Feel Better with Parkinson’s by Exercising: a Healthline.com guest post



Feel Better with Parkinson’s by Exercising!

Your struggle is a tough one. Every day, you deal with the constant shaking, and you can’t stand it. It keeps you from doing the things you love, and keeps your loved ones from showering you with more attention out of sympathy than simple affection.

But there is a way you can help quell some of your symptoms, and it’s not another experimental drug or case study. It’s actually an oldie-but-goodie: exercise.

That’s right: according to a number of different studies conducted by many different researchers and published in several different journals, one of the surest ways to reduce the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease is exercise.

It’s one of the most fun ways, too. Getting out of the house every now and again, getting to see old friends or meet new ones and dive into a new challenge – can’t beat that!

How Does Exercise Help?

Your illness has several different layers, too many to pin down one or two simple causes. But the net results are far simpler: it reduces your body’s supply of dopamine.

Dopamine is a super important chemical. It’s a neurotransmitter, which means that it exists between nerve endings and helps bridge the gap from one nerve to another, making the network of nerves that is your nervous system. Because of dopamine, your body is able to send the ever-important electrical signals that, basically, let your body do everything that it needs to.

But when dopamine is in short supply, as is the case with Parkinson’s, things tend to go haywire. This has a significant effect on cognition, and may be one of the reasons why it’s hard for you to focus on things in the moment and remember them after. But it also manifests physically, in the form of some of the shaking you’re experiencing.

This is why exercise is great for people with Parkinson’s. When you exercise, your brain is encouraged to release more dopamine into your bloodstream, because it thinks you need to be calmed down from your workout. This, though, helps keep your body’s baseline level of dopamine high, and with each successive workout, your body’s baseline dopamine level will rise. Obviously, it has its limits, but you get the point.

So, exercising might be one of the greatest things people with Parkinson’s can do.

Exercise Has Other Benefits

Exercise, though, also has other benefits for people with Parkinson’s, namely, with their mood.

Mood is so important to most everything we do in life. Our attitude can not only help us get through the day, but there are actually several scientific studies that point to your outlook drastically affecting the results of certain challenges that you may face.

For people with Parkinson’s, mood can be a significant factor. Oftentimes, the problem with mood is that it creates a self-perpetuating wheel. You have issues with shaking, which makes you feel sad. But that you feel sad actually exacerbates the problem that makes you shake, which makes you shake more.

This, of course, is all chemically linked. Your body’s supply of neurotransmitters, including dopamine as well as serotonin and others, is absolutely vital in your body’s ability to function the way that you want it to, to diminish the symptoms of Parkinson’s. But feeling upset actually lowers your body’s supply of neurotransmitters, thus making you more susceptible to the symptoms that caused the problem in the first place.

Similarly, enhancing your mood can also be contagious. Exhibit fewer symptoms because you’re exercising, and you’re likely to feel better about your day. Feel better about your day, and you’re likely to feel better about the next day.

What’s there not to like about that?

Valerie Johnston is a health writer located in Lake Fork, Texas. She is passionate about running and clean eating and writing for Healthline.com ensures she stays up-to-date on the latest trends and news in the health and fitness industry.

… Thanks Valerie and Healthline.com for the post and a great reminder to get active! much love.

If you’re interested in providing a guest blog post on yoga, parkinson’s, caregivers, aging, etc. etc. etc. for kaitlynroland.wordpress.com, please email me at: kaitlyn (dot) p (dot) roland (at) gmail (dot) com

meditation benefits neurological disorders: patients AND caregivers

There is growing evidence that even brief (5 days −8 weeks) meditation programs may improve neuropsychological, metabolic, and clinical profiles in a range of populations. Studies show meditation reduces stress [26, 30, 33], anxiety [28, 31, 33], and depressive symptoms [33–35], enhance quality of life [30, 34], decrease sleep disturbance [32], cognition [35], reduce sympathetic activation, and enhance cardiovagal tone [27, 36].



Most recently, 10 people with mild cognitive impairment or early-stage Alzheimer’s disease and their live-in caregivers meditated for 11 minutes, twice daily for 8 weeks. Results of this study showed decreased perceived stress and depression. Also, improved mood, sleep, retrospective memory function, and blood pressure were demonstrated. This supports meditation programs as effective self-care strategies for BOTH persons with neurological disorders and their caregivers.

The benefits for sleep and mood are especially important, given the high prevalence and negative impact of chronic stress, sleep disturbance, and mood impairment in these populations. What I love best about this study is that is benefits BOTH patients and caregivers… and is something you can do TOGETHER. Strengthening not only self-care strategies, but also perhaps relationship quality and shared experiences.

See the original study here (Innes et al. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Vol 2012 (2012), Article ID 927509, 9 pages)

What are you waiting for? And for some tips on how to begin a meditation practice, check out this Tutorial: Meditation 101 (click on link). much love.


