I am working with a private yoga client to deal with issues he is having.
Disclaimer: I am not a yoga therapist or other certified healer per requirements of registry with Yoga Alliance.
However, yoga has many healing properties. And, as old as I am, I have experience with pain and injury within myself and others with whom I’ve interacted. I am also a scientist and have had training in anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, and many biology/chemistry courses through graduate level studies. So there’s that 🙂
This client, having a life of dealing with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) ahead of him, has a vested interest in finding ways to manage this disease. He provided me with literature, both anecdotal and research oriented, that relates to PD. Working with clients sometimes goes beyond the time constraints of class.
While I’m not in the business of diagnosis and treatment, I know aspects of body movement. PD is an autoimmune disorder that affects how the nerve impulses are sent throughout the body. The further from the brain, the greater the effect. So, I think a lot about feet, hands, and limbs. The spine is also a major emphasis, so I focus on keeping it supple and strong.
Specific effects of PD that I am helping with are:
- Posture – PD results in drooping of shoulders and head forward resulting in increased kyphosis of the spine. Besides general posture associated with all physical poses in yoga, I am working on strength in the entire back especially upper back and shoulders. Locust pose is an ideal solution. Both upward and downward facing dog is also crucial. Anything we can do to keep the posture upright is warranted.
- Feet shuffling – the most problematic effect of PD is a shortened stride length. This leads to falling forward and tripping with steps. The main aspect we are working is keeping length in the legs and strength. So we’ve started with long lunges (anjaneyasana) stepping forward across a room and back. This also has a balance effect. We hold at the first few steps to keep length in hamstrings and glutes.
- Balance – since the neurons and synapses between them are not functioning well, signals to the brain to help with balance are lost. So we are working on keeping all those stabilizing impulses firing. Tree pose is the go to for balance, which we do with a light assist at the wall. But, even Tadasana is used where we may lightly close or close eyes completely. This requires a lot of balance for most people. Warrior poses, triangles, and other standing poses are critical as well for balance.
- Pranayama/Meditation – our last area of emphasis is in meditation. Dopamine receptors are greatly affected with PD. Re-programming our brains to find calmness assists greatly in reducing the chaos of our minds. Also, in daily life, when hands begins to tremor and feet begin to shuffle, it creates anxiety and the feeling of helplessness in the mind. Any time we are stressed, we inhale, hold our breath, and breathe at a high, shallow register. So we are re-training our breathing to make us aware of what we do. When we feel anxious, we consciously need to breathe deeply and evenly to calm our minds. This is never more obvious than in meditation. We work with the breath and visualization to help program our bodies to find peace. This may be the aspect of yoga that contributes the most.
You would be amazed at the number of ways yoga can help with our lives. As a yoga teacher, it is amazing to experience what others go through in addition to our own experiences with life. Learn, adapt, teach, and learn some more!