Tutorial: meditation 101

Being in the present moment is a meditation practice.

There is a challenge in sitting still in meditation and watching the activity of the brain/mind. Anytime you sit with the intention and willingness to be mindful, transformation will happen. At first, you want to bring stability to the mind, perhaps by focusing on one thing, such as the breath (note: you can count your breaths in groups of 10; restart once you reach 10 or lose count). Eventually expand your focus/awareness to encompass bodily sensations and thoughts. Typically the first insight meditators have is, ‘Holy crap! I think all the time!’ By practicing meditation, you start to observe the way your thoughts move and change, and you can develop a more subtle awareness of your experience.*

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Health benefits of meditation primarily focus on increasing the relaxation response (parasympathetic nervous system) and allows us to  “rest and digest.” … and this leads to boosting the immune system, improving digestion, improving sleep, and increasing cognitive function. This helps your relax more throughout the day. Meditation decreases the likelihood of reacting negatively to stress… for example, you might stop overeating/drinking.

More Reasons to meditate:

  1. Dull the Pain! Meditation training cuts pain perception in half (J Neurosci 2011) and makes pain less unpleasant because brains are busy focusing on the present moment, and anticipating the pain less, blunting its emotional impact (J Pain, 2010).
  2. Improve your sex life! Meditation helps bring thoughts into the present moment, and can enhance a woman’s sexual experience (less self-judgemental chatter!) (J Psychosomatic Medicine, 2011)
  3. Problem-solving! Meditations helps apply switching strategies for problem-solving and getting out of habitual patterns… it breaks the cycle and enables you to look at things with a fresh perspective (PLoS One, 2012).
  4. Boosts mental toughness! Regular meditation improves mood and working memory, which allows for short-term retrieval and storage of information. Meditation helps individuals stay alert and in the moment without becoming emotional (J Emotion, 2010).
  5. Emotional regulation! Meditation improves feelings of empathy and benevolance (PLoS One, 2008).
  6. Improve your attention span! Meditation practitioners are better able to make fine visual distinctions and sustain visual attention during a demanding tasks (Psychological Science, 2010).
  7. Get a bigger brain! Long-term meditators have larger amounts of gyrification (i.e., folds) of the brain’s cortex than people who don’t meditate. The extra folds may allow faster processing of information (Neuroimage, 2011; Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 2012).

How do you find ways to bring meditative moments into your day? Share some of your meditation experiences in the comments below. much love.

*Adapted info from: Kripalu Thrive Blog

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Famous Faces of Parkinson’s


 

… do you know any others to add to this list? Let me know some other faces of Parkinson’s that inspire you in the comments below! much love.

From research to real life: feel better and sleep better with yoga


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Recently, a systematic review of 16 scientific studies was published on the effects of yoga on depression, schizophrenia, ADHD, sleep complaints, eating disorders and cognition problems (Murali Doraiswamy et al., Frontiers in Psychiatry 2013).

What did they find?

This review found that a yoga program can improve biological factors related to mental health and have similar benefits as antidepressants and psychotherapy. Physiologically, yoga affects neurotransmitters, inflammation, oxidative stress, lipids, growth factors and second messengers, all of which influences mood and emotional well-being.
According to this study, other benefits of a regular yoga practice included 40% reduction in depression symptoms, improved sleep quality and reduced need for sleep aids.
The scientific evidence in support yoga practice on psychiatric disorders is “highly promising” and showed that yoga may not only help to improve symptoms, but also may have an ancillary role in the prevention of stress-related mental illnesses.

How?

Kripalu’s Stephen Cope says “yoga postures improve mood by moving energy through places in the body where feelings of grief or anger are stored… it is an accessible form of self-soothing”
… and since depression is the  biggest threat to the welfare of people with Parkinson’s disease (HERE and HERE and HERE), this makes yoga for Parkinson’s even more important (Yoga for Depression in Parkinson’s). much love.
**Note: The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) says people should not  replace conventional medical care with yoga. Nor should people who practice yoga postpone seeing a health care provider. Patients should tell their doctor about any complementary health practices they use. Anyone with a medical condition should check with a health care provider before starting yoga.

Guest Blogger for The Parkinson Hub

I am honoured to be invited to guest blog on The Parkinson Hub.

The Parkinson Hub is a growing online community network dedicated to providing patients, carers and healthcare professionals with the latest news, links and information in the area of Parkinson’s disease. I love their emphasis on living your fullest life everyday and the focus on well-being – that is what’s important!

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I will be contributing about once a month on how yoga help you live well day-to-day with Parkinson’s. Check out my first post that introduces some of the scientific literature supporting yoga for older adults and those with neurodegenerative diseases.

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http://www.theparkinsonhubblog.com/2013/02/20/%EF%BB%BFthe-value-of-yoga-for-parkinsons-disease-an-introduction-by-kaitlyn-roland/

Thanks again The Parkinson Hub for inviting me into your community! Much love

From research to real life: Cycling for Parkinson’s

“Just like riding a bicycle” is anything but.

