Yoga for Parkinson’s in Pandemic Times

If you can breathe, you can do yoga

Christiana Lewis, yoga instructor for People with Parkinson’s

There are many benefits to Yoga for People with Parkinson’s (PwPs), whether you are a just starting or have been practicing for years. I started my yoga practice about 12 years ago, before my diagnosis with Parkinson’s Disease. I give much credit to my yoga practice for helping me to minimize my PD symptoms.

5 benefits from a yoga practice

According to my Movement Disorders Specialist, who is also a certified yoga instructor, there are 5 primary benefits to practicing yoga for PwPs. I am listing them here, along with my commentary on each of them.

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Downward Dog

1. Stretching – helps to combat the stiffness that many PwP’s feel, making movement easier and increases your flexibility. If you are stiff when you wake up, do some of the stretching poses before you even get out of bed. It definitely helps.

2. Balance – many poses in yoga are balance poses. You will stand on one foot for a tree pose, then the other. You learn what you have to do to maintain that posture, even if for a few seconds. Look around you if you are in a class and you will see that others without PD have trouble with balance. You are not alone. This is the most important thing you can do to help prevent falls later.

Chaturanga Dandasana - Wikiwand
Chaturanga Dandasana

3. Social – if you go to a class (when the gyms re-open), you will find that there is a social aspect to yoga as you get to know other regulars in your class. It gets you out of the house and combats isolation.

4. Mood/Apathy – it doesn’t matter how I feel when I start the class. By the end of the class I feel so much better, mentally and physically. Maybe it is a dopamine rush or endorphin rush. It doesn’t matter which one it is, it works to elevate your mood and keep you going. In addition, it is a mindfulness practice. There are often guided meditations, breathing exercises and of course, the final pose, Shavasana, which is so relaxing.

Vriksasana - Wikipedia
Tree Pose

5. Cardio – I like Vinyasa Flow classes because you are continuously moving. The long holds of poses in other types of yoga don’t work for me because my tremor acts up. With flow classes, the breath is very important, affecting your autonomic systems. In addition, there are definitely cardio benefits as your heart rate rises with the constant movement. Another benefit of the movement is that shifting from pose to pose, such as going from a Down Dog to Chaturanga to Up dog is great resistance training – as you flow through the moves you are shifting your weight from your legs to your arms and back. If you are doing yoga at home, don’t watch the same yoga class over and over again because it becomes rote. Close your eyes or change some of the poses to challenge your mind.

I have been fortunate that I have been able to keep going to regular yoga classes and can keep up most of the time. Shortly after my diagnosis with PD, I met with a woman who specializes in yoga therapy for Parkinson’s. After working with me, she said something I will never forget: “Stay in regular yoga classes as long as you can. You can always modify your practice if things get difficult.”

If you have been practicing yoga, you will find that there are so many classes to choose from on-line through Zoom, you don’t have to wait until the gym re-opens. However, if you are new to yoga, you may want to take a few private classes in your home or online with a yoga instructor so that you can learn what to do properly, with supervision. The last thing you want to do is to hurt yourself because you don’t know what to do. There are also yoga classes specifically for people with Parkinson’s. These classes often offer chair yoga for those who cannot stand or have balance issues.

Shavasana – Corpse Pose – School of Yoga
Shavasana – my favorite pose of all!

A few weeks ago, yogi Christiana Lewis led Twitchy Women through a yoga practice on Zoom. Here is the recording from that day. Watch it and learn even more about how you can incorporate yoga into your exercise routine for Parkinson’s Disease.

Namaste

Going on a Road Trip with California Fires and Covid-19

Several weeks ago, Mr. Twitchy and I decided that we really needed to get out of Los Angeles for a few days. A change of scenery would do us both good. We scheduled a trip to Lake Tahoe for August, but had to postpone it because of the fires in Northern California. So we left yesterday, September 7, without checking with the hotel about the fires and air quality. We just needed to get out of the 100 degree heat and LA.

