Sunday, February 8, 2009

Yoga as Exercise for Parkinson's Disease and PD Depression

Let's start with a few words about doing Yoga as an exercise for Parkinson's disease and Parkinson's depression:

First of all these exercises are best read aloud slowly and calmly by another person. If you have no one with whom to practice, read them aloud step by step yourself. You should be able to print the article either printing the page or by cutting and pasting this article onto a word-pad or some other docs program or even an email and then printing in the your favorite type face and size for reading.

If you are working with another person, ask them if they will do each exercise first as YOU read it aloud to them. Then it will be your turn. The advantage to seeing the exercise performed first is that of the kinetic experience you can achieve by watching.

If you like to exercise to music, these asanas should be done to calming, slow, soothing sounds. You might choose nature sounds.

It is important to remember that the stiffness of Parkinson's and the tremors may make the simplest of poses seem difficult. That's okay. The benefits accrue with the repetition. As you learn each step, as the muscle stiffness does not impair movement as much with each repetition, the movements will begin to flow from one step to the next. Soon you will be able to reach your version of the pose.

Your reader needs to be aware of your pace and not attempt to move you too rapidly from step to step. The reader should allow time for the practitioner to achieve the step before moving on for the complete pose.

Remember that breathing is an integral part of the exercise and important for the relaxation which will ultimately be felt. Breathing better is very important to help with the depression which is so symptomatic of PD. The exercises themselves are significant in their focus on the relaxation needed for helping with depression.

All floor exercises should be done on a carpet or mat. Bare wood or tile is uncomfortable. Have at least one cushion or pillow available.

Not all positions are possible for all people. You have two options: you can do the best you can do without pain to achieve the pose or you can simply perform the ones which are possible.

Please do not be upset by the Shava Asana title: the corpse pose. It is definitive of a body in repose. It should also be your first and last pose for a session.

About the Asanas: they should be steady and comfortable. Your body should be poised and relaxed. Breathing should be controlled (Pranayama) Do not use force or pressure. And do not exercise immediately after a meal. The purpose is to develop muscle flexibility, tendon strength, better respiratory function, improve the circulatory system, improve sex life and concentration, aid in weight loss. The asanas are designed to aid the flow of prana (vital energy or qi in Chinese) and to help balance the physical and metaphysical body.

Let us begin

SHAVA-ASANA or MRTA-ASANA, The Corpse Pose1. Lie on your back
2. Spread your arms at a 45 degree angle from your body, hands and fingers open
3. Let your legs relax to an open posture - no tension - no toe point - head comfortable
4. Close your eyes
5. Breathe deeply from the diaphragm - through the ribcage - and the upper chest
6. Let your body feel heavy and pliant - relax into the carpet or mat.
7. Sense your body - be aware of where your body is holding tension and send your focus there
8. You may wiggle your toes and your fingers to shake out stress
9. Continue to inhale from the diaphragm - through the ribcage and the upper chest.
10. Exhale in the same pattern
11. Clear your mind and continue to inhale and exhale - slowly and deeply.
Shava-Asana is not a fall asleep exercise although it can be used in that way at bedtime.
In this exercise you are moving to a conscious state of relaxation.

Bala-Sana The Child's Pose
1. Kneel on the mat with the tops of your feet on the floor.
2. Sit back on your heels
3. Adjust your position so that your knees are about 1 foot apart
4. Your hands should rest on your thighs (Vajar-asana or Thunderbolt pose)
5. Bend forward from your hips, bringing your chest to rest on the floor between your thighs.
If this is uncomfortable or if you do not have that much flexibility, rest your head on a cushion or two instead.
6. Stretch your arms full out in front of you on either side of your head.
7. Stretch you spine, your arms, your hips.
8. Relax as you inhale slowly - through your nose and from your diaphragm, your rib cage and upper chest.
9. And slowly exhale
10. Remain in this pose for about 2 mnutes.
11. Now slide your arms back to your sides, palms up and onto your thighs palms down.
Repeat at least once more.
This is a comforting and peaceful pose. It will stretch and relax your shoulders, thighs, neck and back muscles.

If you have Parkinson's constipation you can vary the child's pose by bending first over one leg, holding that pose and then returning to an upright position.
Repeat over the other thigh if you are kneeling.
You can also do this in a chair. It should relieve some of the discomfort as well as helping those smooth muscles of the intestinal tract.

We will be adding more exercises over the next few days.

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