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(electric) bikes in valencia, spain (2008)

Cycling may allow persons with Parkinson’s disease (PD) with freezing of gait new freedom of movement and access to exercise. Often, cycling function is preserved people living with Parkinson’s who experience difficulties with slow, shuffling gait. This is an example of kinesia paradoxica, where individuals who typically experience severe difficulties with the simple movements (walking) may perform complex movements easily (cycling). Here is an example,

Video Part 1: a man with severe tremors in his arms, shuffling slowly and unsurely down a hallway, stumbles and falls.

Video Part 2: the SAME MAN riding a bicycle with perfect movement, coordination and balance.

… check it out!

(Snijders AH & Bloem BR (2010) Cycling for freezing of gait. New England Journal of Medicine; 362:e46)

The reasons for this is not yet clear… some hypothesis include cuing .. the rhythmic pressure of the pedals acts as a tactile cue and thereby facilitates movement.

And another study notes that tandem cycling, where a person with Parkinson’s is forced to keep pace with another healthier  (the key is faster!) cycling, boosted nerve connections between the primary motor cortex and thalamus (measured with MRI), which is vital to co-ordinated movements (and is impaired in Parkinson’s).

(Ridel, Vitek & Alberts (2009) Forced, not voluntary, exercise improves motor function in Parkinson’s disease patients. Neurorehabil Neural Repair; 23:600)

cycling around valencia, spain (2008)

cycling around valencia, spain (2008)

Though people still need to consult with their physician before starting cycling, and be aware of sudden off-times, balance and other complex issues that could lead to an accident. This is still another exciting way in which people with Parkinson’s can get out and GET MOVING! much love.

Other Media References:

http://wellcometrust.wordpress.com/2012/11/19/as-easy-as-riding-a-bicycle/

Yoga language: myth-busting twists and inversions

Amy Matthews is the co-author of Yoga Anatomy, the co-director of The Breathing Project’s Advanced Studies Program in New York City and has been teaching anatomy and kinesiology for over 15 years. Matthews did some yoga myth-busting for yoga.about.com that I think everyone should know… (http://yoga.about.com/od/anatomy/a/Yoga-Anatomy-Myths.htm)

(adapted)

First, “Twists”

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Q: Do twists really “wring out” and cleanse the internal organs? Is that even beneficial?

Amy Matthews: There are a number of ways that a statement like “twists wring out the organs” is inaccurate and incomplete if we are looking at the anatomy and physiology of the visceral organs (the organs in the thoracic, abdominal and pelvic cavities).

Definitions: moving the organs around in relation to each other = mobility; movement within an organ (like the beating of the heart) = motility.

Any movement that changes the shape of the thoracic, abdominal and pelvic cavities (spine, ribcage, abdominal wall or pelvic floor … including breathing) can move the organs in relation to each other . Movements that articulate the spine (flexion, extension, lateral flexion and axial extension) – mobilize the organs. However, organs are positioned so that no single movement will mobilize every organ!

The motility of the organs is affected by a wide variety of factors, including signals from the nervous system and the endocrine system. Increasing mobility in the organs can increase blood flow, which brings in nutrients and oxygen and takes away by-products. To a degree, increased circulation can help each organ function at its best.

QTwists are often touted as aids to digestion. Is this correct?

Amy Matthews: The function of the digestive organs (stomach, small/large intestine) is to transport contents from one opening in the body (the mouth) to the opening at the other end (the anus), along the way extracting water and nutrients. The more mobility there is in the intestines in particular, the more easily the contents can move through. And if by “improved digestion” we actually mean less constipation, twists that mobilize the abdomen might indeed be helpful with “moving things along.” (i.e., if “improved digestion” = better absorption)

Secondly, “Inversions”

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QCan inversions increase the blood flow or oxygen flow to the brain? Improve circulation?

Amy Matthews:We are constantly in relationship to gravity, and when we change our relationship to gravity it has an effect on our body.

The circulatory system ensures that there is an appropriate amount of blood flowing to each tissue in the body – so if the circulatory system is functioning well, there will be just enough blood flowing to the brain, and an inversion will not have any effect on that blood flow, in a positive or negative sense. (More blood flow to the brain is NOT a better thing.)

A healthy circulatory system is an adaptable one – one that is able to increase and decrease blood pressure as needed. So any activity that invites the circulatory system to adapt is one that will “improve” it, in some way.

This is just an example of some ways in which us yoga teachers twist and turn our language upside-down instead of focusing on the anatomy and physiology behind it.  much love.

PS want to geek out more? check out some anatomy behind breathing HERE

Full article available at: http://yoga.about.com/od/anatomy/a/Yoga-Anatomy-Myths.htm

Neuro Film Festival “Not Our Father’s Parkinson’s”

Share the LOVE today!

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Bev Rinaudo (one of my favourite PD lady bloggers you can read about HERE) submitted a 5minute video to the Neuro Film Festival (American Academy of Neurology) telling her story about Young Onset Parkinson’s disease (contact them at: NeuroFilmFestival@aan.com)

Please watch her video and VOTE!

much love.