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How does Yoga Therapy support Parkinson’s

How does Yoga Therapy support Parkinson’s?

As we focus on wellness and spring into Yoga, we spoke to our South West Parkinson's Nurse Specialist Donna Mallaby, who holds a 500hr Yoga Teaching qualification, about how Parkinson's symptoms can be managed with Yoga therapy.

Pictured: Donna Mallaby holds a Yoga poses and centres herself.

"The beautiful thing about Yoga, is that it is for everyone, regardless of their age or ability and there are a range of accessible tools that people can use to incorporate into their routine," Donna said.

Read about Yoga in practice here. 

We asked Donna some questions about her experience with Yoga and she was keen to chat further about the applications for Yoga therapy in managing Parkinson's symptoms. Read more to better understand the practice.

What are the main benefits of a low-impact exercise like yoga for people living with Parkinson’s?

Yoga has many benefits, for people living with Parkinson’s. A randomised research trial published in the International Journal of Yoga stated that Yoga may assist in improving both motor and non-motor symptoms of people with Parkinsons. Modest improvements were seen in balance, functional mobility, mood and sleep. 

The social connections that Yoga can offer are important for maintaining cognitive function.

How does breathwork keep people calm and allow them to manage non-motor symptoms of Parkinson's such as anxiety?

Pranayama (breathwork) can help assist the body and mind to move from an active sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) where your body is in a state of stress, to a para-sympathetic nervous system state (rest and digest) relaxed state. 

Therefore, potentially reducing the feelings of anxiety and depression in people with Parkinson’s.

Breathing techniques such as deep belly breathing, 3-part breathing and box breathing which are popular with navy seals, use the power of the breath to bring a sense of calm and focus during periods of stress.

Some people may find a reduction in tremor after completing these breathing techniques due to the calming nature of the exercise.

How does Yoga assist people living with chronic conditions such as Parkinson’s to improve their gait, balance and overall physical fitness?

Yoga can aid in overall body strengthening, flexibility and assist with freedom of movement. Yoga can assist people with Parkinson’s with improving posture, balance, and strength. Therefore, reducing the risk of falls and most importantly improving overall quality of life.

Please remember to always consult your doctor before commencing a new exercise regime, and if you can attend a Parkinson’s specific yoga class, chair yoga, or gentle yoga class.

Many components of yoga can also be enjoyed in the comfort of your own home, if you are attending a class, it may be beneficial to attend a class during your peak medication times.

Most of all, relax and enjoy.

Pictured: Donna guides a class through different poses (supplied).

Join Donna in this guided example of using a Deep Belly Breathing Technique for aiding to calm the nervous system.

Find a comfortable space, in a sitting or lying position, close your eyes.
Begin to bring awareness to your breath.

Thoughts may enter your mind, recognise them, accept them, then let them go.

Begin to deepen your breath, in through the nose and out through the nose.

Rest your hands on the lower abdomen with your fingers tips just touching.

As you inhale deeply expand your belly as if you are blowing up a big balloon, your fingertips may drift apart as your belly expands.

As you exhale, let your belly and your balloon collapse back down and feel your fingers begin to touch again. Repeat, relax and enjoy.

Om Shanti.

Written by Donna Mallaby – Parkinson's Nurse Specialist and 500hr Yoga Teacher

12 October 2023
Category: Articles