wont follow your breath inside because its too busy focusing on staying upright or listening to a screaming muscle spasm, consider changing classes, teachers, videos or routines. I often open a class with a reminder that when we feel our breath is strained, our body is, too. Remember, we can control our breath. Notice when the strain happens and bring yourself back to where your mind can join your breath.

I couldnt do that pose. But I can do others, and I can do yoga. I can benefit from all it offers. You can, too.

This April , Im reaching out to raise awareness of the benefits of yoga practice for those living with this disease. Im also joining APDA in their efforts to Find the Cure.

Standing Forward Bend Pose

This pose helps in strengthening hips, legs, and knees. It is also helpful in easing stress and anxiety.

  • Stand as such your feet are directly under your hips.
  • Putting your hands on your hips, bend forward.
  • Now drop your hands down to a comfortable position.
  • Slightly bend your knees and focus on releasing tension in your lower back and hips.
  • Bring your chin towards your chest so that your head falls freely toward the floor.
  • Then release the pose after a minute and lift yourself back to stand.

It should be practiced for one minute while taking deep breaths.

Mental Benefits Of Yoga

Studies show that stress and negative emotions may have a negative effect on learning and memory. Yogas incorporation of meditation and breathing has been shown to improve a persons mental well-being.  Current research suggests that even short periods of meditation can cause changes to brain structure and function and lead to improvements in memory, attention and cognitive function. It also has been shown to positively impact mood, emotion regulation and stress resilience.

The practice of yoga and meditation may:

  • Increase peace of mind and sense of satisfaction
  • Increase ability to pay attention
  • Reduce symptoms associated with depression, anxiety, pain and insomnia
  • Increase positional sense, the ability to know where your body is in the world

I Wanted Better Than This

Yoga for Parkinsons  a person with Parkinsons ...

Although I was getting worse very slowly I was still noticing it.

That shaking of the hands was very real.

Slowness in my movements had gradually become more noticeable. 

And I was developing other classic symptoms.

Sleep problems.

Low moods and anxiety.

My sense of smell started to weaken.

Failure to recall how Id spent yesterday complete loss of recall about my own wedding recognizing faces but not remembering names

We joke about these things and put them down to age.

But when theres a diagnosed condition that is actively robbing you of physical and mental abilities thats no joke at all.

I knew this condition led to physical disability.

I also knew it led to mental disability.

I was scared, to be honest.

Scared to be a burden. Scared to lose my ability to control my own body.

Scared to watch my life deteriorating before my eyes.

Supplementing Your Yoga Routine

Yoga itself is considered an alternative therapy. And there are many other such alternative therapies that help the condition of Parkinsons. One such therapy is music therapy, and combining it with yoga can be an excellent idea.

A report from Parkinsons Foundation has shown that certain systematically composed music can have a monumental impact on your brain . You can incorporate such music in your yoga sessions to enhance the benefits of yoga.

Apart from this, you will need to be watchful of your food as well. You need to have a balanced diet, to keep your other bodily functions healthy. An overall healthy and energized individual will have more ability to fight the symptoms of Parkinsons.

Finally, you will have to learn to develop mind-body awareness, which yoga can help you with. This awareness will not only establish better transmission along your neural pathways but also help you realize your condition.

It is said that no two Parkinsons patients are the same; they all have certain uniqueness to their symptoms. This means there have to be subtle differences in treatment as well. Increased awareness will help you manage your condition in a way ideal to your condition.


  • Colgrove YS, Sharma N, Kluding P, Potter D, Imming K, et al. Effect of Yoga on Motor Function in People with Parkinsons Disease:A Randomized, Controlled Pilot Study. J Yoga Phys Ther 2:112
  • Feel the Rhythm: Music Therapy and Parkinsons Disease
  • Yoga For Parkinsons What You Need To Know

    June 21, 2021

    PFNCA Yoga for Parkinsons instructor, Kim Brooks, answers some of the most asked questions about yoga and Parkinsons.


    Question: Yoga seems hard with its pretzel poses; is it really possible for someone with Parkinsons at my age?


    Answer:  is a union of breath and awareness of the moment for example, how does one feel physically? Internally? A Parkinsons client may have problems with floor work or standing poses but there is always something the client can do. There are different types of yoga and the right fit depends on a clients interests, goals and can be tailored to different abilities. Interestingly enough, those who continue with yoga usually feel stronger, more flexible, and can engage in more yogic poses.


    Question: Does yoga help with strength and balance?


    Balance is a very important issue for everyone as we age. It is a critical focus for Parkinsons, given that falling becomes more of a risk with this condition. Seated poses for back and leg strength help Parkinsons clients improve their muscle strength and flexibility so that they move easier and feel more confident. The stronger the muscles which support the skeletal frame, the better they protect bones if one does fall; this can prevent serious injury and broken bones.


    Question: What can yoga do for this common Parkinsons challenge: moving from a chair to standing?





    Question: What do your students like best about yoga?


    How Yoga Can Help Parkinsons Disease Patients

    Sarah AlenderWriter at DoYou

    Sarah is part of DoYou’s editorial team and writes about inspiration and news. View more

    Several recent studies have suggested that yoga may offer significant relief to people with Parkinsons disease. The condition, which affects over a million people in the U.S. , according to the American Parkinson Disease Association, is a neurological disease that causes motor problems such as slowness of movement, difficulty with balance, rigidity, tremors, and more.

    Parkinsons also frequently results in fatigue, anxiety, depression, and difficulty sleeping. This can be a devastating condition, and its often difficult for patients to deal with their deteriorating physical health along with the possibility of future dementia. Hopefully, yoga may ease some of these symptoms.

    The most recent study, published in January by researchers at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, found that yoga not only improved psychological well-being, it also had an effect on the mobility problems experienced by many patients.

    How Can It Help With Parkinsons Symptoms

    Lots of research is being done into how yoga may help with the physical and non-physical symptoms of Parkinsons.

    So far we know that yoga can help lessen and , improve balance and flexibility , and increase muscle strength and power. It can also relax blood pressure, help control weight gain, and increase breathing strength and lung capacity.

    Many people also report having better mood and sleep, while going to group classes is a way of meeting others and being more socially active.


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