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  • Writer's pictureEngage PT, OT, SLP Therapy and Wellness

Functional Improvements in Parkinson’s Disease Following a Randomized Trial of Yoga

Updated: Nov 20, 2021

Yoga is becoming a popular form of exercise in the United States. A 2018 survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows the number of Americans practicing yoga is on the rise. According to the report, the use of yoga increased from 9.5 percent in 2012 to 14.3 percent in 2017. Results reveal that yoga was the most popular complementary health practice in 2017 with more than 35 million people taking part.

Research shows the yoga provides many health benefits including: pain relief, better sleep, improved mood, stress management, and building strength and flexibility.

But what’s the evidence for the benefit of yoga practice for people with PD?

According to a 2018 study published in Evidence-Based and Complementary Alternative Medicine, 15 people with PD who engaged in an 8 week (Hatha) yoga intervention demonstrated strong improvements in balance, gait, and freezing of gait compared to those in a wait list group.

The yoga classes were taught by a certified yoga therapist in a standardized progression twice per week for 8 weeks. The yoga intervention included modified yoga postures in sitting, standing, and supine positions as well as pranayama (breath work) and dhyana (meditation). All yoga sessions ended with approximately 10 minutes of relaxation (savasana).

Individuals who completed the yoga intervention demonstrated significant motor function improvements and a medium effect size on the UPDRS motor subscale while individuals in the wait list group did not show significant improvement. There were also level changes in the Hoehn and Yahr ratings among the participants. Overall, there was a substantial increase in the numbers of participants in Stage 1 over the 8 week period and notable reductions in Stage 2 and 3. In the wait-listed group, the number of participants in each stage remained mostly unchanged, potentially indicating that motor function and disease progression were improved in the yoga group but not the wait-listed group.

Collectively, the functional improvements in motor function, balance, gait, and freezing of gait suggest that this yoga intervention was successful in reducing fall risk in individuals with PD.

Interested in trying out yoga at home?

Click here for a PD focused yoga class with physical therapist and registered yoga teacher, Liz Yates-Horton DPT.

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