A long line at the bakery

We loaded up the car and started on our 7 1/2 hour road trip north. Fortunately there was little northbound traffic, although there were many more cars driving south back to LA after a holiday weekend. We drove straight to Bishop, which is a small city at the foot of the Sierra Mountains and the gateway to the Mammoth Ski Area where we used to take our kids every year. We stopped to get lunch at a well known Dutch bakery. It seemed like everyone else on the road had the same idea. But the long line to get in to the bakery moved quickly, we found pre-made sandwiches and were back on the road within 1/2 hour.

The hazy view from the road

Then we started to smell the smoke. And our eyes were burning. We could not see the fires, but the air was hazy everywhere from the smoke. We began to think that maybe we should have stayed home.

We finally reached our hotel in Incline Village (at the north end of Lake Tahoe) and then discovered the real effect of Covid-19 on travel. We were greeted at the entrance of a well known hotel by a bellman and were informed that there was no valet parking. Not a big deal for us. When we checked in we were told that there was no maid service unless we called for it. Reservations were necessary for breakfast, lunch and dinner at the main restaurant. You can eat indoors in Nevada, but the seating is reduced inside and outside. The pool is open, jacuzzis not. The spa is not open, but the casino is. We were in Nevada after all. And the gym was open. Yay!!! And they even have a lot of Peloton bikes in the gym. A small victory for us. Perhaps the thing that made the least sense is that the restaurant in the hotel that is usually open for breakfast and lunch is closed, but you could bring food in from the small grocery/deli in the hotel or from restaurants outside the hotel and eat there.

Mr. Twitchy at the beach at our hotel

Back to the fires. We wanted to rent bikes today, but the bike shop recommended waiting a day or two for better air quality. The temperature dropped dramatically from yesterday and it was quite windy, but air quality is still not great. At least the pool was open and there were people swimming, even though it was 55 outside. There was no one at the beach as you can see in the photo.

Tomorrow will be warmer and we are hoping that the rest of the week will be better. We got a lot of rest today while catching up on reading, watching the US Open Tennis tournament and making S’mores at a hotel firepit. We are looking forward to renting bikes tomorrow and getting on the bike trails along the lake.

Mr. Twitchy toasting marshmallows for S’mores

The bottom line is that traveling under the rules dictated by the Covid-19 Pandemic is not the same. Do not expect a luxury experience anywhere. The hotels are very limited in providing the services that you would normally expect. Many of the restaurants have limited seating and don’t expect much entertainment beyond watching movies in your room. Hopefully things will start to improve soon so that we can enjoy traveling once again.

We CAN end Parkinson’s Disease in the future

Parkinson’s Disease is not inevitable. Parkinson’s Disease is rather preventable.

Ray Dorsey MD
Open Hand Raised, Stop Parkinson's Disease (PD) Sign Painted,.. Stock  Photo, Picture And Royalty Free Image. Image 26035812.

Can we prevent Parkinson’s Disease in the future? Dr. Ray Dorsey, one of the co-authors of the book “Ending Parkinson’s Disease“, says that we can. On Sunday, August 23, Dr. Dorsey spoke to our Sunday Mornings with Twitchy Women group on Zoom. He said that the major premise of this important book is that Parkinson’s is a man-made disease, caused by exposure to chemicals, and it is preventable.

Parkinson’s was rarely seen before the Industrial Revolution began more than 200 years ago. Man-made chemicals and pollutants were spewed into the air from industry everywhere. In England, the air became so thick with noxious chemicals, it became know as the “London Fog.” It was at this time, in 1817 that Dr. James Parkinson wrote his groundbreaking paper on the “Shaking Palsy” after observing 6 men with tremors, a bent posture, an abnormal gait and a tendency to fall.

