Renee

July 25, 2012

Shame, Shame

At the risk of shameless self-promotion, I am shamelessly self-promoting the new, just-off-the-press, expanded book: Revised Edition of Yoga for Movement Disorders. When the first edition released in 2008, very few books — one by my count, and that covered exercise in general — existed on applying yoga practice to the specific needs of those of us with Parkinson’s, dystonia, the effects of a stroke. I struggled to find a guide for my practice that explained what to do to ease rigidity and move more fluidly. I searched for pointers for my teaching on how, when and why to modify poses. I wanted such a book so much so that I filled the void by writing and publishing one. In the time since the original was published, research supports the benefits of yoga for movement disorders. I’ve included reference to some of these studies. In addition, through certificate programs, work […]
July 15, 2012

Right, Left, Right

The game Twister often comes to mind when I guide a class through numerous ‘right’ ‘left’ cues. It can get befuddle the most able bodied. And while the goal of the game is to fluster and tumble, yoga is more about focus and balance. Recently, a wonderful yoga teacher asked about how to work around the right/left issue when it begins to distract rather than guide. She kindly told me that she found my response helpful. I share it here with best wishes that you, too, find some benefit in your practice or teaching. Thank you for your question. It’s a good one.  There can be proprioception concerns as well as disjointed messages from the brain to the limb (also common with stroke).   Cueing from ‘right’ and ‘left’ to something more descriptive can help. In addition to cueing, I’ll often sequence through a series of movements on one side then […]
June 16, 2012

Parkinson’s and Yoga: Read the Label

A life lesson I continue to learn from yoga is to be present, to be right here with the ease as well as the struggles. The breezy summer days of fluidity and balance – in Parkinson’s, the ‘on’ times – meld my thoughts with the moment. My mind, however, travels elsewhere, away from the bitterness of the icy mornings, the afternoons and evenings that are ‘off.’ When I’m on, my awareness flows as freely as my movement. Off is another story. I might be out at the gym, walking the dog, attending school events when my medication dose wanes. I resemble our pet tortoise: slow, awkward, and behind glass for all to see. When being out coincides with being off, I try to bring my attention to my breath, to the steps of each step. My focus, however, tends to toggle between the efforts of forward motion and a mental […]
May 14, 2012

Dystonia

Parkinson’s disease’s ‘ugly stepsister,’ Dystonia, casts her  effects on men and women throughout the world. Less understood and less common (one fortunate aspect of the condition) than Parkinson’s, those diagnosed with it may feel more alone. You are not. Rogers Hartmann combines resources, support, advocacy and humor for anyone touched by Dystonia. This recent post on her blog says it all: http://lifewithdystonia.blogspot.com/ If there’s a Cinderella side to these movement disorders, the slipper fits Rogers.
April 23, 2012

Parkinson’s Posture, Yoga Posture

April’s Parkinson’s Awareness Month brings out the word nerd in me. A crossword junkie, I savor words with multiple meanings. The bitter side, however, to more than one definition is that it can lead to misunderstanding, particularly in a yoga class. Posture (n) – the carriage of the body generally focused on the spine The term posture is a good example. A subtle shift in connotation occurs depending on context. The standard definition refers to an upright body position.  In yoga, it can be another word for pose, which can be upright, backwards, inverted, twisted, prone. In Parkinson’s, take the standard definition and subtract dopamine to equal the stooped, unsteady forward-lean when standing or walking. Posture (v) – to place oneself in a forced position Parkinson’s is a degenerative neurological condition that affects, among other things, balance and mobility. Medications and exercise can help. However, their effectiveness waxes and wanes.  A person with Parkinson’s may be at the […]
April 10, 2012

Teaching Yoga

 Teach: to instruct by example or experience It’s no coincidence to me that each of Webster’s definitions of teach leads with a verb that can also be found in the list of definitions for give: guide, cause, impart, provide, offer, administer, bestow The recent Yoga Teacher Training for Students with Parkinson’s reminded me once again of what a gift it is to work with yoga teachers. In the session last week, dedication, passion and a thirst for understanding filled the room, permeating the air. I recall that same sensation in one of the first workshops I attended as a new teacher. For an entire week, the program imparted so much that each inhale was as pleasant as breathing in the kitchen aromas of homemade soup and freshly baked bread.  The close of the seven days struck hard. Like stepping into a vast hallway, the shock hit not in the array […]
April 8, 2012

Rabbit Pose Modification

Asana practice involves focused awareness. The smiles and hellos that came from others also out on Easter kept me focused and aware during a woods walk. Sometimes yoga modifications happen off the mat.
March 17, 2012

Power Hungry

Topping my Gratitude List these days: Electricity. I wouldn’t be typing this without it. I certainly wouldn’t be typing at this hour (3:12 am) without it. Ultra aware of the nanosecond we lose power in a storm, I rarely appreciate the immediacy of light when I flip the switch, the ease of warm water streaming from the shower, the simplicity of a cup of hot tea. Tap the keyboard: internet. Turn a knob: music. Press a button: the garage door opens. Even my toothbrush plugs in. Do I need all these conveniences? Not likely. But living with Parkinson’s in this age of power makes me thankful that I’m not of an earlier time. PD carries with it enough challenges, imagine adding late night wanderings by candlelight or stoking the stove to boil water. My tremor triggers just thinking about constipation and outhouses. (Another listing under Gratitude: Indoor plumbing.) The yogi […]
March 5, 2012

The Art of Spring Cleaning

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” -Pablo Picasso If someone told me my Parkinson’s was all in my head, I just might agree. Because not only does the dopamine-producing mix-up/miscommunication/mishap reside there, so too does my 24/7 symptom awareness factor. For the first, I take meds. (I also exercise and stay positive. For the times when ‘positive’ can’t be found in my vocabulary, there are brownies. With ice cream.) For the second, life offers attractions that cut through the haze of perpetual mental check-ins, such as: When did I take my last dose of meds? Will I need to run any errands (or otherwise be required to function in public) during off times? If so, might I encounter someone who views me as walking like a drunk? More importantly, will there be a bathroom nearby? Does that bagel/sandwich/dinner entree have protein in it? Did I replenish […]
February 1, 2012

Roll the Dice

     Friends see us one morning at the gym cruising along on the treadmill. The next afternoon, they might witness us shuffling the aisles of the grocery store barely able to reach for the spaghetti sauce. The “You Look Great” comment morphs into no comment.      Is it possible to describe how days — hours — vary widely when living with Parkinson’s?      Consider making a comparison to a classic board game. The dice, like our meds — can determine so much. Who hasn’t wished for doubles to slip by landing on that hotel on Boardwalk?  But, just as passing Go holds no guarantee that we’ll collect our $200 again the next time around, simply getting through today with no “off” time is no sure sign that same will hold true for tomorrow.      On the good rolls, like on good days when symptoms wane, we […]