Yoga can be practiced when and where you wish. If you want to try yoga at home you should make sure you have some lessons with an expert first so as to learn the basic principles and techniques.
There is little research into the benefits of yoga in Parkinson’s but in general yoga can be particularly helpful in reducing muscle rigidity and in increasing balance, flexibility and strength. Because yoga offers a holistic approach to body, mind and spirit, many people with Parkinson’s say it equips them with ‘tools’ to cope with daily life. For many it offers emotional stability - an inner peace and sense of calm – as well as overcoming some of the physical symptoms of the illness.
As yoga aims to help energise the body and mind, improve concentration and reduce stress, it can be beneficial to family and carers too.
As with all physical therapies, you may find some of the activities challenging, but techniques may be adapted to suit individuals, for example a chair may be used for support instead of lying on a mat – your teacher should be able to advise on this.
Yoga is not regulated in some countries. It is therefore a good idea to ask your doctor or other healthcare professional for recommendations. Friends, family, other people with Parkinson’s or your national Parkinson’s association may also be able to advise based on personal experience.
It is advisable to see a teacher who has experience of Parkinson’s so do ask about their experience of the condition as well as their qualifications.
Different classes will have a different emphasis. Some are more physical whilst others focus on relaxation, breath work and meditation. It is worth speaking to a teacher about their particular approach before joining a class.
Classes last an hour on average, working through warm up exercises and Yoga asanas (postures) and ending with a 15 minute period of relaxation.
As yoga is non-competitive you don’t need to worry about what other can or cannot do. Listen to your body and do what’s comfortable, beginning with simple exercises and slowly building up to more difficult ones.
You will need to wear clothing that you find easy to move and stretch in. Most yoga is practised barefoot on non-slip mats – check with the teacher to find out if they will be provided. If you are unable or prefer not to use a mat, speak with your teacher about alternative techniques to help your individual needs. Some people find it better to stay seated at first, moving to standing exercises only once they feel ready to do so.
Always make sure that your teacher knows that you have Parkinson’s.