Lighten up: Specific postural instructions affect axial rigidity and step initiation in patients with Parkinson's disease

Rajal G. Cohen, Victor S. Gurfinkel, Elizabeth Kwak, Amelia C. Warden, Fay B. Horak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Background. Parkinson's disease (PD) is associated with stooped postural alignment, increased postural sway, and reduced mobility. The Alexander Technique (AT) is a mindfulness-based approach to improving posture and mobility by reducing muscular interference while maintaining upward intentions. Evidence suggests that AT can reduce disability associated with PD, but a mechanism for this effect has not yet been established. Objective. We investigated whether AT-based instructions reduce axial rigidity and increase upright postural alignment, and whether these instructions have different effects on postural alignment, axial rigidity, postural sway, and mobility than effort-based instructions regarding posture. Method. Twenty subjects with PD practiced 2 sets of instructions and then attempted to implement both approaches (as well as a relaxed control condition) during quiet standing and step initiation. The "Lighten Up" instructions relied on AT principles of reducing excess tension while encouraging length. The "Pull Up" instructions relied on popular concepts of effortful posture correction. We measured kinematics, resistance to axial rotation, and ground reaction forces. Results. Both sets of experimental instructions led to increases in upright postural alignment relative to the control condition. Only the Lighten Up instructions led to reduced postural sway, reduced axial postural tone, greater modifiability of tone, and a smoother center of pressure trajectory during step initiation, possibly indicating greater movement efficiency. Conclusion. Mindful movement approaches such as AT may benefit balance and mobility in subjects with PD by acutely facilitating increased upright postural alignment while decreasing rigidity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)878-888
Number of pages11
JournalNeurorehabilitation and Neural Repair
Issue number9
StatePublished - Oct 29 2015


  • Alexander Technique
  • Parkinson's disease
  • gait initiation
  • mindfulness
  • postural alignment
  • postural sway
  • rigidity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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