Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Yoga Helps People with Parkinson's Regulars Take Part in Twice-Weekly Classes, Report Gains

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Yoga Helps People with Parkinson's Regulars Take Part in Twice-Weekly Classes, Report Gains

Article excerpt

Wes Kerlin was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in February of last year. In September, he started practicing yoga.

Jack Springer uses a wheelchair and has been attending yoga classes for six months. Although his movements are subtle to an observer, Caron Springer said yoga has improved her husband's range of motion, "in his arms, for sure."

"I started in November and I'm able to walk better," said John Moore, who used to attend twice a week, "but I am also in a golf league. You've gotta keep going."

All three men are regulars at Sterling Yoga in Mt. Lebanon, where Sterling Painton holds two sessions a week exclusively for people with Parkinson's, a neurodegenerative disorder that affects about 1 million people in the United States.

She said her Parkinson's practitioners are among her most resolute, showing up in bad weather when younger, more flexible people make excuses for missing classes.

"I've had PD people in my classes since 2003 and started doing PD-only classes in 2006," she said. "These guys are inspiring. If they can push themselves, you can."

Every Tuesday and Thursday at 1:30 p.m., 10 to 15 people, some with walkers, enter her studio. Some have jittery legs and hand tremors, some are hunched. For her PD sessions, she sets up chairs for seated motions and to provide support for standing movements.

One recent session drew 12 people with Parkinson's.

She began leading them through a series of movements - bending at the hip, sliding their hands down their legs, stepping, making back-scrubbing motions and reaching, as if to put a box on a high shelf.

"This stretch is going to help your neck!" she called out, putting her own invisible box up high. "Stretch your side body!"

She assessed the group and went back to help Joe Domaracki on a move by pairing her back to his and stretching from the waist. As she worked the room, she joked, cajoled, praised and took people in her arms to help them move.

"Put your right leg forward, Jack!" she said to Mr. Springer, taking his shin and moving it. Then he moved it on his own.

"Good!" she said.

"Come up onto your toes, then press your heels down. Good job, Richard! …

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