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Yoga and Parkinson's Disease: A Holistic Approach to Well-Being


One man and four women beggining a yoga class

Parkinson's disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects movement, balance, and overall quality of life. While there is currently no cure, emerging research suggests that incorporating yoga into the management plan for individuals with Parkinson's may offer a range of physical and mental health benefits. We offer a brief review of the scientific evidence supporting the use of yoga for Parkinson's disease and how it can contribute to a holistic approach to well-being.


Yoga and Parkinson's Disease: Motor Function

Yoga is renowned for its ability to improve flexibility and mobility, and one of the hallmark symptoms of Parkinson's disease is impaired motor function. Several studies have shown that individuals with Parkinson’s disease who participated in a structured yoga program experienced improvements in motor function, including walking (Cheung et al. 2018; Kwok et al. 2022; Van Sharma et al. 2015; Puymbroek et al. 2018).


Yoga and Parkinson's Disease: Balance

Balance issues are a significant concern for individuals with Parkinson's disease, increasing the risk of falls. Researchers have investigated yoga's impact on balance in people with Parkinson’s and found promising results, including improvement in standardized measures of balance and a reduction in the risk of falling (Elangovan et al. 2020; Sharma et al. 2015; Van Puymbroek et al. 2018).


Yoga and Parkinson's Disease: Cognition

Cognitive decline is a concern for individuals with Parkinson's disease. A pilot study by Cheung et al. 2018 explored the feasibility and impact of yoga on cognition in persons with Parkinson’s disease. The results suggested that regular yoga practice may positively affect cognitive function, providing a potential avenue for addressing cognitive challenges associated with the disease.


Yoga and Parkinson's Disease: Psychological Well-Being

The mind-body connection is a central focus of yoga, including mindfulness, breathing, and relaxation. Individuals with Parkinson's often experience stress, anxiety, and depression. In several studies, yoga's mind-body approach has been shown to reduce depression and anxiety and depression in individuals with Parkinson’s disease (Kwok et al. 2019; James-Palmer & Daneault 2022), as well as reports of improved quality of life (Kwok et al. 2022; Thunga et al. 2022).


All the studies reported here demonstrate the potential benefits of yoga, and only a few mild adverse events have been reported, suggesting that yoga, when appropriately supervised yoga, is safe for individuals with Parkinson’s disease. Although much is known about the short-term benefits of yoga, more research is needed to establish the long-term effects of yoga on Parkinson's disease and to understand how different styles of yoga impact individuals differently.






References

Cheung et al (2018). Effects of yoga on oxidative stress, motor function, and non-motor symptoms in Parkinson’s disease: a pilot randomized controlled trial. Pilot and Feasibility Studies, 4, 162.


Elangovan et al. (2020). Hatha yoga training improves standing balance but not gait in Parkinson's disease. Sports Medicine and Health Science, 2(2), 80–88.


James-Palmer & Daneault (2022). Tele-yoga for the management of Parkinson disease: A safety and feasibility trial. Digital Health, 8, 20552076221119327.


Kwok et al. (2019). Effects of mindfulness yoga vs stretching and resistance training exercises on anxiety and depression for people with Parkinson disease. JAMA Neurology, 76(7), 755–763.


Kwok et al. (2022). Effects of mindfulness yoga versus conventional physical exercises on symptom experiences and health-related quality of life in people with Parkinson’s disease: The potential mediating roles of anxiety and depression. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 56(10), 1068–1081.


Sharma et al (2015). A randomized controlled pilot study of the therapeutic effects of yoga in people with Parkinson's disease. International Journal of Yoga, 8(1):74-9.


Thunga et al. (2022). Comparison of yoga and physiotherapy on motor neuropsychiatric symptoms and quality of life in Parkinson’s disease. Annals of Movement Disorders, 5(1), 55-64.


Van Puymbroeck et al. (2018.) Functional improvements in Parkinson’s disease following a randomized trial of yoga. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: eCAM, 2018, 8516351.


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