Yoga for People with Parkinson's Disease

As a practice for the body, mind, and spirit, yoga is an ideal activity for holistic care, and it can be a powerful complement to traditional treatment. Yoga promotes a philosophy that centers around transformation and provides tools and perspective for handling the circumstances of life. It is a practice that can adapt to fit beginners to advanced practitioners, and it has something to offer people with Parkinson’s disease at all stages and functional levels. Breath and mindfulness are the foundation of the practice of yoga.

Thursdays at 8 am – Higher Intensity Yoga
The practice of yoga can help people with Parkinson’s improve their mobility, strength, balance, mood, and sleep. This class is focused on the integration of body, mind, and spirit. Move with power and grace. Challenge balance and coordination. Filter mental chatter, and connect to inner wisdom. Each class includes mindful breathing, a variety of yoga postures, and relaxation. Although this is a higher intensity yoga class, the postures are taught at a steady pace with variations and modifications as needed. This class is taught by Jen Wilking, a physical therapist and yoga therapist.

Class is donation-based and sponsored by Parkinson Association of the Rockies.
This class is online using Zoom. Family and friends are welcome. Please email for more information.

What Participants Are Saying

“I began attending the Yoga for Parkinson’s class, taught by Jen Wilking, in late 2017. I have found yoga to be an important addition to my other martial arts training, as well as an excellent complement to my various other exercise activities. Changes which I have noticed (as well as some which have been commented upon by others) since I began the yoga training, include significant, notable improvements in balance, upper body strength as well as ankle strength, core strength, and overall flexibility. The class is constantly changing and challenging. I have formed friendships among fellow class members. Jen is an outstanding teacher. I have also experienced a decreased intensity of stress response – which is particularly noticeable in an improved overall sense of well-being and calmness. And yoga helps me maintain a centered approach to life in general, including physical, mental, emotional and spiritual components. Those are quite a few positives from a few hours weekly (class plus practice outside of class)!!  Yoga is a highlight of my weekly exercise regimen – its benefits are many and powerful.”

“This is my first venture into yoga and Jen’s background stands out in this class. I always look forward to her class as she presents a challenging and fun variety of yoga postures while keeping an expert eye on our technique. Thank you Jen for helping to keep me moving.”

“I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in January 2018. Started this class in February. This class has strengthened my muscles, balance and confidence. Many positions I felt I could not do, I have been able to with the help and support of Jen. Within a few months we were all holding planks for a minute.”

Plank
One of our regulars, ​on vacation in the Rocky Mountains, keeping up with his yoga practice.

PD Symptoms Addressed by the Practice of Yoga

  • respiratory function
  • sensory awareness & integration
  • slow movement (bradykinesia)
  • stiffness (rigidity)
  • cramping
  • strength/stability
  • ​weight shifting
  • base of support
  • center of gravity
  • stepping
  • ​​movement transitions
  • static & dynamic balance
  • posture
  • flexibility
  • pain
  • coordination
  • cardiovascular fitness
  • initiation
  • stress
  • fatigue
  • sleep disturbances
  • focus & concentration
  • energy level
  • community/social interaction

Principles of Neuroplasticity* Applied to Yoga Practice

  1. Use it or lose it
    Without regular activity, function can deteriorate. Consistent yoga practice stimulates motor & sensory pathways.
  2. Use it and improve it
    Sensory & motor performance improve with skilled training.
  3. Specificity
    Yoga must be creative and novel in order to promote new skill mastery. It should also address or prevent deficits.
  4. Repetition matters
    It is important to build repetition within each class and from class to class to promote lasting change.
  5. Intensity matters
    Challenge and effort are essential.
  6. Time matters
    The brain adapts in stages and over time. The earlier the practice is begun, the better.
  7. Salience matters
    It is imperative to understand and experience the purpose and the potential of yoga and mindfulness.
  8. Age matters
    The physical and mental challenges of yoga can bring more ease into aging.
  9. Transference
    Yoga posture choice and sequencing are most effective when similar to skills needed in life.
  10. Interference
    ​It is important to practice options or modifications that build to strength. Avoid compensations that do not require engagement.


*Kleim JA, Jones TA. Principles of experience-dependent neural plasticity: implications for rehabilitation after brain damage. J Speech Lang Hear Res. 2008 Feb;51(1):S225-239.