What is yoga

A centuries-old method of exercise that blends the body and mind through physical postures and meditation. Yoga may be very beneficial for people with Parkinson’s because it gently improves flexibility, balance, muscle strength, and muscle tone. Postures range from simple to challenging and can be modified to accommodate individual physical limitations. Although many people practice yoga alone, it is best to learn yoga through classes in which experienced yogis, or yoga teachers, can demonstrate the proper ways to perform the postures and provide guidance for making any necessary modifications. Breath control and breathing exercises are at the core of yoga and are very effective for relaxation and relieving stress.

Yoga’s mountain pose is one that most people with Parkinson’s (and caregivers) can do and can experience benefits from doing. It also is easy to modify.

• Stand with the feet as close together as balance tolerates. In the full mountain pose the feet touch and toes point straight ahead. People with Parkinson’s who have balance problems may feel comfortable starting with the feet at shoulder width.

• Hold the back, neck, and head straight and tall. The chin should be level, eyes looking straight ahead.

• Let the arms hang at the sides, fingers together and pointing down.

• Breathe in through the nose, slowly and smoothly, to a count of 10. Pull the breath deep into the belly, letting it push the belly out. Keep the eyes open and looking straight ahead.

• Hold the breath for a count of 10. Feel the energy it gives to the body; feel the energy enter each cell to give it strength and vitality.

• Slowly let out the breath over a count of 10. Feel the belly tighten as it pushes the air back out of the body.

• Repeat this sequence three to five times, and do the sequences as often during the day as desired.

If Parkinson’s makes standing difficult, modify the mountain pose by sitting in a chair. Sit as upright as possible, with spine, neck, and head straight. Follow the preceding steps. The body and the mind may feel refreshed and recharged after a yoga session.