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by Donna Brooks

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Reflections on Teaching Yoga and Movement for Parkinson’s Disease

For the past three years I have had the very good fortune of teaching a Yoga and Movement for Parkinson’s class out here in Hadley / Northampton Mass. I say good fortune because I get to watch courage, honesty and humility in action in every class. It also happens to be fun.

My classes are meant to be soothing and relaxing but also challenging. I strive to build a kind of oasis from the stresses and fears of the day but also to challenge coordination, movement and cognitive skills. I believe challenge is best done under conditions of camaraderie and safety. That means taking some of the steam out of worry.

Worry literally makes anyone lose footing. Just think back to a time when you were deep in thought and walking. I know most people can remember bumping into something or tripping while deep in thought. Only, with Parkinson’s its worse. That bump or trip has much more serious ramifications. Also, its easy to lose the perspective that not everything is always the disease.

So, we start. Often the first movements and words of the day are subdued. But the experience of enjoying the simplicity of a movement, a breath, a feeling or the sharing of a joke brings calm. And satisfaction. In variable, someone smiles. The good feeling is contagious. The good feeling helps with footwork. Of course, it’s the circulation and chemical releases of exercise too. But, being present to the experience of consciously executed movement tends create happiness and an easy concentration that gives us balance and stability.

Lightness happens. People innovate movement. There is laughter. Most often I am impressed with the willingness my students have to engage life with all it’s difficulty.