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Archive for the ‘Exercise’ Category

Yoga Reach: Mindful Movement for Parkinson’s Disease

Monday, June 4th, 2018

Yoga is one of the complementary therapies that can be beneficial to those living with Parkinson’s disease. Char Grossman offers adaptive therapeutic yoga to members of the Parkinson’s community in Cleveland, Ohio and will be offering a YogaReach Mindful Movement workshop for for PD professionals in July at Mark Morris Dance Company in Brooklyn, NY. Click here for more information and scroll down to learn more about her experience with yoga.

Helaine Isaacs
PUW Event Director


In 2004, I became the founder of YogaReach, LLC, an adaptive therapeutic yoga program for people with medical challenges. My program became a continuing education resource that works with like-minded organizations and provides group/private adaptive therapeutic yoga programs and professional training workshops. At this point of my life, I had no familiarity with Parkinson’s disease (PD).

As a nationally certified school psychologist and yoga teacher, I was ready to provide services. Being a stroke survivor, I understood neuromuscular conditions. Suddenly, clients with PD began attending my program. I needed to broaden my education. I undertook education classes, became a certified yoga therapist and took a deep breath. As I reached to the sky, I combined “body, mind and spirit” which incorporated adaptive techniques to strengthen the needs of people with PD. Ironically, a few years after this creation, my father was diagnosed with PD.  Life changes.

I began teaching at InMotion, a non-profit center in Cleveland, Ohio devoted to the health and well-being of those affected by Parkinson’s disease, when they opened their doors three years ago. InMotion offers free exercise, art, music, dance and support groups. With my instructors, I teach three sold-out Mindful Movement Yoga classes weekly. Our clients and their carepartners report an overall increase in physical and emotional wellbeing from attending YogaReach Mindful Movement Yoga classes.

Our classes teach students with PD how to reenact adapted yoga movement sequences outside of class to improve their daily life skills (e.g., reaching for objects, driving a car). By uniting thought and action, our therapeutic yoga instruction encourages participants to reinforce weakened skills and gain new skills they thought impossible. Individualized instruction is taught in a positive, relaxed environment that encourages mindfulness, decreases stress and highlights socialization. As a result, our students feel reinvigorated. Our eclectic program consists of yoga therapy skills, Dance for PD techniques, and Delay the Disease interventions.

Two years ago, I attended the Parkinson’s Unity Walk. The gratitude I experienced at the Unity Walk was endless and similar to my experience of teaching yoga classes to those living with PD.

An additional part of the success I feel when serving people with PD, comes from nation-wide YogaReach Mindful Movement for PD Professional Workshops. Yoga professionals, allied health providers, fitness trainers, educators and wellness instructors have been taught to add skills that benefit people with PD to their area of expertise. The workshop has recently been presented in Florida and Arizona, which developed targeted programs for growing communities living with the effects of Parkinson’s disease.
In order to offer more services to our compassionate population, I have the opportunity to offer the workshop this July at the Mark Morris Dance Center in Brooklyn, NY. Click here for more information. I am excited about the benefits that this can offer Parkinson’s communities in different areas of the country.

Change in lives, affects all of us. I am honored to consistently serve such amazing people. We have learned, “If you put your body and your mind together, you’ll see changes”  – and we do see those changes! We know that the Parkinson’s Unity Walk is part of creating that positive change.

Char Grossman
Director and Founder of YogaReach
Cleveland Ohio


Calling All Players for Ping Pong for Parkinson’s Championship

Monday, February 5th, 2018

Update – We are excited to announce that Margie Alley, Team Captain of Margie’s Movement is the winner of the 2018 Ping Pong Parkinson’s Table Tennis Championship! Click here for coverage on News 12.


We are excited to host this guest post by Bruce Ballard as he shares his experience attending Ping Pong for Parkinson’s in Pleasantville, NY. Bruce hosts a website parkingsuns.com and is an official blogger for the World Parkinson Congress. Our thanks to Margie Alley, Team Captain of Margie’s Movement for the Unity Walk, for making us aware of this new program to benefit the Parkinson’s community!


I first learned about Ping Pong Parkinson’s Night at the Westchester Table Tennis Center in Pleasantville, NY when it was featured on Channel 12 last March. I decided to check it out because it is nearby to my home.

Since then I’ve been attending their weekly Parkinson’s Ping-Pong night. They provide a wonderful service. Typically, there are approximately 6 – 10 players and six volunteer coaches who participate each Wednesday from 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm. If you are in the area, we hope you will join us – on Wednesday nights and for the 2018 Winter Championship for Players with Parkinson’s on Saturday, February 17th from Noon to 6 pm.

The program’s mission is to help individuals with Parkinson’s slow the progression of the disease by playing ping-pong regularly. Ping-pong involves hand-eye coordination and quick decision making. You’re also moving your body around a lot, twisting and turning your torso, and carefully trying to control how you strike the ball.

