On Saturday, I had the privilege of attending a program sponsored by the Mass Chapter of the American Parkinson Disease Association. This was a training class for yoga teachers who may have students with Parkinson's Disease. I thought this would be a great opportunity for me to educate myself about this particular disease - as well as to learn about some strategies for modifying my yoga class to help guide students who may have this or other movement disorders.
The training began with a yoga practice led by Renee LeVerrier, RYT, and author of Yoga for Movement Disorders. We began the class with some breathing exercises and Renee later explained that she spends a lot of time in her classes "cueing" and "counting" so that movement is coordinated with the breath. We "warmed-up" and proceeded to several seated poses for stretching. The standing segment included a lot of movement with music. In a pose called "willow" you begin by standing and then twisting from side to side keeping your arms loose by your sides. You are shifting your weight from left to right - when moving to the right, you lift your left heel off the ground - and then do the same on the opposite side. You could have a lot of fun with this pose by varying your arm and hand movements.
In Renee's classes, relaxation is a treat not to be missed! She says that she uses every prop available which would include pillows for your head, eye pillows, blankets, bolsters, you name it! Having attended one of her classes, I can attest to the fact that I was comfy, cozy in a "nest" of blankets and utterly relaxed.
After the yoga practice, we were given an overview of Parkinson's Disease by Cathi Thomas, MS, RN. She had an excellent slide presentation called "Sharing Hope in Parkinson's Disease". She also emphasized that patients have found yoga quite helpful in improving their quality of life. Tami DeAngelis, PT, MSPT, GCS, outlined the links between physical therapy, yoga and activities of daily living for those with the disease. Tami also provided some practical considerations for teachers. Consider the time of day when classes are scheduled. Early in the day may be difficult. Students could be stiff and medications may not have taken effect yet. Try to involve care partners in the program.
Included in the training packet was a DVD title "Exercise Ideas for People Living with Parkinson's Disease. This DVD featured a 77 year old, Bill Hillman, with the disease. Mr. Hillman devised a personal exercise program using items commonly found at home. We also received a book called Be Active which is an exercise manual put out by the American Parkinson Disease Association and a book titled Parkinson's Disease and the Art of Moving by John Argue.
This was a wonderful seminar!