Mobility, mindfulness and mood: exploring the potential benefits of yoga
Health & Fitness
Author: Johanna Stiefler JohnsonPublished: 8 September 2022
Prep: Cook: Serves:
We speak to Dr Indu Subramanian (pictured above), a movement disorder neurologist based in Los Angeles, US, about how yoga may support people with Parkinson’s disease – from managing stress to improving balance
How does yoga help people with Parkinson’s disease?
Yoga can have tremendous effects on the mind and body. It is thought to be very powerful for the autonomic nervous system, which can help manage stress. The stretches and poses are helpful for posture, which makes yoga good for ageing populations in general. For anyone who is spending too much time on Zoom, getting up and doing some simple yoga poses to break up the sedentary day can be very therapeutic.
Yoga may help with mood, especially anxiety and depression, and sleep – which are all non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s. Meditation may help cognition, and breathwork may help non-motor problems as well as autonomic nervous system issues that are exacerbated in Parkinson’s disease.
The poses may improve balance, stretch tight body parts and allow for better range of motion, while the flow between poses is thought to improve cardiovascular fitness. Poses are modifiable, so the practitioner can increase or decrease the complexity of the pose to adapt to changing issues in the body – day-to-day or year-to-year.
When did you first learn about the benefits of yoga for Parkinson’s disease symptoms?
I have culturally been interested in Ayurveda, a holistic medicine system, for a long time. As a child, I grew up with many practices that were in this system of health – even though my mother is a western trained family medicine doctor. Yoga fits into this system, which has been around for thousands of years and focuses on thinking about a person or patient in a holistic way. After the birth of my first child, I gravitated toward yoga to help my own sense of balance and wellbeing.
There are a lot of folks doing yoga here in California, US, and I see the benefits in my patients as well. As a physician who works largely with men who are veterans, it always amazes me to see the most seemingly unlikely patients thrive with yoga. A Latinx plumber in my practice really enjoyed yoga and looked better, both physically and mentally, after diving into his practice – which he started after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
Dr Indu Subramanian has practiced yoga for two decades.
How can people with Parkinson’s add yoga into their exercise regime?
Yoga can be incorporated a few days a week, with other more cardio-heavy regimens such as running, fast walking or cycling. It can be very restorative for muscles on days in between heavier cardio workouts.
There are many styles that may benefit people with Parkinson’s disease. Hatha yoga and Iyengar yoga, which uses a lot of props and modifications, are good places to start. For people interested in starting yoga, I recommend Mind Body Solutions with Matthew Sanford.
What advice do you have for people interested in starting yoga?
Yoga in popular media has been sold as an extreme commercialised version of reality. There is no need for fancy memberships to an exclusive studio or expensive yoga outfits. It is not only for ballerina dancers who can contort into increasingly crazy shapes.
This year, for example, I mostly studied under a teacher who is a wheelchair user and teaches very accessible, powerful poses to people who are of all shapes, sizes and abilities. It has been an amazing exploration.
Keep trying. Maybe shift the time of day that you practise. Try a new style or teacher. There is a tremendous range of poses and styles. Don’t get discouraged.
This article was first published in April 2021.
Need to know
Dr Indu Subramanian is a movement disorder neurologist and director of a Veterans Affairs Parkinson’s Disease Research, Education and Clinical Centre in Los Angeles, US. Originally from Canada, Subramanian completed her fellowship training in Movement Disorders at the UCLA School of Medicine, US. She is drawn to integrative treatment for Parkinson’s disease, with a special interest in mind-body approaches and alternative systems of healthcare. Mother to three boys, she enjoys yoga, photography, world travel and jazz.
How one father’s Parkinson’s disease inspired a virtual art programme
Manju Bangalore tells us about Painting With Parkinson’s
4 days ago
Investigational Parkinson’s disease dementia therapy fails in clinical trial
Research into new potential therapies for people with Parkinson’s is complex, which means that not all clinical trials will successfully move on to the next phase. This proved to be the case for US biotech company Aptinyx, which announced that it will halt further development work on an investigational therapy following “disappointing” results in the second phase of its study. The research had set out to examine the effect of NYX-458 – an oral therapy created to modulate the activity of receptors in the brain that are responsible for communication between neurons. The aim of the therapy was to improve cognition in people with cognitive impairment linked to Parkinson’s or Lewy body dementia. Yet, when compared to a placebo, the therapy didn’t demonstrate “meaningful improvements” in cognitive function. Dr Andy Kidd, president and CEO at Aptinyx, said: “We are very disappointed that the results of this Phase 2 study did…
A new intimacy guide aims to support people with Parkinson’s disease in the US
Does sexual wellness in the Parkinson’s community need more focus? It’s an area that the American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA) and media brand Havas Health Plus have targeted through the launch of a free intimacy guide. Available to people in the US, ‘The ParkinSex Booklet & Kit’ aims to support those whose relationships may have been impacted by emotional and physical distance linked to the condition. Alongside an educational guide, the kit includes items such as candles, coupons for adaptative clothing and massage stones. Following a positive response to an initial pilot distribution of the guides in the US, there is now a waitlist for future kits. Commenting on the launch in a press release, APDA president and CEO Leslie Chambers said: “The challenges of Parkinson’s can often result in intimacy and connection getting left behind. This is why we created ‘The ParkinSex Booklet & Kit’, to help people with…
How prevalent are non-visual hallucinations in Parkinson’s disease?
Some people in the later stages of Parkinson’s can experience hallucinations – “when you see, hear or feel things that aren’t there”. With most research into this topic centred on visual hallucinations, a team in Australia set out to investigate data around non-visual hallucinations in people with the condition. Published in the ‘Journal of Neurology’, the analysis drew on 91 relevant studies released between 1970 and 2022. The team found that visual hallucinations appeared to be most common, with an expected prevalence of up to 96.6%. Meanwhile, non-visual hallucinations – including auditory (relating to the sense of hearing) and olfactory (relating to the sense of smell) – had an estimated prevalence of up to 73.3%. Concluding that non-visual hallucinations may “impact a notable proportion” of people with the condition, the team said: “More direct research and clinical attention need to be devoted to the study and management of such hallucinatory…