time-out

how many times a day do you stop to just breathe and relax?

Levon... maxin' and relaxin'

For most of us, a “time out” can offer a lot to our work day. Our body and mind also needs a breather from all the tasks we are doing. When we do relax and rest even for a few minutes in between, we allow ourselves to rejuvenate, think more clearly and our bodies to function properly. For people with Parkinson’s disease, fatigue is a common side effect of the disease, possibly attributed to damaged nerve cells or a side-effect of medication. Taking a break to re-energize or to calm stiff/shaking muscles can really make a difference in how you go about your day.

savasana, or corpse pose, is a great way to reduce tension and create some space for yourself … most yoga teachers would agree it is one of (or the!) most important pose you can do to nurture yourself.

Benefits

  • Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
  • Relaxes the body
  • Reduces headache, fatigue, and insomnia
  • Helps to lower blood pressure

Contraindications

  • If any back injury or discomfort, can bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart; or, place a bolster under your knees to create a slight bend
  • If pregnant, use a bolster or stacked blankets to slightly raise your head and chest

How

  • Lie down, face up on your mat
  • Spread your legs wide apart and feel your heels make contact with the earth and let your feet flop out to either side
  • Feel your thigh bones sinking down into the earth
  • Lift and tuck your tailbone down to create a nice long spine and healthy arch in your lower back
  • Tuck one shoulder then the other down and under to create a nice open chest
  • Have your arms spread wide out to the side along either side of your body, with your palms face up to create a slight opening in your chest and spreading the collarbones *a great prop is placing bean bags in the palms of your hands to create a grounding and spreading
  • Gently rock your head back and forth (like you’re shaking your head ‘no’) and let it come to rest in the middle, slightly humble your chin so the back of your head (occipital ridge) is resting on the ground *if you experience any neck pain, as sometimes people with PD have tight back of the neck and it is difficult to lay your head flat on the floor, place some stacked blankets to align your chin better with your chest **eye pillows are great to focus your awareness on the internal
  • Inhale, and keep your neck soft and your head heavy. Allow your arms, legs and torso to relax into the mat.
  • Exhale, allowing your chest, ribs and abdomen to sink towards the mat. Imagine your internal organs soft and relaxed.
  • Keep breathing, soften your tongue in your mouth, the forehead, especially around the bridge of the nose between the eyebrows and let your eyes sink to the back of the head.
  • Stay here as long as you can, creating space and relaxation in your body with breath. Really feel the earth supporting the entire weight of your body.
  • When you are ready to release, slow roll to your right side, cradling your head in your biceps. Relax here for a few moments before pushing yourself up to seated, starting with your torso and your head last.

savasana with head and knee supports

This is so nurturing for people with busy lives, or those who need a moment to regain some energy and a sense of calm in their body. And from personal experience, it took me quite a while to really let go, to know that there was nothing left to do, and really let the earth support me. So breath into it and with every exhale just let one more thing go, whether it be relaxing your toes, letting go of the standing series, or letting go of that tough item on your to-do list. Happy savasana, you deserve it! much love.

meaningful conversations

… so i’m still on the “mono-tasking train”… it’s quite a journey, sometimes I hop off (fall off?), and other times i’m standing at the tracks thumbing a ride… but I’m still working on it.

I’ve been thinking a lot about meaningful conversations…

my favourite (well, usual) time to talk on the phone is when i’m making dinner.

(apartment therapy.com)

… and i’m sure you know the story from here – the pot boils over, I cut my finger, I burn something… and all the while I can’t really listen to the person I care about.

It doesn’t make it easy that a lot of the people I care about are about 3hours ahead of my timezone, but I’ve really been making the effort to give the person on the other end my full attention. Because they matter.

(123rf.com)

and besides I’m clumsy enough, I don’t need any more distractions in the kitchen, but I think that runs in the family … just ask my mom about superglueing her fingers together while making a NewYearsEve mask during our last Skype date ūüėČ

dinner with mom!

so, even though they are not there in person, take the time to connect to those you love, it’s worth it! much love.

the power of a chair

Utkatasana or chair pose

Aging is accompanied by a natural decline in muscle tone and bone density that contributes to decreased mobility, stability, strength and endurance. Maintaining this functional capacity helps retain the ability to perform daily tasks with ease, such as getting up from a chair.