Each night begins with stretching exercises. We stand in a big circle and rotate our heads, stretch our necks from side to side and front to back, and do related exercises with our arms and shoulders. Then two of the instructors demonstrate some basic techniques for beginners. For example, did you know that you don’t want to hit the ball head on, but instead hit it on an angle from below or above, getting it to spin in the air as it flies back over the net? It’s not like whacking a baseball!

Then it’s time to play! We have six tables set up with the volunteer coaches on one side and the players on the other side of them. After the first 10 minutes of play, the players rotate to the left, so they get the chance to play with each volunteer coach for approximately 10 minutes each session.

There’s a dual focus: have fun and improve your technique. You get immediate feedback from the instructor about how to hold the racket better, how to swing your arm better, how to generate spin on the ball. At the end of the evening, everyone gets videotaped so they can see how they improve over the weeks.

There’s still time to sign up for the 2018 Winter Championship for Players with Parkinson’s! Visit our website to find out more about our weekly sessions and the Championship.


Multiple Approaches to Treating Parkinson’s Disease – Movement Disorders Specialist Becomes a Rock Steady Boxing Trainer

Monday, April 10th, 2017

Rock Steady Boxing has caught on like wildfire and you’ll have plenty of opportunity to learn about it (along with various other forms of exercise) at this year’s Parkinson’s Unity Walk. They will have representatives at the new Movement and Exercise booth on Margot Zobel Way, along with representatives from Dance for PD and Delay the Disease. In addition, two different affiliates – RSB Central Jersey and RSB Randolph, NJ YMCA – will be performing demonstrations on the Bandshell stage. When we found out Dr. Adena Leder, a movement disorders specialist on Long Island, became trained as a RSB instructor, we asked her to share her experience. We hope you stop by the Movement and Exercise booth to find out where this is a class in your local community and enjoy the RSB demonstrations at the Walk.

Helaine Isaacs
PUW Event Director

It was during my movement disorder fellowship that I first learned about the importance of exercise in Parkinson’s disease (PD). It was always clinically obvious when a patient had stopped physical therapy, or was actively involved.

Several years ago, a patient first told me about Rock Steady Boxing (RSB). Like many people’s first thought, I asked “doesn’t boxing cause Parkinson’s disease?” More and more patients began to buzz about “this boxing class for Parkinson’s.”  When Leslie Stahl presented it on CBS I knew it would be an asset to the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) Parkinson’s disease treatment center.

It had been at least 10 years since I started treating PD patients and I was growing frustrated with the limitations of the medications. There were many young patients who had been using levodopa for more than a decade and others who were unresponsive to levodopa altogether. I wanted to add another tool to my proverbial toolbox.

With NYIT’s support, I (along with two physical therapists and an occupational therapist from the Adele Smither’s Parkinson’s Disease Center) went to Indianapolis for Rock Steady Boxing training camp.  I was confident that this would be a great opportunity for me to motivate my patients to exercise.  Interestingly, prior to this experience I had never donned boxing gloves, much less boxed.

A large part of the training for RSB was learning about the features of Parkinson’s disease. For myself and my NYIT colleagues, this was the easy part. Each facet of PD is addressed in the class. For example: voice is an issue, therefore during the introduction each boxer must introduce themselves with a loud voice. Cognitive cards are used for multitasking during the fine motor station of the circuit. Gait and balance are addressed during the obstacle course station and social interaction occurs throughout each class.

In Indianapolis, many of the trainees either worked as personal trainers or had MMA (mixed martial arts) experience. Learning how to properly put on wraps and learning how to box was like learning a new language. What impressed me most about the program, was not how physically challenging it was (which it was), but how much interpersonal relationships were being formed. All of the circuits involved teaming up in some way and interacting with others. Additionally, the patients are referred to as “boxers” rather than patients. Aides or spouses that assist are referred to as “cornermen.” All of these are intended to boost morale.

Since September, I have been co-coaching 4 classes per week. I have been impressed with the level of camaraderie that has developed amongst the boxers. It is gratifying to see improvement in the patients, especially ones that were unsuccessful previously using other modalities. Finally, I have something to offer my patients that I did not previously have. Generally, after they come once, they’re hooked because it is an enjoyable and engaging form of exercise.

A large part of the success of the NYIT program is due to the medical student and physical therapy student volunteers. Not only do they help run the class, but they help to motivate the boxers and often act as “cornermen” as needed. For the students, it is a terrific opportunity because they are able to interact with large numbers of Parkinson’s patients and observe how the disease presents differently in different patients. It is also inspiring to see how hard the patients are working in order to improve their quality of life.

Adena Leder DO, Neurologist
Rock Steady Boxing NYIT Long Island
Assistant Professor, Department of Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine
New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine

Sing for Your Health!

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

Audrey Berger (L) and Dana Calitri (R)

Fear and freedom were my two biggest reactions when first diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s disease in 2008. Fear, because I didn’t know where it would leave me, and freedom because I felt a surge of life run through my body not knowing how much “good time” I would have left.

After my initial shock, I read only what I thought was essential and went on a quest to find the best doctor for me; one who would allow me to own my disease while at the same time assuring me I had a partner I could rely on besides my husband. I looked for a doctor who would worry for me, so that I could concentrate on having a good life.

