What does Yoga for Movement Disorders mean?

When approached mindfully – with the understanding of both yoga and movement disorders– it means:

  • ease in symptoms such as rigidity and fatigue
  • increase in strength, flexibility and balance
  • more upright posture and even gait.

These in turn affect quality of living by improving the ability to do certain tasks, lessening the fear of falling, increasing opportunities to socialize and interact.
When approached without an understanding of yoga and movement disorders, it means:

  • risk of injury
  • frustration
  • lack of success at matching yoga’s good to a population who can greatly benefit from it.


The word yoga, for many, conjures up a magazine cover image of a bendy twenty-something. If twenty-something occurred a long time ago or “bendy”  best describes a hospital straw, the natural response to yoga is a shuddering, “I can’t do that.”

Yoga, however, is a practice that involves breath control, simple meditation, and a system of physical poses. This mind/body combination promotes a healthful and relaxing approach to daily living.

Movement Disorders

The term movement disorders may not conjure up an image at all to someone unfamiliar with the term. Maybe what comes to mind is a standard associated with Parkinson’s of a hunched, slow-paced individual with a hand tremor. This depiction of someone with a movement disorder is as misrepresented as the bendy young body is for portraying yoga. Yoga can take many forms and isn’t simply that magazine cover. Ditto with a movement disorder – the saying is, If you’ve seen one person with Parkinson’s you’ve seen one person with Parkinson’s. There are multitudes of manifestations of symptoms.

Defined by the Mayo Clinic, the term refers to “a group of nervous system (neurological) conditions that cause you to have abnormal voluntary or involuntary movements, or slow, reduced movements.” Among these are dystonia, Huntington’s, Parkinson’s. The term can also refer to stroke symptoms and various other conditions that restrict movement.

Yoga for Parkinson’s and Movement Disorders

This healthful approach to daily living differs from more general yoga practice because it targets the breathing, meditative and physical needs specific to those whose brain chemistry restricts fluidity.

So, What Does That Mean?

For yoga instructors, it means that to best benefit your students with a movement disorder, you’ll need to understand what is going on in bodies affected by the condition

For yoga students, it means that to best benefit your condition, you’ll need to find a teacher who understands what is going on in your body.

Building strength, flexibility and balance requires a safe environment where the risk of a fall is minimal. This includes studio design modifications as well as pose adaptations. Movement is not simplified so much as synergized to maximize the benefit to a person recovering from a stroke or living with Parkinson.s.

Translated, it means plenty of benches or chairs, few to no throw rugs, an underlying knowledge of asana practice to best target the areas needing opening.

If you’re a student with a movement disorder, find out more about a teacher or class. They’re not all the same, they’re not all bendy cover model sessions. They’re also not all knowledgeable about what you need. Find one who is.

If you’re a teacher with a student with Parkinson’s, dystonia or other neurogical condition, increase your understanding. Find out more from APDA and the references listed in Other Resources. Show your students that you know that Yoga for Movement Disorders means yoga will benefit them.