Parkinson’s disease affects a person’s ability to move, and focusing on exercise helps to keep muscles strong and to improve flexibility and mobility. Yoga can improve balance, help overcome gait problems and strengthen muscles used in day-to-day movements.

Utkatasana, or chair pose, is a strong, grounding standing posture that helps strengthen the legs, core and back muscles. Utkatasana¬†means ‘powerful pose’ and requires a balance of opposites in the upper (lightness) and lower (grounding) body.

Benefits: 

  • Strengthen the supporting muscles of the major joints, such as the shoulders, hips, knees, arches of your feet and ankles (especially integrity in the Achilles tendon)
  • Develop core strength
  • Strengthen the quads (which supports our vulnerable knee joints!) and glutes
  • Help protect the knee joint by building stability
  • Build heat in the body
  • Open shoulders and chest
  • Improve breathing by opening the chest and intercostals (rib)

Contraindications:

  • Knee problems can start using the wall for support
  • Severe back problems
  • Recent ankle surgery
  • Especially in PD, certain associated medication can cause low blood pressure and associated light-headedness. Move slowly when getting into a standing posture.

How:

  • From ¬†Tadasana¬†(see last mondays post), with your feet hip-width apart (for stability), spread your toes and feel the earth with the ball of your big toe, baby toe and heel.
  • Inhale and engage your core by drawing your navel in and up, exhale a tall spine stacking your shoulders over your hips
  • Inhale draw your arms up to shoulder height and on your exhale draw your sitting bones back and down like you are sitting in an imaginary chair.
  • Use the forward reach of your arms to counterbalance the backwards sitting motion
  • Inhale ground firmly through your heels and exhale sit back another inch, ensuring your shoulders reach towards to hips (engaging serratus anterior muscles)
  • Re-engage your core and draw your tail bone down (to avoid compression in the lower spine), lengthen the whole spine upwards
  • To take it further, inhale to ground and exhale lift your arms above your head, keeping your chest open and heart lifted
  • You can further deepen the posture by¬†releasing the heads of the thigh bones toward the heels. Bring your hands to your tops thighs. Nestle the bases of your palms into the creases of the groins and push the heads of thighs toward the heels, digging the heels deep into the floor. The lift the sitting bones up into the pelvis.
  • Take a few more breath, inhaling to root down through your feet and exhaling to extend your fingertips towards to sky

Take time to explore this pose, it’s a movement we use so often during the day and building and retaining strength in these muscles are crucial for maintaining independence in our daily activities. For modifications, try it against a wall, have the back of a chair in front of you to hold on to for balance, or have the chair behind you and try to hold this position about 1-inch off the chair seat before sitting down.

So, have a seat! much love.

eating with myself…

this is me (though maybe not the burger, but definitely the coffee)… or what I don’t want to be anymore …

impactlab.net

studies show that people who eat while “plugged-in”, whether it be work, or the tv at home eat 300 more calories, increasing likelihood of becoming obese and developing related conditions (i.e. type2 diabetes).

do you try to sit and JUST eat your meal, create some time and space to enjoy the food in front of you? it’s hard! i’m really struggling with this one.

I’m not saying that you need to sit and eat in silence (though sometimes it’s nice), but meals are a great way to connect with others, share ideas etc. and often putting yourself in front of the television/computer while eating takes that away. Not that i don’t enjoy putting on a great show and having my meal… just sometimes I don’t think it’s necessary.

and at school is another issue… as we all know, there are only so many hours in the workday (unless those spill over to the evening) and it can be challenging to take yourself away from the task-at-hand (because we are all trying to mono-task and do one “quality” job at a time, right?).

the more you focus on your meal, the more you notice what tastes you like, don’t like, and hopefully you begin to think; when do I feel¬†full?¬†is this the type of food I want to put in my body? does it make me feel good?¬†do I know where this food comes from? is it local? or can I name its origin and even find it on a map? how far did my food travel and what methods went into growing it?¬† etc. etc. And thereby fostering a relationship with the food you eat and how it makes you feel. I just finished Jane Goodall’s Harvest for Hope. This story of genetically modified food, destructive farming practices, water supply, over-consumption vs. malnourished parts of the world, and the overall impact on well-being of animals (especially the chimps and farm animals!) and gaia (mother earth) is very relevant. It’s a great read that touches on so many issues…

This is a “big one” for me in term of mono-tasking and all the mindfulness that revolves around it… good thing the year has 352 days to go! much love.

p.s. as I write this a cup of coffee is steaming beside me and a fresh croissant is calling my name… here’s to closing the computer lid and taking a big satisfying bite! cheers!

because we all have to start somewhere…

Tadasana or “Mountain Pose”

(www.thevegini.com)

Person’s with PD can often develop a stooped posture (see left below), much like the rest of the population who spend 8-10hours a day slumped over their computer (see right below).

