Living with Parkinson’s

May 2, 2011

Yes, Now

I talked recently with a friend who also lives with PD. We’d touched on travel, parenting, work — the variety of topics that one often covers over coffee or lunch with a confidante. Interestingly, there was a common theme threading through the different thoughts, ideas,  plans. We kept coming back to now. “I’m able to at the moment,” she said about a dance program she teaches. “Because I can,” I  added about a bike trip I’d be taking in Virginia. Knowing that this disease doesn’t get better  has heightened our awareness that now is all we have.  I’ve heard others with chronic conditions express it, too, this sense of immediacy. If now is good, then there’s no time like the present to move ahead with our thoughts, plans, ideas. So yogic, this living in the now. I’ve been wondering, though, is there more? This poem answers my question Yes, now, […]
May 7, 2011

Objects May Appear Closer Than They Are

There I was driving home from yoga, my windows open to birdsong and warm breezes. I was happy to slow to the 20 mph school speed limit and roll along taking in spring. So yogic, so in-the-moment. Or so I thought. I began noticing the Magnolias and smiled at their pink saucer petals. I blinked past the glow of Forsythias, breathed in the sweet scent of crab apple blossoms, marveled at the play of sunlight on so many shades of green. I glanced in my rear-view mirror and, poof, the moment vaporized. Following me — on my tail,  actually — was a hearse. Oh man, how cliche can that be? While I’m enjoying life, death is creeping up behind me.  I sped up a tad. Checked. Still there, still too close. I tightened my grip on the steering wheel. My eyes flicked toward the mirror once more, twice. It had come closer. […]
May 11, 2011

Parkinson’s in Translation

In a recent issue of Good Housekeeping, Michael J. Fox answers an interview question about the challenges of living with Parkinson's. He responds that one of the most awkward aspects is that people don't know what to say.Perhaps they don't quite know how to say it.
May 16, 2011

Thread the Needle Pose Modifications

Thread the Needle pose releases tension in the shoulders and neck, opens up the scapular muscles and rotates the vertebrae in the upper back. These are key areas to target in people with Parkinson’s. They are also common areas of rigidity in others with restricted movement. And when the neck and shoulders are tense, it can be difficult to relax elsewhere and  can even trigger tension further down the spine. The traditional expression of the pose, however, may not be a good match for someone with a movement disorder. Getting down to the mat to start in table position, for example, can be a challenge for some. In addition,  balance becomes precarious after releasing one hand from the mat. Modified, this pose offers the benefits of the full pose but from a more stable base position. Standing Variation This first variation to Thread the Needle pose begins in a Tadasana, […]
May 26, 2011

Step Back

Whether jogging or practicing yoga, activities that ramp up the heart rate, strengthen, stretch and get us moving hold numerous benefits. Studies support that exercise can increase stamina, enhance balance, lessen symptom severity in chronic conditions such as Parkinson’s, help with sleep issues and so much more. But what are we supposed to do when when the meds don’t kick in at the same time we’re kicking up our sneakers? At the gym last week, I faced this very situation. Headphones on, I tuned in to my quick-beat play list and pressed Quick Start on the elliptical machine. Within minutes, my meds waned and the recent dose hadn’t seeped into my gray matter yet. My legs slowed. I listened as the drumbeat sped on without me. The options were to wait it out on a bench or in continue at half-speed. The day’s schedule had no extra time in it. […]
June 4, 2011

Yoga for Parkinson’s: The Optimistic Warrior

One of three main yogic warriors, Virabhadrasana II holds a special place in the heart of my practice. This pose builds core strength and enhances balance, a benefit to many bodies, especially those with PD, dystonia or recovering from stroke. More powerful, though, than what this pose offers physically is its manifestation of something deeper, something that grows from the heart:  hope. The Pose We begin by pressing down evenly into where we’re grounded on the mat or chair. As the upper body moves into warrior II, one arm stretches back, the other extends in front. An important element of the pose, even when making modifications, is to maintain balance between the opposing reaches. Behind us, our fingertips nearly touch the past, but we don’t tilt into it. At the same time, we’re pointing toward the future, without leaning toward it. Our body remains centered between what was and what […]
June 30, 2011

This Isn’t Helping: Yoga for Movement Disorders

You’ve read that yoga is beneficial. Even though you can’t see yourself folding into a pretzel. Even if you’re like many who don’t move with ease and think, I can’t do yoga. Imagine that you search for yoga and Parkinson’s or yoga and movement disorders. Site listings pop up. Perhaps you think that maybe, just maybe you can. You click on one of the number of sites that bring you to yoga for movement disorders. If you click on one of the first few, an image appears on your screen. The beach. Yoga for movement disorders is taking place on the beach. If a picture paints a thousand words, this image paints the same five words 200 times: See, I can’t do yoga. See, I can’t do yoga. See . . . Setting Yoga for movement disorders begins with the breath. As it moves into asana practice, second to the breath […]
July 3, 2011

Living with Parkinson’s: A Moving Experience

Sometimes, we meet individuals who change us, help us grow more into ourselves. They exude courage, acceptance,  love. These qualities permeate the space between us until we, too, become more courageous, accepting, loving. I spent a full weekend surrounded by more than 40 of these very people. At the first, APDA-sponsored Parkinson’s Disease Arts & Movement Weekend, we gathered not to mourn our losses living with a degenerative disease but to celebrate the abundance of all we have, all we can do, all that we are. Together, we danced, sang, moved through yoga and Tai Chi. We learned to shift perspective of our world to that of a photographer’s eye and to create,  express, and simply play with paint and color. We became, not people with PD, but dancers, yogis,  artists. Courage If courage means letting go of the familiar, courage checked in to the PD Arts & Movement Weekend with […]
July 7, 2011

Gratitude List Continues

Coleslaw Mockingbirds Cloud reflections in still water The poems of Mary Oliver Watching thunderstorms pass from the front porch swing Painting with my sister Fireflies Pink toenail polish When a hummingbird, hovering at the red feeder, dipping its beak in while its wings are a-flutter, decides to rest on the perch and sip.
July 13, 2011

Alabama Slammer

I live with Parkinson’s — with its challenges — every day, every hour. Wisdom from a variety of commencement speakers, excerpted in the July 15 issue of The Week offers support to transforming life’s troubles for graduates, for those with diagnoses, for a nation. Toni Morrison encourages looking beyond the pursuit of happiness to that of meaningfulness. Samantha Power suggests being fully present. Jonathan Franzen talks of real love. Such yogic advice. Especially since living with one life challenge doesn’t grant me a Get Out of Jail Free card for other ailments. Colds happen. Sprains and bug bites and headaches, too. I turn to yoga. But, I also carry a little white card in my wallet. It lists my doctors and the medications I take. If I’m in a car accident or get knocked unconscious by an overzealous sports fan, my neurologist can be alerted and the hospital can be […]