26. R. Bonadonna, “Meditation’s impact on chronic illness,” Holistic Nursing Practice, vol. 17, no. 6, pp. 309–319, 2003.

27. K. E. Innes, C. Bourguignon, and A. G. Taylor, “Risk indices associated with the insulin resistance syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and possible protection with yoga: a systematic review,” Journal of the American Board of Family Practice, vol. 18, no. 6, pp. 491–519, 2005.

28. R. H. Schneider, K. G. Walton, J. W. Salerno, and S. I. Nidich, “Cardiovascular disease prevention and health promotion with the transcendental meditation program and Maharishi consciousness-based health care,” Ethnicity and Disease, vol. 16, no. 3, supplement 4, pp. 15–26, 2006.

30. T. K. Selfe and K. E. Innes, “Mind-body therapies and osteoarthritis of the knee,” Current Rheumatology Reviews, vol. 5, no. 4, pp. 204–211, 2009.

31. L. C. Waelde, L. Thompson, and D. Gallagher-Thompson, “A pilot study of a yoga and meditation intervention for dementia caregiver stress,” Journal of Clinical Psychology, vol. 60, no. 6, pp. 677–687, 2004

32. L. E. Carlson and S. N. Garland, “Impact of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) on sleep, mood, stress and fatigue symptoms in cancer outpatients,” International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, vol. 12, no. 4, pp. 278–285, 2005.

33. J. D. Lane, J. E. Seskevich, and C. F. Pieper, “Brief meditation training can improve perceived stress and negative mood,” Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, vol. 13, no. 1, pp. 38–44, 2007.

34. R. Jayadevappa, J. C. Johnson, B. S. Bloom et al., “Effectiveness of transcendental meditation on functional capacity and quality of life of African Americans with congestive heart failure: a randomized control study,” Ethnicity and Disease, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 72–77, 2007, erratum appears in Ethnicity and Disease vol. 17, no. 3, page 395.

35. V. K. Sharma, S. Das, S. Mondal, U. Goswami, and A. Gandhi, “Effect of Sahaj Yoga on neuro-cognitive functions in patients suffering from major depression,” Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, vol. 50, no. 4, pp. 375–383, 2006.

36. J. P. Manikonda, S. Störk, S. Tögel et al., “Contemplative meditation reduces ambulatory blood pressure and stress-induced hypertension: a randomized pilot trial,” Journal of Human Hypertension, vol. 22, no. 2, pp. 138–140, 2008.

slowing Parkinson’s progression: a research update

alpha-synuclein is a protein encoded by the SNCA gene.

Although we are still not certain of what it does, we do know it makes up Lewy Bodies, clusters of proteins that are a pathological hallmark of Parkinson’s disease and other dementias (lewy body dementias). It is thought that in Parkinson’s disease, the variability in alpha-synuclein gene produces either too much alpha-synuclein protein or causes it to malfunction — which may be toxic to brain cells and to result in neuron dysfunction.

Some of the ways in which research is targeting alpha-synuclein is by:

  • a vaccine that binds to alpha-synuclein and clears it from the brain
  • compounds to stop alpha-synuclein from clumping (avoiding lewy body formation)
  • compound to break up alpha-synuclein clumps (breaking up formation of lewy bodies)

Recent research developments include a chemical compound that slows down the onset and progression of Parkinson’s disease in mice. Griese and Griesinger in Gottingen have developed a substance which, in mouse models of the disease, reduces the rate of growth of the alpha-synuclein deposits and delays nerve cell degeneration. As a consequence, mice treated with this agent remain disease-free for longer than non-medicated controls. The current gold-standard, Levodopa, controls Parkinson’s symptoms by enhancing the function of the surviving nerve cells in the substantia nigra. This compound shows promise in slowing down the progression, according to their lab results; the earlier the onset of treatment, the longer the animals remained disease free.

(Max-Planck-Gesellschaft (2013, April 22). Putting the brakes on Parkinson’s.ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 12, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­/releases/2013/04/130422111147.htm#.UXa4E78jkGQ)

Another research effort looking to halt Parkinson’s disease progression involves GM1 glanglioside. GM1 impacts neuron plasticity, repair mechanisms, and neurotrophin release.

A study published in November 2012 showed that GM1 ganglioside improved symptoms and slowed disease progression during a two and a half-year trial in persons with Parkinson’s. Dr. Jefferson, published in the Journal of the Neurological Sciences, followed 77 subjects over a 120-week period and 17 control subjects as comparison.  GM1 group had significant improvement in UPDRS motor scores and maintained much of the initial benefit of GM1 treatment, (i.e. showed relatively minor symptom progression compared to patients using standard anti-Parkinson medications).

