What are some yoga exercises that a person with Parkinson's and Alzheimer's could do?

4 answers | Last updated: Nov 18, 2016
Miss rosie asked...

Can someone suggest some yoga exercises for a friend who has parkinsons and alzeimers?? I am a newly trained instructor and am at a loss!!

Expert Answers

Laura Cheney, a physical therapist who specializes in geriatrics, graduated with honors from the University of California at San Francisco in 2000. She loves her job working as the sole physical therapist at a premier life-care facility in San Francisco. She has written articles and lectured extensively on fall prevention and other issues relevant to the aging experience. As a registered yoga teacher, she teaches yoga, meditation, and other mindfulness techniques to seniors -- helping them expand their repertoire for coping with stress, pain, and illness in the later years.

The appropriate yoga exercises for people with Alzheimers and Parkinsons vary widely depending on what stage of the disease the person is in. I can, however, offer you a few tips. First, people with Parkinson's gradually develop a rigidity to their movements and a difficulty initiating movments. Using music or visual cues, like the line at the edge of the mat will help bring ease to their movement. Reciprocal movement is also very helpful, so alternating immediately between sides in different poses. A more flowing style of yoga would also be more helpful for people with Parkinson's rather than static poses. Finally, poses that focus on balance will be helpful as this becomes more of a concern in the later stages of Parkinsons. Alzheimers does not initially effect a person's ability to move--but I suggest sticking to the same routine so the poses become familiar to the person. And certainly, utilizing the wonderful tools of yoga such as breathing and increasing one's awareness will do a lot to bring a sense of peace and calm to people who are facing a serious illness. Reducing anxiety is very important to one's overall well-being and health. I am sure you are providing a wonderful service for these people.

Community Answers

Rlv answered...


I only recently saw your question. I am a RYT and Parkinson's patient. Breathing exercises may be a good place to start, both for relaxation and to use as a body awareness starting place.

If it is helpful to you, I've written a book, recently published by Merit International Publishing: Yoga for Movement Disorders: Rebuilding Strength, Balance and Flexibility for Parkinson's Disease and Dystonia. There's a description of it on Amazon. It doesn't address the Alzeimer's piece of your question but it does have a number of suggestions for yoga for Parkinson's.

Best wishes to you in your teaching.

Pnschmidt answered...

The evidence is that excercise is not just neuroprotective but neuroregenerative and is highly indiciated for PD.  The one issue with yoga is that impaired ballance might introduce safety issues.  I believe that Kripalu in MA is offering classes where participants are supported with props.  Alternatively, a high instructor-to-participant ratio could help.  It is important to note that it is vigorous exercise that has been proven to help the brain in animal studies and yoga may or may not fall into the category of vigorous excercise, depending on how you do it.  Regardless, yoga should have a positive impact on gait and ballance, and should do some good.  If it were me, I'd try to make sure that my PD exercise addressed both the cognitive plasticity related to gait and ballance AND the neuroprotective effects of strenuous exercise.

Sgarcia answered...

My husband and I live in Lakewood, Colorado and he has had Parkinson's for almost 4 years. For the past few years he has participated in a yoga class for people with Parkinson's and it has been a blessing. Not only the physical movement, but also the social aspect. They all have become a family and fully understand each other's situations and challenges. The instructor, Joann Gibson, donates her time and the yoga studio in Golden donates the space. The class meets twice a week for an hour each class.
Recently, an interested party video-taped the class, interviewed the participants, etc. and released a DVD titled "Stretching Life", Challenging Parkinson's & Breathing Through Life's Challenges. It is a most inspiring story and worth watching over and over.

The website is www.challengingparkinsons.com and the DVD can be purchased through the site. Or, you can view excerpts from the DVD on the website.

I am a caregiver, as I'm sure many others are, and my prayers and thoughts are with those who have this disease and the many caregivers out there. We only hope and pray that a cure is discovered in the very near future.