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How Yoga Can Help With Parkinson's Symptoms

February 21, 2015

Approximately 1 million people in the U.S. are living with Parkinson's disease, and about 60,000 more people are diagnosed each year, according to estimates from the Parkinson's Disease Foundation. Characterized by tremors, symptoms of the condition develop at a higher rate among older adults, and men are more likely than women to experience such effects. New reports, however, suggest that yoga and other exercises may help people in senior assisted living mitigate the impact that symptoms have on their daily lives.

Senior Woman Doing Yoga Outside in the GrassMoving to better health
The Bangor Daily News recently highlighted the work of Elizabeth Burd, a certified personal trainer who leads yoga instruction for people living with symptoms of Parkinson's disease living in her Maine community. According to Burd, the program came about as the result of a neurologist sending people with the condition to her classes as a means of physical therapy. Over time, she saw how participants with Parkinson's benefited from both the physical and mental exercises they practiced.

"I noticed that through guided meditation some patients with tremors relaxed enough that the tremors would slowly decrease in intensity and in some cases, stop all together," she told the news source.

A number of the people in Burd's classes offered similarly positive review of the techniques, commenting on the impact that the courses had on their confidence as well as relieving their symptoms.

"I didn't realize how much I needed yoga until after the first class," said Judy Lombard, a woman living with Parkinson's who has been a student of Burd's for four years now. "The benefits are both physical and emotional. It helps with balance and flexibility. We also learned how to get down on the floor safely and how to get up. It helps to strengthen the core. The class is fun and full of laughs, which helps emotionally. Parkinson's causes one to doubt their ability to do things. I often get to class feeling tired and in pain. I always leave feeling much better."

Getting involved
According to Burd, yoga appeals to many people living in a retirement community for a number of reasons. First is the opportunity to practice exercises from the comfort of their own home. Instructional DVDs, YouTube videos or even specialty television channels can guide older adults in basic yoga poses. For people seeking a social activity, classes at a local community center or gym may also be an option, and allow seniors the chance to meet people who are experiencing Parkinson's disease or simply taking the course to stay mobile and in shape.

One of the main draws of yoga for older adults is that motions can be less stressful for joints and muscles. Instead of sudden impact, the exercises focus on building strength and conditioning through slow and fluid stretches. All poses and sequences can be modified to meet the needs of people with physical limitations, and allow for seniors to build up to a more advanced practice over time. Before embarking on any new exercises, of course, individuals should consult their physician, who can offer suggestions on how to stay safe during activity.

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