By Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

Yoga instructors, working with students that have Parkinson’s disease, must respect the limitations and goals of these individuals. As with any number of physical and neurological ailments, the effective postures and routines will vary. As a general rule, asana practice might require modifications, props, extra support, or assisting for students with Parkinson’s disease.

Balance is something that the unconscious mind controls for most people. A benefit of moving personal balance to the conscious mind is the result of more stability. In the mind of a person with Parkinson’s, these unconscious functions have been damaged by the disease. Students with Parkinson’s should focus primarily on bringing the functions of the body, to the forefront of the mind, during yoga practice.

The strength-building postures improve range of motion and balance, which is essential to effective yoga therapy. Despite the fact that movement is difficult, people with Parkinson’s, are highly encouraged to participate in regular, gentle activities. Yoga is a perfect program because of its low impact nature and unifying, nurturing atmosphere. Students should be challenged in a comfortable way that allows for growth.

Yoga improves the overall sense of well-being, and worth, for the yoga student. Any chronic disease can wear you down emotionally. Many people, with Parkinson’s disease, begin to feel helpless, as they lose independence. The highly positive and healing environment of the yoga classroom, adds to the physical benefits, but also encourages emotional balance.

Postures, recommended for people with Parkinson’s disease, include the cow pose, cobra pose and camel pose. All poses can be modified to meet any student’s needs. Also suggested are the boat, bow, and bridge poses.

The bow pose increases muscle strength in the back, upper legs, hips, and abdominal muscles – improving the center of balance. The camel pose also strengthens the back and increases flexibility of the spine – complementing the bow pose. Each of these poses strengthens the body, or stimulates the nervous system, in a way that will benefit a practitioner with Parkinson’s.

© Copyright 2008 – Paul Jerard / Aura Publications

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