Living with Parkinson’s

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 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 […]
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.
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
August 8, 2012

Gratitude Additions

I fell asleep before making my nightly gratitude list. For that, I am thankful. (The sleep part, not the missed list part.) Recalling three of the day’s aaah moments — which is what my gratitude list consists of — is a pleasant few minutes at day’s end. The quick drop into restfulness, however, was a pleasant surprise. A good night’s sleep, so rare among Parkinson’s patients, carries many reasons to be thankful. Symptoms lessen, meds work better, mid-day fatigue disappears. I decided that if I made the list before getting out of bed in the morning, it would still count. Item number one: the extra shut-eye. Next: it’s peach season.  ‘Nough said.  Third came when the fog lifted. Literally.  While on vacation,  the  bike path I’d been riding the day before turned damp and gray. But the view had been there all along. As the weather cleared, the beauty emerged. […]
August 21, 2012

I Dis-Agree

When disease gets defined by playing on the two parts of the word — dis and ease — I cringe.  A word nerd, myself, I often enjoy the nuance of language. But dis-ease feels forced, the meaning stretched to fit into an attitude. Dis-ease implies that the facility with which the body moves and operates lies waiting for us to diss the dis part and get back to a healthy state of being.  As though we have all the control.  As though it was likely our stressful existence that placed the dis- in front of our ease in the first place. This may hold some truth in relation high blood pressure or forms of insomnia. To apply this to all sickness, chronic conditions,  life-threatening illnesses is dis-comforting. Not only does it label a person as being out of whack, it implies that consuming fewer donuts and practicing some balance poses will put everything back in order. Explain […]
October 31, 2012

Family Cobra

The New York Times Sunday Magazine cover story features an entire family yoga-ing together. I’m usually a word nerd, reading and digesting the write-up and glancing at supporting graphics. The accompanying glossy picture, however, spoke volumes more to me than the article itself. In it, four siblings and their parents are in dfferent yoga poses, each pose a unique combination of bend and reach. But the image is not one of a collection of internally focused individuals. The photographer captured what unifies them: the synchronicity of that focus. The children aren’t adjusting or re-angling or falling out of position — in the yogic sense nor in the literal sense. Ditto with the parents, who aren’t trying to maintain balance. They’re all fully there, in the same space. Holy cow (pose), when does that happen in a family? No one is waiting for someone else to finish in the bathroom. No […]
July 16, 2013

Kid’s Yoga

It’s not really yoga, but it is an example of opening up to how one can, as B. K. S. Iyengar says, endure what we cannot cure:  NEW! For Kids: “A Treasure Hunt for Mama and Me is an excellent example of offering ways a child can work to adapt to and accept a parent’s chronic or serious illness.” – Midwest Book Review   “For families coping with parental illness such as Parkinson’s, this is a very enjoyable and helpful read.” – Cathi Thomas, MS, RN Small Horizons (an imprint of New Horizons Press) Ages 5 up $9.95               Available at your local bookstore or on Amazon