(Jay S. Schneider, Stephen M. Gollomp, Stephanie Sendek, Amy Colcher, Franca Cambi, Wei Du. A randomized, controlled, delayed start trial of GM1 ganglioside in treated Parkinson’s disease patients. Journal of the Neurological Sciences, 2012; DOI:10.1016/j.jns.2012.10.024)

… some very interesting drug developments on the horizon. it’s a long process from developing compounds, animal testing, clinical testing etc. … but nice to know there are possibilities on the horizon! much love

Find your “special thing”

“Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love.” ~Rumi

You know what it is. You’ve always known. You drew pictures of it when you were small. But then, job, kids, house, yard, family, friends, house, yard, work, computer came along. It sits under all that “busy me”.

It’s your dharma, your purpose.

You might already be doing it without naming it. Or it’s something you’d do it without pay if you could live off it.

Your calling. And it may take a huge amount of physical and emotional effort. The path may be confusing, painful, stressful, but you will know that it’s worth it.

what lights me up: yoga, parkinson's disease and caregivers, healthy aging especially for women

what lights me up: yoga, parkinson’s disease and caregivers, healthy aging especially for women

Life mastery doesn’t have to be making deals, responding to emails, losing sleep. You can change the world and achieve your dharma with not only the yang -pushing forward, taking action- but also the yin -be in the flow and receptive.

Some ways to help you get there..

  • Take the time to figure out “what lights you up”!
  • Try saying no to things that don’t contribute to your purpose.
  • Surround yourself with people who understand or do similar “work”.
  • Take some time to sit and listen to your inner teacher.
  • Trust that you know what is best for yourself and your purpose.
  • Take the time and space you need. Ebb and Flow.
  • Embrace your calling, whatever it is. No judgment.

what lights you up? It’s ok to still be figuring it out. I know mine involves

Parkinson’s, caregivers,




healthy aging and female-specific research


… but in what capacity? Not too sure yet!       much love.


tinybuddha.com; yogadork.com

From Research to Real Life: Roundup ready herbicide and Parkinson’s?

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup ready is the most popular herbicide, and the most biologically disruptive according to a new study in the journal Entropy.

Although industry (aka Monsanto) asserts it is non-toxic, Dr’s Samsel and Seneff argue it inhibits an enzyme (cytochrome P450 (CYP)) and disrupts crucial gut microbes, amino acids, and other biological processes ( like inflammation). You can read the full journal article HERE.



Roundup ready is sprayed on lawn weeds and used in generically engineered corn and soy that goes into our Western diet of corn, sugar, soy and wheat. Dr’s Samsel and Seneff propose that Roundup ready disrupts CYP enzyme’s function, leading to inflammation and contributes to diseases associated with a Western diet, including gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.


what are your thoughts?  … i think it’s just another reason to eat local and organic. where does your food come from and what are the consequences of that? much love.

(other commentaries: here and here).

creating a home practice

doing yoga regularly at home can be very beneficial to your practice. It may be intimidating to practice without guidance, you don’t need to be a super-yogi to create a safe and beneficial home yoga practice.

for me, sometimes my practice is seated meditation, breath work by candlelight

some days my home practice is seated meditation, breath work by candlelight…

  • take a few classes, first. get to know which postures make you feel good, and which postures really benefit you. Those are the poses that may be tough and that challenge you… you may be avoiding them, but you may really benefit from working on that area (hamstrings, core, slow movements, long holds). also, get to know proper body alignment. develop good alignment and positioning habits right from the beginning.
  • be easy on yourself. do what you feel like doing, instead of what you do in class or what someone tell you you should be doing. the first thing to ask yourself is: what type of practice and schedule works best for me?
  • personalize it. chose what (poses?) helps you the most in this moment. maybe today you sit and breathe for 2minutes. maybe tomorrow you do 20minutes of solid movement. maybe the day after you lie in savasana for 5minutes. make it accessible and flexible so you’re more likely to do it. getting on your mat is good enough.
  • don’t make it complicated. nothing fancy. just you, your mat or a designated floor space. everything else is bonus.
  • make it a habit. just like brushing your teeth, practice yoga consistently.
  • get creative. for those busy days, let something else be your yoga for the day. make a task (dishes, laundry, commute) a mindful meditative experience. be fully present and observe yourself during the task.
... and some days my home practice is bright, energetic and keeps me on my toes!

… and some days my home practice is bright, energetic and keeps me on my toes!

… most importantly, yoga is about making a habit of coming back home to yourself. so, take the time to check-in with yourself daily, it’s a nice habit. Also, if you’ve lost the motivation for your home practice or daily routines, try setting up a private session with a local teacher to help design a program that re-inspires you. Getting support makes this yoga-journey more fun!

do you have a home practice? if so, feel free to share what it looks like in the comments below! much love.

more inspirations:

Thrive – kripalu

A day in the life


Woke up, fell out of bed
Dragged a comb across my head (typically, i exclude this part).

