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

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 Answer

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.