Yoga helps manage a motor neuron disease
CHENNAI: IIn a well-lit air-conditioned hall in Anna Nagar, a group of elderly gentlemen are going through what looks like different yoga postures and breathing exercises, each one of them being attended to by a therapist. In one corner of the room, a senior citizen in a chair is coached through a series of breathing exercises, while at the other end, another gentleman combines breathing exercises with slow movements of his arm — both are being monitored by their therapists. Their movements are characteristically slow, but they seem enthusiastic about following their therapists’ instructions.
This is not a normal yoga session but a special weekly yoga therapy project implemented by Parivarthan for Parkinson’s, a community initiative that aims to help people with Parkinson’s disease interact with other patients. Over the past year, Parivarthan has been organising regular weekly yoga sessions for its members along with Yogavahini, a teaching group based in Besant Nagar.
“What sets apart this type of yoga therapy is that all exercises are tailor-made for each participant,” says Sudha Meiyappan, founder, Parivarthan for Parkinson’s. “Each member has a therapist for the duration of the therapy session. The therapist also has the entire medical history of the patient so that the exercises can be exclusively tailored towards him/her.”
Lakshmy, a therapist with Yogavahini, says, “Yoga therapy is not curative, it can only be supportive. Most people are concerned about the side-effects of normal allopathic medicines and hence turn to yoga. Controlled breathing can relieve stiffness and also prevent depression. It can also help prevent the onset of dementia which in the long-run affects a lot of people,” she explains.
T S Sankaranarayanan (74), a retired electrical engineer, who continues to work as a consultant and has been part of Parivarthan’s pilot project 22 months ago, says, “I initially developed symptoms and tremors in my hands and was diagnosed with early Parkinson’s about 36 months back. Fearing side effects from Allopathic medicines, I initially tried yoga at a local yoga centre, but it did not prove sufficient, after which I turned to Ayurveda. But I experienced weight loss (whether it was due to the Ayurveda or the disease itself is not clear) and I had stop Ayurveda and go back to basic Allopathy.”
He says he got to know of Parivarthan’s yoga therapy sessions through the Anna Nagar Times. “After joining this group, my symptoms haven’t aggravated. My weight is stabilised. Through basic allopathic Medicines, regular yoga practice, active living and dietary control, am able to manage the disease,” he explains.
He also adds that apart from the therapy, it is also good to talk to other people who suffer from Parkinson’s. “They say sharing is caring, so it feels good to share and talk to other group members. In fact, it is with another patient here that I often share information on medicines,” he says.
Other participants in the therapy session have joined after trying out many alternatives, and still continue with them, says Arumugam, who has been attending the sessions for the last two months. “I am also a diabetic apart from being affected by Parkinson’s. In addition to medicines, I also undergo oil-massage treatment. These sessions have also been very useful in managing my symptoms,” he adds.
S Ganeshan, another participant, recounts, “My hands used to shake so much that I could not even sign my name. I also experienced loss of balance when I was at work and memory loss. After joining Parivarthan, they have abated to an extent where I can ride a two-wheeler. I also feel very young, because there are members who cannot even walk,” he says. “I practice yoga daily for at least 30 minutes and walk at least 2 km per day.”
For Sudha, the main aim of Parivarthan and the yoga sessions is for patients to talk to each other. “They say sharing is caring. As soon as members began sharing their problems, there is a change in their mood and overall behaviour. Also, we try to organise talks by specialists and conduct occupational therapy. But the main push is to increase social interaction, which seems to increase dopamine levels in the brain, just like we feel good after doing physical exercise,” she points out.
(For details, call Parivarthan for Parkinson’s at 9381035979)