There are two main chemicals still in use today that contribute to a huge percentage of the people suffering with Parkinson’s. Paraquat and Trichloroethylene (TCE). Because of their continued use, the number of people with PD has doubled in the last 10 years and is expecting to double again in the next 20-25 years, reaching Pandemic proportions.

Beyond Pesticides Daily News Blog » Blog Archive Despite Damning Scientific  Evidence, EPA Dismisses Link Between Parkinson's and Exposure to the  Herbicide Paraquat - Beyond Pesticides Daily News Blog

So here’s the irony in all of this: Great Britain, which banned Paraquat several years ago, still manufactures it to sell to, you got it, the United States, which continues to postpone a ban on this toxic chemical. In fact, paraquat is the most used herbicide in the US, more than doubling in use in the last 10 years. Looking at maps of PD incidence you will see that it is much higher in farming communities. Unfortunately, traces of paraquat show up in the milk we drink, the food we eat, and our ground water, making it impossible to avoid exposure.

The second toxic chemical used in the United States is the solvent Trichloroethylene. TCE, introduced in the 1920’s, has been used to clean the silicon chips in the Silicon Valley, circuit boards, flushing rocket engines, cleaning carpets and at the dry cleaners. Although the use of TCE has declined, it is still found in many common household products today.

Call to Action

To make his point that we can reduce worldwide exposure to Paraquat and TCE, Dr. Dorsey told the stories of ordinary people, not the doctors or scientists, who pushed to eradicate HIV, Polio and Breast Cancer. He emphasized that today, we can do the same for Parkinson’s.

Twitchy Women CAN help end Parkinson’s for Future Generations

How? By making our voices heard, NOW. Not tomorrow, not next week or next year. NOW. We Twitchy Women cannot wait for others to make it happen. We can join forces with PD Avengers and others to create a worldwide grass roots movement to ban the use of these chemicals everywhere.

The good news is that the EPA ( Environmental Protection Agency) must make a decision on the future of Paraquat use in the US by October 2022. That is just over a year away. The bad news is that if the EPA doesn’t ban Paraquat now, it has up to 15 more years to review it again.

So your mission, is to contact EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler (wheeler.andrew@epa.gov) or call him at 202-564-4700, urging him to ban Paraquat in the US. Write to your congressperson asking him/her to do the same. We need to flood their emails and phones with our message. The more people they hear from, the stronger our voices become.

If you live in the U.S. write a letter to your congress person to support the bill that bans Paraquat.

If you live in another country that still allows the use of Paraquat and TCE, look for similar agencies to contact at home, and urge others to join you on your quest.

For more information about what you can do, go to https://endingpd.org/. You can sign up for their email list to get notified about upcoming live webcasts, and watch past webcasts: https://endingpd.org/live

Ready to end Parkinson’s disease? Sign the PACT to Prevent, Advocate, Care, and Treat Parkinson’s: https://endingpd.org/resources

We Are Fighters

We have been called PD Warriors, PD Avengers, PD Fighters and more. We are superheroes. Let’s show the world that we are all of these and that we can make a difference for our children and our children’s children by eradicating one of the major causes of Parkinson’s Disease today.

The Power of a Smile

Smile though your heart is aching
Smile even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky you’ll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through
For you

Nat King Cole, “Smile”

There have been many songs written about smiling. Why? Because a smile is so powerful in so many ways. The very act of smiling makes us feel better. Think about how you feel when someone smiles at you and you return the smile? Smiling releases endorphans and dopamine in our brains, making us feel happier.

In my yoga class, the instructor is always telling us to smile. I often start to laugh when she says that. So I decided to do a little research into why a smile is so good for us.

But first, try it now. Go. Run to the nearest mirror and smile at yourself.

How did it make you feel? Silly? Did you want to laugh? Congratulations, you just gave yourself a dopamine/endorphan rush. What else did you notice? What happens to your eyes? Were they smiling, too? Maybe you even started laughing at yourself. It’s ok. Your entire body reacts to the smile.

