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Is an Online Yoga Class for Parkinson’s a Good Idea?

Renee Le Verrier - November 21, 2016 12:05 PM

When the Northwest Parkinson’s Foundation (NWPF) asked me to broadcast a yoga for Parkinson’s class via the web, I hesitated.

Yoga online? Does it qualify as teaching if I can’t see the individuals in class? Is it yoga if I’m on screen in the room rather than on a mat in the room?

I recall having similar doubts about e-books when they first became available. Novels online? Poetry from my phone? There’s no colorful cover to open, no flutter of turning pages. Ah, but also no need to lug a favorite hardcover onto the plane or wait for the library’s print version of a book club pick.

Being able to download an interesting best-seller hasn’t stopped me from reading stories. On the contrary, the option has introduced me to even more authors and works. Similarly, online yoga classes aren’t replacements but additions to traditional options.

How It Works

Each week, on Wednesday afternoons, I teach a class in my studio in front of a camera that transmits to a web site. Anyone can register with the NWPF to watch on their computer and join in on the class for free. The registration questions ask only for name and email address -  so they can send reminders or notices, such as a cancelled class or no-class holiday – and zip code so they can get a sense of the span of participants.

There are two ways to join the class. Watch live as I’m giving the class – Wednesdays, 1:30 – 2:15 pm PT. Or, the session is also recorded each week to watch again or, for anyone with schedule conflicts, view at a time that is more convenient.

Each 45-minute class focuses on areas particular to Parkinson's. Supports - chair, wall, cushion, block, blanket - aid balance and reduce the fear of falling. This clears the mind for opportunities to notice areas of strength. Classes include a mix of the following:

•    demonstration and step-by-step movements with variations (such as seated or standing)
•    cues on how, what and where to notice yoga's effects
•    relaxation techniques
•    tips to try
•    ways to apply yoga to everyday activities

Though I cannot see the students in my online class, I still connect with them. First, since the class is live, on-the-spot strategies for "off" times, dyskinesia and dystonia weave through each class as they’re occurring. In addition, viewers can type in a question, request or comment before, during and after class.

Who It’s For

Each class works at building strength, flexibility and balance and reducing muscle rigidity and the grip Parkinson's can haves on body as well as spirit. This online venue offers anyone new to yoga an opportunity to try it. Anyone familiar with it an opportunity to continue or add to their practice in the comfort and convenience of:

•    home
•    community center
•    group recreation time.

There’s nothing quite like the local corner bookstore or neighborhood yoga class. But, for many, there isn’t a studio or a teacher trained to teach yoga for Parkinson’s nearby. I’m delighted that I can reach people with Parkinson’s who:

•    prefer to practice at home
•    don’t have access to a teacher or studio in their area.

My approach includes seated and/or standing variations. I modify poses and adapt flows to target needs specific to the symptoms that impact us.  Mostly, I offer ways to bring awareness and balance to life with Parkinson’s. It’s online, and, yes, it’s yoga.

Renee Le Verrier is a certified yoga instructor who teaching has included classes at Massachusetts General Hospital's Parkinson's Partner Center, Whittier Rehabilitation Hospital's Neurology Day Program and a Parkinson’s Teacher Training Program. Renee specializes in creating adaptations and modifications for people living with movement disorders. Diagnosed with Parkinson's a decade ago and having survived a childhood stroke, Renee practices yoga to decrease rigidity and fatigue in body as well as increase flexibility and balance in body and in spirit. She is the author of the book Yoga for Movement Disorders and its Companion DVD. You can find more information about her work at LIM Yoga.

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