Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative condition that results from nerve cell loss or impairment in a section of the brain called the substantia nigra. There is increasing evidence that yoga can help with the physical and mental symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

It remains unclear what causes Parkinson’s disease to develop. The condition often has a gradual onset, with symptoms developing slowly over several years.

As the condition progresses, the worsening of direct symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can lead to additional complications, such as fractures from falls that people are unable to control. Activities such as yoga can help with symptoms by training a person to work with aspects of their body that they can control, such as breathing.

Yoga therapy can have physical benefits for Parkinson’s disease, as it encourages functional mobility and postural stability and reduces motor symptoms, such as tremors. Yoga can also have mental and social benefits, improving the overall quality of life of a person living with Parkinson’s.

Group of people practicing yoga to assist with symptoms of Parkinson's diseaseShare on Pinterest
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In 1967, Drs. Margaret Hoehn and Melvin Yahr came up with a grading scale to classify the symptoms of Parkinson’s, with stage 0 indicating no sign of the condition and stage 5 being advanced Parkinson’s disease. Initially, the condition is mild with slight symptoms, but symptoms become severe as it progresses into advanced Parkinson’s disease.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can be motor symptoms, meaning that they relate to movement, or non-motor symptoms, which do not relate to movement.

The main motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are:

Non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can include fatigue and hallucination and strongly impact a person’s quality of life.

Read more about the stages of Parkinson’s disease here.

Yoga includes a broad range of motions, making it an accessible form of therapy for most people. According to Yoga International, the most helpful exercises for people with Parkinson’s disease typically involve seated and assisted postures.

It also suggests that incorporating music and rhythm into yoga may help people with Parkinson’s disease when working to improve their:

An asana is a type of body posture. The term previously only referred to motions that people used in meditation, but it has since extended into the terminology for health yoga.

Yoga asanas or poses can target different muscle groups. Some types strengthen the core muscles, which helps with posture, while others particularly work the limbs. A person can modify movements to meet their individual needs. For example, they may choose to perform lateral stretches, such as the Supine Crescent Moon pose, from the comfort of their bed.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can vary from one day to the next. Having a number of plans readily available can make yoga accessible to a person with Parkinson’s disease on days when they are not as mobile.

Yoga International suggests the following yoga poses and stretches for people with Parkinson’s disease:

  1. Seated Cat-Cow
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Standing cat-cow pose, to be adapted in a seated chair.

The Seated Cat-Cow is a motion that involves flexing and extending the belly while sitting on a chair. A person can perform this exercise by placing a hand on each knee and moving the chest and belly forwards while inhaling, then backward, while exhaling.

2. Lateral spine movement

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Standing lateral spine movement, to be adapted in a seated chair.

With lateral spine movement, a person will again sit on a chair. They will place their left elbow on the left knee and extend the right arm upwards, stretching their side. They will hold this position for three breaths, then come up to the center and repeat the movement on the left-hand side.

3. Core twists

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Demonstration of seated core twists.

To perform core twists, a person sits on a chair and places a hand on each shoulder. They gently twist from the belly, rotating to the right and then round to the left. They breathe in as they face forwards and out as they rotate to the sides.

4. Elbow kayaks

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Demonstration of elbow kayaks position.

A person may sit or stand for elbow kayaks. They will interlock their fingers and place their hands behind their head, with the palms facing the back of the head. They will then gently rotate the elbows, creating small circular motions with each arm.

5. Arm circles

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Demonstration of arm circles.

Arm circles follow a similar motion, but a person extends their arms to complete the exercise. It is easier to perform arm circles from a standing position. A person extends their arms out in front of them and moves them in large circles, with motion extending from the shoulder blades. A person may choose to perform the exercise with arms moving in matching or opposing motions to each other — for example, they may swing both arms forward or backward at the same time or have one going forward while the other goes backward.

6. Leg swings

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Demonstration of standing leg swings.

A person can perform leg swings from a standing position by standing on one leg, holding onto a wall or surface for support, and swinging the other leg, first forwards, then backward, catching the knee, and holding on for three breaths before releasing it forwards again.

7. Singing Snake pose

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Demonstration of Singing Snake position, to be adapted in a seated chair.

To perform the Singing Snake pose, a person will sit on a chair, holding their back as straight as possible. They will bring the chin towards the chest to breathe in, then stick their tongue out to exhale while moving the head upwards. A person may choose to complete the full motion three times before returning to a normal position. After the exercise, a person will flutter their eyelids, blinking quickly, to bring moisture into their eyes.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative condition that can greatly impact a person’s quality of life. Symptoms may begin gradually, typically worsening over time as a person experiences more significant nerve cell loss and damage.

A grading system for Parkinson’s disease extends between stages 0–5, with stage 0 showing no sign of the condition and stage 5 being the most advanced stage. Parkinson’s disease can cause motor symptoms, which affect the physical condition of the body, and non-motor symptoms, which do not relate to movement.

There is currently no cure for Parkinson’s disease. However, studies suggest that a person can reduce symptoms and delay the onset of advanced stages of the condition with activities such as yoga.

Yoga can provide benefits for both motor and non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. A person can adapt different motions to meet their individual needs.