yoga and parkinsons

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 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 […]
July 18, 2011

Butterfly Pose Modification

What’s in a name? Baddha Konasana can be an intimidating pose, particularly to someone with a restricted range of motion in the hips and torso. Call it Bound Angle Pose and it can sound downright tortuous. By referring to it as Butterfly Pose, I notice a bit less tension in the room when I’m including it in a class. Butterflies flutter, dance through the air, laze about perched on flowers. Butterfly pose can’t be that bad. And bad it’s not (unless you’ve a hip replacement or other injury that you’ll want to ask your doctor about before rotating the hip). This inner groin area gets especially tight in movement disorders. The result affects gait, balance, and tension in the lower back. Lengthening the adductors, or groin muscles, has a number of benefits. Besides improving gait and balance, this pose can help with sleep and depression. In this modification, we perch on a […]
August 28, 2011

Modifying Child’s Pose

One of the more restful of yoga positions, Balasana, or Child’s Pose, taps into an inner peacefulness. In Balasana, the spine elongates and the shoulder blades broaden, sending messages throughout the nervous system that relay an overall calming. I can recall a great number of times checking on my son when he was younger. There in his crib, he epitomized child’s pose. With bent knees supporting his upper body, his tailbone touched down between both heels, an arm stretched along each side, and he breathed that full, rhythmic breath of a sleeping child. Someone  with a movement disorder, however, may find this position not only challenging but counter productive. Bent knees can trigger involuntary dorsal flexion in the feet for someone recovering from a stroke. Pressure on the feet of a person living with Parkinson’s or dystonia can result in painful cramping in the toes or plantar area. That said, those […]
October 3, 2011

Yabba Dabba Yoga

Yoga, the violin, Fred Flintstone and PD, all in my guest blog at the American Parkinson Disease Association/Massachusetts Chapter site:  http://www.apdama.org/site2.0/blog.php