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New Research Suggests Yoga Can Help Parkinson's Disease

Yoga can reduce fall risk in people with Parkinson's disease.

A recent study published in Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine suggests that yoga can be helpful to people with Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s disease can affect walking and balance, and it is estimated that over 70% of people with Parkinson’s disease fall within a given year.

The small study implemented an 8-week yoga program to people with Parkinson’s disease and found that yoga improved the stability of their posture, ability to walk, and reduced their risk of falling.

The type of yoga used in the study is Hatha yoga, which combines mind and body in a series of postures with breathing. Hatha yoga encourages the mind to grow more aware of where the body is in space. Yoga has been shown to improve balance, alignment of the body, fitness, endurance, relaxation, and psychological well-being.

Individuals in the study participated in group classes led by a certified yoga therapist twice a week for 8 weeks. The classes consisted of modified yoga postures and breathing that included sitting, standing, and supine positions. Yoga class participants at the end of eight weeks had significantly improved mobility, balance, and stability, which reduces the risk of falls.

For those with Parkinson’s Disease looking to participate in a yoga class, be sure to look for a certified yoga therapist, which is different than a certified yoga teacher. Yoga therapists have additional training in order to adapt and tailor the practice of yoga to the needs of individuals with health problems. You can find a certified yoga therapist via the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) online directory.

Yoga styles like chair yoga may also be a good option for those who have difficulty with mobility. Chair yoga modifies yoga poses so that they can be safely done while seated in a chair but retains the benefits of yoga by pairing mind and body as well as breath with postures. You can try a 20-minute chair yoga sequence here.

Find out more about yoga and its health benefits in my book The Harvard Medical School Guide to Yoga.

More from Dr. Marlynn Wei M.D., J.D.
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