Teaching Yoga for Parkinson’s Groups

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Teaching Yoga for Parkinson’s Groups

yoga teacher trainingBy Faye Martins

The goal of many teachers and students throughout the U.S. – that of making Yoga accessible to everyone has succeeded to an amazing degree. Yogic methodology is now considered a normal, beneficial part of an exercise routine, even recommended by doctors and therapists as part of a wellness plan. Because of this, more students with chronic conditions are part of Yoga classes and visiting studios. To make sure that these practitioners are served to the greatest extent possible, teachers must be prepared. Special Yoga classes for those with cancer, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s Disease (PD), dementia and other conditions are now offered at many studios. If you or your studio is preparing to offer such a class, there are many things that can be done to ensure safety and success.

Parkinson’s Disease inhibits dopamine production and affects smooth movements of muscles. Balance may be compromised and joint range of movement can be decreased. Additionally, Parkinson’s symptoms can fluctuate and an asana performed easily one day may be out of reach the next. Here are some tips on teaching Yoga to a group of students with Parkinson’s.  Together, we can help proliferate Yoga training for Parkinson’s Disease.

Room Conditions

The average age of onset for PD is around 55, so most students will be older. Consider whether playing music will be a distraction, as students may have hearing problems or be unable to understand teacher instructions over the sound of the music. Remove area rugs from the studio; they are tripping hazards for Yogis with balance issues. Try to have seats or benches near the entrance to the room, for people to sit down as they remove their shoes. Practicing next to a wall is very helpful for students with PD, as it can give them stability in standing poses and help getting up and down from the mat. Keeping class size small and giving everyone a place next to a wall may be necessary.

During Practice

Avoid static poses held for a long time. Short sequences with plenty of restorative poses work best. Provide plenty of prop support, especially blankets. Yogis with PD may experience chills or be less able to regulate body temperature, so blankets during savasana are important. Savasana can also be done in a chair, if students are not comfortable lying down.

After Practice

Studies of Yoga and PD have shown the effectiveness of Yogic methods in restoring muscle movement and delaying degenerative damage; they also showed the value of a Yoga school as a support for those with the disease. Encourage students to exchange email addresses if they’d like and keep in contact. Consider not scheduling a class to directly follow your Yoga and PD class, to allow time for students to have a clear exit path and time to put on shoes and coats.

© Copyright 2011 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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4 responses to “Teaching Yoga for Parkinson’s Groups”

  1. On the web site http://www.parkinsonsyoga.com, on the page “Our Writings”, at the top, there is an article from Yoga Therapy Today magazine, for yoga instructors, about dealing with PD.

    Best wishes, Paul

  2. Masud Parvez says:

    Practicing next to a wall is very helpful for students with PD, as it can give them stability in standing poses
    and help getting up and down from the mat. Thanks for posting this useful article.

  3. Marry Wilson says:

    Short Sequences with plenty of Restorative Poses work best for practitioner with PD. Provide plenty of prop support, especially blankets. Thanks for useful posting.

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