A Dog Smiles, Too

Think about your dog, if you have one. When a dog is happy, it’s whole body smiles as it moves with joy – with it’s tail wagging and tongue sticking out. We can’t help but smile back.

Babies know best!

One of the first emotions a shows is a smile. They smile at us, we smile back. They learn very early that if they smile, they get a reaction from you. Everyone feels better because of that smile. The exhausted parents, the grandparents, siblings and friends. A baby’s first smile is a milestone that we celebrate. According to WebMD.com, between 6 and 8 weeks of life, babies develop a “social smile” — an intentional gesture of warmth meant just for you. It shows us that  brain development is advancing and the baby’s communication skills are on track.

BRF

With the facial masking that is so common with Parkinson’s, smiles don’t always come naturally. We may walk around looking angry when, in fact, we are in a good mood. When my kids were in high school, they told me that I had BRF – B***chy Resting Face. Their friends thought I didn’t like them, which of course was not true.. It turned out that this was an early sign of Parkinson’s for me. I wasn’t aware of it. Eventually I noticed that it was getting more difficult to smile anytime. We were traveling a lot at that time, and when I look back at photos of me, my smile was disappearing. I was getting frustrated and stopped trying to smile for the camera. When I finally started taking my PD meds, the masking went away and my smile came back.

Trying to smile in Sydney

As adults with Parkinson’s. We need to be aware that smiling can become difficult for us. As PD advances, our communication skills may diminish. We need that smile to help us convey how we feel.

The Importance of Smiling

Karyn Hall, PhD, in her blog The Emotionally Sensitive Person  The Importance of Smiling, says:

*When you change your facial expression you mood tends to align with the emotion your face is communicating.

*Smiling is contagious.

*When you give a warm and friendly smile, often others will smile back. You get a moment of feeling connected and accepted, and you spread happiness.

*Smiling can help reduce stress. When you smile, your heart rate slows and other stress indicators go away faster than if you don’t smile. Smiling can lengthen your lifespan.

This is the power of the smile. We need to do everything we can to keep on smiling. When you cannot show emotion, good or bad, it makes it very difficult to be a social person. The last thing you want to do is to isolate yourself because you can no longer communicate with others, both verbally and non-verbally, as you had done before Parkinson’s. And don’t forget that the dopamine hits that we get from smiling are very important for our brains. The Parkinson’s Foundation recommends that you see a speech-language pathologist who can teach you facial exercises that may help with masking, as well as other issues you may be having, including speech and swallowing problems.

Go back to your mirror and practice your smile. You can do it. Laugh a little or a lot while you are at it. It may just make your frown disappear.

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Tremors on the Golf Course

This was originally published by Parkinsonsdisease.net

August 6, 2020 by Sharon Krischer

Some days you just know, before you even get out of bed, that it is just not going to be one of your better days. With Parkinson’s, those days occur with no rhyme or reason. The night that you got little sleep can be followed by a great day. Other days, for no reason that you can determine, your symptoms are worse than ever, your meds don’t work and you just can’t get anything done.

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Talk to anyone with PD and you will find that most of us are having more bad days than usual. Our lives have been so disrupted by Covid-19 that there is no normal anymore. After 5 months of restrictions, there seems to be no end in site. We work hard at finding ways to be socially connected to others while staying at home. But we are getting tired of all of those Zoom meet-ups. The novelty has worn off and it just doesn’t replace getting together in person. Continue reading here

Ending Parkinson’s Disease with author Ray Dorsey, MD

Join us for a book discussion on Sunday, August 23 at 10am PDT with Ray Dorsey, MD, David M. Levy Professor of Neurology, University of Rochester who will be discussing the new ground-breaking book Ending Parkinson’s Disease: A Prescription for Action. Learn about the environmental factors that put many at risk for Parkinson’s and what we can do about it now to bring an end to the disease.

Registration on Zoom is now full. You can also join us on Facebook Live Sunday at 10:00 AM PDT