                

Tadasana¬†is considered one of the most beneficial yoga postures… it is a great way to re-establish a tall spine, improve posture and promote confidence.¬†Although it seems quite simple to “stand”, there are lots of pieces to this puzzle, especially to overcome bad posture habits.

Benefits:

  • Improved posture and suppleness of spine
  • Addresses ankle, knees and hip joints and gain control over muscular movement
  • Strengthens obliques and prevents hernias
  • Improved balance, respiration, digestion, waste elimination, etc.

Contraindications:

  • Especially in PD, certain associated medication can cause low blood pressure and associated light-headedness. Move slowly when getting into a standing posture.

How:

  • stand firmly on the ground feet hip width apart, rooting down through the 3-points of the feet: ball of baby toe, ball of big toe, heel
  • engage your legs together like you are squeezing an invisible block between them
  • use that energy to slightly rotate your thighs inward, creating space to drop your tailbone (like a plumb line straight down between your heels)
  • engage your core by bringing your navel in and up
  • … are you breathing?
  • let your ribcage relax, but open your chest, rolling your should back and down
  • have your arms rest at your side, palms facing forward
  • stack the vertebrae in your neck so your head sits directly between your shoulders and “humble” your chin slightly
  • inhale and feel your breath coming through the floor, up your legs, torso, and chest
  • exhale and allow your breath to continue upwards through your head and out the top of your crown, creating a nice long spine
  • optional: inhale and gather the energy creating in your lower body and raise your arms above your head, as wide as you need to be mindful that your shoulders stay down your back and ribs remain tucked. have your palms face each other and feel the energy moving between them. exhale to release your arms and the posture.

so these steps may seem daunting at first, but yoga is a practice and it takes time to replace bad habits with good ones, even in something as “simple” as standing.

So, stand tall and confident, and feel a new-found new sense of strength and balance in how your approach the world. much love.

one tooth at a time

Happy (Mindful) Wednesday!

Every Wednesday I plan to sharing the joys and struggles of my journey with “mono-tasking”. I think this idea can help create awareness in your life and foster an appreciation for the little moments, which is pretty sweet.

1. Three minutes of teeth time

I have this feeling that brushing my teeth is an opportunity to get other things done … so I have a “funny” habit of putting toothpaste on, putting the toothbrush in my mouth and immediately leaving the bathroom sink in hot-pursuit of another chore (getting my bag packed for the next day, prepping breakfast, getting dressed, feeding my dog, folding laundry… you get the idea!)

and to be honest, after a minute or two I end up looking like this…

pre-mono tasking

My dentist friends would be happy to know I have stared at my own reflection for 3¬†full minutes every time I brush my teeth! This may be biased opinion, but I think my teeth are whiter and my gums are healthier – plus I get some quality “me time” with my reflection (benefits yet to be determined).

I figured I might as well start small, and hopefully the accumulation of mindful small tasks done with awareness will create a some good habits and spread to other areas. This is still just a theory of what could happen, but that’s what keeps life exciting, right?

… many more mindful tasks and ways to create awareness to come. much love.

do you have any multi/mono-tasking challenges? the way to overcoming challenges can be as simple as sharing … and that what comments and community are for ūüôā

new beginnings

Tomorrow is the start to my series, Yoga for Parkinson’s disease at Moksha Yoga Kelowna (website). This has been something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time now, and am so happy to see it come into fruition. I am grateful for all the guidance along the way and the support of MYK in getting this started. In honour of this new endeavour, I will be posting yoga tips/tricks for people with PD (and those without!) every monday (in addition to continue sharing other thoughts/stories/ideas!) to help reach out to those who need it… so keep reading because you never know when you’ll need a little yoga in your life ūüėČ

 

much love.

To start, a great news-story about how yoga is helping people with PD in Colorado (2009).