Found my way downstairs and walked my pup



And looking up, I noticed I was late.

Found my coat and grabbed my hat
Made the bus in seconds flat.


Found my way upstairs to a yoga class


And somebody spoke and I went into my office.


Ahhhhh. (now, when’s the next coffee break?) much love.

Posture in Parkinson’s and how yoga can help

I did a yoga class last Saturday in Victoria for people with Parkinson’s. We focused on posture and stretching/strengthening the muscles we use to stand up tall. I am so grateful to the yogi’s who came out and practiced with me!

I always take home a few things from each workshop that I teach, and I wanted to share 3 of them with you;

  • people with Parkinson’s never cease to amaze me… as we breathed, contracted and stretched together I watched everyone grow (stand) taller – seemingly more self-confident and aware of their bodies in space
  • it doesn’t matter what the specific movement is – as long as you do it with integrity and breath, you are doing something good!
  • one of the most important things you can do for yourself is relax. take a time out. we rarely give ourselves time to ‘do nothing’, that it takes a while for our bodies to relax. As we finished the class in savasana, it took 5 minutes before i saw everyone really let go and give into relaxation. this is a great practice in itself – being able to let go.


Two of the postures from this workshop to take home, would be:

  • Chair Pose, for leg/core strength and balance (see instructions HERE)


  • Halfmoon pose, for core stability and spinal flexibility

Ground your feet, clasp palms above your head, move your shoulders down your back; engage obliques and bend to the side “over a beachball”; maintain length down both sides of your body.


Ardha Chandrasana

I am working towards having regular (monthly?) yoga workshops in Victoria (who’s up for that??!), and maybe visiting some of our neighbours on the mainland. Langley, Surrey, Richmond, Vancouver…?

Tell me in the comments below, where should I bring my Yoga for Parkinson’s workshops to next? Also, what specific aspects of Parkinson’s disease do you want to address with yoga (balance? feet? upper chest? depression?)? Much love.

hell-being: competitive and hot yoga

I recently read “Hell-Bent: obsession, pain and the search for something like transcendence in competitive yoga”. Not only does this book follow  the writers personal yoga journey from fat and unhealthy to fit and flexible, but provides it within the context of the world of competitive yoga and Bikram yoga.


Bikram yoga is a 26-pose sequence undertaken in a 105-degree heated room for 90 minutes. Same poses, same carpet, mirrors and same Bikram-script, every time. The author touts this type of yoga is suited to alpha-types looking for self-transformation, with a degree of machoism. He also provides a solid list of  people who overcame adversity (drugs, abuse, injury, illness) with Bikram’s style of yoga.

… but, wait a second. Did it also say competitive yoga? That seems to go against all yoga notions… or does it? During competitive yoga, or Yoga Asana (posture) Championships, competitors are required to perform five compulsory poses, including a standing head-to-knee pose and a bow pose, plus two other poses of their choice, within three minutes. They’re then marked on their strength, balance and flexibility.

Bikram and his wife Rajashree Choudhury hold these competitions where the ultimate goal is to join with similar organizations in other countries to form an international yoga federation and to qualify Yoga Asana as an Olympic sport. This ask questions around how does the spiritual side exists on a competitive level? Can we have both?

Yoga Asana Competition (yogainmyschool.com)

I also really liked how the novel presented data from scientists on the dangers and benefits of heat.

Dr. Yeargin (Indiana State University) discusses physiological mechanisms that trigger heat stroke among athletes. When exercising in extreme heat, your body is battling head produced by your muscles (inside the body) as well as from the outside world. If your core temperature rises too high, your brain and organs begin to shut down. Exercising in heat feels harder because the muscles are starved for energy and the brain isn’t receiving enough blood… leading to hallucinations, fainting and seizures. However, the body is smart and can adapt (acclimatization effect), which is great but doesn’t eliminate the risks.

Dr. Santiago Lorenzo (University of Oregon) described the fitness benefits of heat acclimatization in the novel. His work shows training in a hot environment increases athletic performance (longer, harder, faster) and physiology (blood plasma, cardiac output, power output). The heat stresses the cardiovascular system, and his speculates training in head could give cardiovascular benefits to patients who otherwise wouldn’t be able to get them (i.e. injury, paralysis). But of course, he mentions that you need to be aware of the risk and take caution.


The story of Bikram, his charisma, pain, sweat and narcissism is in contrast to other insightful stories from yoga champions and past-Bikram stars. In the end, the writer comes to the conclusion that there is another way to do yoga; it’s almost a call-to-arms for more mindful, body-aligned and aware practice.

… this book provided me with inspiration to reflect on my own practice… as well as some funny laugh-out-loud moments where I found myself saying “that can’t be true!”

Happy Reading! much love.