Grapefruit Yoga

halfdogs2During class one morning, a woman asked if I could define yoga in one word. I considered the array of descriptions, musings and translations. After a deep breath, I answered, “Awareness.”

The word-nerd in me smiled at the perfect match I’d made: Awareness. It’s recognizing the moment for what it is. It’s focusing on how we move. It’s aligning mind and body.

I was so satisfied with my response that I shared it with other classes, interspersing Awareness tidbits between poses. “Bring attention to the moment,” and “Witness each bend and reach,” plus “Notice the ‘aha’ moments.” So much we can do with awareness!

Early one day, my phone chirped its appointment-reminder tone. I checked it, checked the time and rushed to find footwear and brush my teeth. I didn’t remember making an 8:00 a.m. doctor appointment for that day, but that’s what had blinked at me from my screen.

I finished with the toothbrush and reached lip balm. Mid-swipe across my top lip, I paused. The doctor’s office didn’t open until 8:30. It dawned on me that I had tapped the wrong time (and day) into my calendar. At the same time, I started to realize that something tasted odd. I held out the lip balm and read the print. Grapefruit flavor. Really? How could I have possibly purchased grapefruit for my lips? What was I thinking?

Apparently I hadn’t been thinking. Ditto when I entered and saved 8:00 a.m. on my schedule (no right-thinking person with PD schedules anything before 10). So much for doing well with my awareness – I seemed to have rolled it up with my yoga mat.

In my next class, I decided to describe yoga using another word: Practice. Awareness, like yoga, isn’t something we do, it’s something we practice.

 

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Let Music Move You

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Move to the music during yoga

Tony Bennett belting out a ballad? Bonnie Raitt being bluesy? During a yoga class?

Yes, yes, and yes.

The music wafting through the keyhole during one of my classes isn’t what one expects to hear from a yoga studio. Read more

 

 

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I’m Back with a Twist

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Standing twist with chair and wall props

Life happens. Still, I practice yoga.

With a teenager in the house (translated: grocery shopping and parenting have shifted to overdrive, much like his hormones), speaking engagements, and an upcoming move to the other coast, I need to practice yoga. Add that my Parkinson’s clocks in at a full decade, it’s no surprise that life has interrupted my writing and posting about yoga practice.

The shift in my practice reflects the changes in my symptoms, (which includes less “on” time). During the increasing “off” times, I turn to yoga. I’ve learned a great deal about how the body moves, adjusts, compensates, peters out. I’ve added modifications in classes, slowing not in approach but in this awareness. I talk it through to students, wondering at times if I’m talking too much.

The answer came last week after a wordy explanation of a twist. The synergy in lengthening and contracting seemed an important piece to include in the description. How better hone in on what’ s happening in the movement than to isolate which muscles are working, which are slacking off, which step in and compensate?

I paused. In the still of the room, I feared I’d lost the class to a nap.

“You know,” one woman said from her mat. “I’m seventy-five. No one has ever explained that.”

Yoga happens. I need to practice writing about it again.

 

 

Posted in Living with Parkinson's, meds on and off, parkinsons and yoga, yoga, yoga and parkinsons, Yoga and Stroke, yoga pose modifications | 2 Comments

Yoga and Parkinson’s

Thank you to Helaine of the Parkinson’s Unity Walk for the honor of posting a guest blog. The motto for the Parkinson’s Unity Walk is ‘Make Every Step Count.’  I might add ‘Make Every Breath Count':

Click to view blog post on Unity Walk site:  Yoga and Parkinson’s

Posted in Living with Parkinson's, living with parkinsons, meds on and off, movement disorders, parkinsons and yoga, yoga, yoga and parkinsons, yoga pose modifications, yoga teacher training | 1 Comment

Snowga

snowga2It’s snowing.

If I noted this in late December, my voice would lilt out ‘snowing,’ like birdsong. The words might even be prefaced by a “Look” or an “Ooh.” Evergreens dusted in white embody the postcard view of holiday time in New England.

Were it mid-January,  ‘snowing’ would come out as a question. How many inches? Will school be closed? Can we go sledding? A warm weather fan, I admit I shift my stance a bit and suit-up. Nothing quite matches playing in fresh, puffy snow.

Come March, the weight of  ‘snowing’ is as wet and heavy as a clump sliding off the roof. No more white stuff. I’m done with shoveling. Uncle.

From one standpoint, it’s simply cold precipitation. From another, when will spring arrive? Yoga suggests we not only welcome the differing viewpoints, we step back and notice them for what they are: viewpoints. Rather than get caught up in the emotional response to a situation — be it the weather or something more personal — yoga has us step back and witness what’s going on. Notice the slant of our perspective. Shift it and see how our attitude shifts. We can’t control the weather, but we do have control over how we respond to the snow.

Kevin Norton, a fellow yogi living with Parkinson’s, shared this poem with me. I share it here because his words float on the page so beautifully.

Where we are in the storm
by Kevin Norton

I wish I could bring the “good” me to this poem.

Not this stranger, this wanderer.

This man who makes no plans.

I wish I could travel this poem free, not feeling

as if I were falling through myself, spinning and whirling.

Where no hand can catch me, help me, hold me.

I do not remember coming to this place of no bridges

and no maps.

I cannot say that I do not wish to be some beast, in a great

herd of beasts, waiting for the call to come home.

To have one or two needs.

The warm comfort of oblivion.

And now I know that the difference between being

“lost” or “found” depends entirely

on where you are in the storm.

 

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Nightly News

nightDuring my childhood, the Chanel 7 news opened with the same line every night: “It’s eleven o’clock. Do you know where your children are?” When I couldn’t sleep, those words wafted into my room from downstairs where my father watched local and then national coverage.  I remember I’d squeeze my eyes tight and hug my Raggedy Ann close. I didn’t want to hear sad and tragic stories as I lay in the dark. Besides, it was so late, I’d thought. I should be asleep.

At the same time, I could settle in beneath the blankets. Not only did my parents know exactly where I was, the awareness that other people also weren’t asleep comforted me.

With Parkinson’s, my wakeful hours have shifted to that window between 4:00 and 6:00 am, when it is no longer night but still too early to be day. Not sleeping during those nondescript hours can sometimes make me want to squeeze my eyes tight to block out the loneliness. Everyone in the rest of the house – probably the rest of the planet – is nestled in a bed dreaming.

But when I let go of the should from childhood – the I should be asleep – I become much more aware and alert. During that other-people-are-sleeping time, I have been the witness to exquisite full moons, listened in on what seemed a conversation between a pair of barred owls, painted, practiced yoga. And, yes, sometimes cried.

Rather than descend into that sorrowful, solo, Eugene O’Neill-like state of A Long Night’s Journey into Day, I’ve taken solace as when I was growing up. It comforts me to know that many of us spend part of the night observing, creating, listening and simply being.

Considering that PD robs us of various abilities, it is that much more important to celebrate our ability to let go of the should. Ann has done so. She emailed me this poem she wrote while others slept:

WORDS  by Ann Crotty
Words  
       elusive
          scattered within my heart
    within  waiting to be born 
    waiting to see what life
    is like accompanied by the Disease that is now
    your companion.  A companion known by thousands
    of others who walk along the same road

If you have musings, a story, poem or thought to share, please do. I’ll post them for other’s to enjoy in the waking hours between the nightly news and dawn.

 

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Yoga, Parkinson’s and a Pair of Pink Gloves

box1Despite my attempt at a yogic, peaceful approach to life, there are moments when I simply want to haul off and hit something. Hard. Maybe even several times.

Yoga helps. But so does boxing. Whether I’m waiting for a dose of meds to kick in, fumbling to zip up a jacket or passing on the scrambled eggs because the protein will interfere with the next dose of meds, the argh moments of life with Parkinson’s disease build up throughout the day. It’s incredible how the frustration dissipates when I take it out on a punching bag.

Studies show that exercise is beneficial to PD. “Forced” and challenging workouts such as boxing can be even more helpful. According to the Cleveland Clinic, activities such as boxing ease symptoms and are neuroprotective. Besides the tension release and fitness factor, there’s another bonus. Boxing is actually fun. Seriously, try on a pair of boxibox2ng gloves and see if you don’t want to take a swing at the bag. Add a coach, some funky music, and a go-for-it attitude and fun permeates the gym.

Rock Steady Boxing, the first gym in the country dedicated to the fight against PD, focuses on the fun while improving strength, speed, range of motion, rhythm, and gait through a boxing regimen specifically for people living with PD. Located in Indianapolis, Rock Steady Boxing offers regular classes as well as training camps for coaches, therapists and personal trainers who want to learn from them and then return home to offer boxing in their areas.

Al Latulippe and Greg Geheb attended the Rock Steady program. Al is a personal trainer from Methuen who works with Greg several times a week helping to ease his PD symptoms.

Greg says that boxing has been “life changing for my fight against PD. My neurologist has said he can just see how much better I look and move. My movements are much more fluid, smooth and my gait is better. I feel better, I have more energy, I have lost weight, I don’t nap as much if at all and it has done wonders for my mental health.”

Greg sums up his Rock Steady boxing method experience this way: “It gives me hope.”

“We are giving the tools and motivation for people with PD to fight back,” Al says. “This is the fight of their life.”

Recently, Al and Greg shared the boxing tools of hope they learned with me. We sweat, we sang, we hit stuff. We hit some more. Add some laugher, a few grunts, and a one or two unexpected successes (I do have rhythm!) and the time flew past.

The rest of the afternoon I felt strong and steady, and surprisingly at peace.

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Greg (l) and Al (r) with me in the gym. Thanks guys – what fun!

Al Latulippe is eager to work with others interested in learning more about boxing. “We are trying to spread the word to as many people as possible to give a fighting chance.” For more information, click here: APDA/MA Chapter blog

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MJFox Show Post-Miere Hit

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That’s me, between Matt & Alison on my left and Bruce and Karla on my right

Thanks to all for the fun and support at the MJFox Post-miere party! Though we gathered two days following the airing of the new TV series, the Saturday afternoon time made it easier for people to come and celebrate. The Thursday time was late (after 8:30! meds wane!) and it was on a school night (after 8;30! my eleven-year-old whines!)  Special thanks to Matt and Alison of Brassiere 28, of Andover, MA, for hosting on a weekend.

While people gathered to watch, laugh and share stories, the front room of the restaurant glowed from both the sun streaming in and from the spirit within. As a special treat, Bruce Cook, MD, announced that he’d asked Michael if he could phone us during the celebration (unfortunately, he was in a plane at the time of our event).  Dr. Cook is a neurosurgeon and Michael was his patient. Bruce and his wife, Karla, shared a few stories and everyone seemed somehow connected to and aware of Parkinson’s and its impact on daily life.

From the (yoga) students to the (art and boxing) teachers who were there in body and in spirit, thank you. I learn so much from all of you. And it is because of you that, before I headed north to the WPC in Montreal, I was able to forward your donations of more than $700 to the Michael J. Fox Foundation. You’re all a big hit.

 

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See You in Montreal (WPC Renewal Room for Yoga)

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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:

treasure-hunt-xl 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

Posted in cancer and yoga, gentle yoga cancer, gratitude, Living with Parkinson's, living with parkinsons, parkinsons and yoga, yoga and cancer, yoga and parkinsons, Yoga and Stroke, yoga for cancer, yoga for kids | Leave a comment