Parkinson’s humbled me and left me with the job of recreating myself. There was a book I had always wanted to write. Not caring how fast I typed or that sometimes I used only one finger, I began to write. Likewise, loving music, I began to sing. Luckily my husband likes my voice, and I found myself becoming happier than I had been in a long time.

I filled my days with writing and my evenings with music. Then one night I was on YouTube and I discovered karaoke. I began singing songs from Etta James to Amy Winehouse, jazz standards, to Old Bayou. Finally, I worked up the nerve to go to a Karaoke club. I got a standing ovation!  When we got home that evening, the only thing I could do was smile and thank my Parkinson’s disease for opening my eyes.

I began to notice my Parkinson’s seemed to be progressing slowly. I didn’t know if it had anything to do with my singing or if I was just lucky, but just in case, I added vocal and breathing exercises to my daily Physical Therapy regime. My speaking voice got stronger, and no one could call me depressed. Having lost a few notes in my upper register, curiously I went to see a speech therapist. The doctor confirmed what my neurologist and I had suspected. My lungs had remained stronger than the average Parkinson’s patient and he attributed much of that to the vocal breathing exercises I had been doing. My annunciation began to improve from the mio mio’s and la la la’s I sang daily.  I found myself becoming less self-conscious speaking in crowds. I began to think, if singing can do this for me, it had to be able to help others as well. So, I called my friend Dana Calitri, a multi-platinum singer/songwriter who is also a vocal instructor and has spent years studying sound healing. Immediately we both felt a calling.

Sing For Your Health!, the workshop we put together incorporates information on the latest studies involving music and the brain; deep meditative breathing and vocal exercises all tied back to Parkinson’s and the symptoms they can help. We end with 45 minutes of singing accompanied by live studio musicians and celebrate and have fun; tremors, walkers, and all. And it is my belief everyone leaves feeling better than when they arrived. I know we do!

We created Sing for Your Health! Which now meets on a monthly basis. Our next workshop series begins on Saturday, April 1st, 2pm at The Tournesol Wellness Center, 26 East 36th Street, NYC.  For more information visit http://www.sfyhealth.com/ or email us at sfyhealth@gmail.com.

Sing For Your Health! would like to thank Dr. Claire Henchcliffe and Natalie Hellmers at Weill Cornell Medical Center for all of their support. The workshops are at no cost to participants thanks to the generous support of US WorldMeds.

Audrey Berger
Team Captain, Sing for Your Health

Parkinson’s Patients Pedal Toward Progress at the Boston JCC

Monday, February 27th, 2017

Exercise has proven to be beneficial to people living with Parkinson’s disease. The best exercise for you is the exercise that you’ll actually do! There are so many different options today including Rock Steady Boxing, Dance for PD, yoga, NIA exercise and cycling – and so many more. Cycling is the one exercise demonstration that you won’t see at the Unity Walk because the logistics of delivering multiple stationary bikes to Central Park is beyond what we can accomplish. Since we can’t showcase cycling classes at the Walk, we thought we’d  use our blog to share some insights into the cycling classes being offered around the country.

Helaine Isaacs
PUW Event Director

Audrey Edwards and Holly Rabinovitz at the JCC

On Monday mornings, the Boston JCC offers a cycling class that looks like any other. But there’s more to this cycle class than meets the eye: Each of its students has Parkinson’s disease, a neurological condition that impairs movement and function.

Cycling on stationary bikes may provide symptomatic relief for people with Parkinson’s disease, especially if they cycle using what is described as forced exercise, i.e. pedaling at a rate faster than their natural cadence. Researchers found this type of cycling exercise appeared to make regions of the brain that deal with movement connect to each other more effectively.  Cycling gives individuals the opportunity to build lower leg muscles in a safe way and individuals may also see an increase in energy level while enjoying exercise in a group environment.  These are all truly beneficial to the population living with Parkinson’s disease.

The Boston JCC is the only fitness facility in the area to offer a cycling class for people with Parkinson’s and the interest and participation have been extremely positive.  The instructors are certified Parkinson’s Cycling Coaches in addition to being experienced cycle instructors, both of which are very important in this specialized cycle class. Karen Sauer, a class participant who never rode on a stationary bike before taking the class is very happy that she is participating in the cycle class. “I think I am probably in better condition than I would be if I didn’t have Parkinson’s disease.  It’s unlikely that I would be taking a cycle class otherwise.  Or the other gym classes.  That just wasn’t me, pre-diagnosis.  Yes, there are challenges, and it’s sometimes hard to tell what’s Parkinson’s disease and what’s aging, but I am optimistic about the future!  Thanks for making exercise fun!”

The JCC and the Movement Disorder Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center are partnering to provide a wide range of fitness programs to the greater Boston community. The offerings are part of the Edmond J. Safra National Parkinson’s Wellness Initiative, launched to improve the lives of people suffering from Parkinson’s, a chronic and progressive movement disorder.

Click here to read Boston Magazine’s feature story on the JCC’s cycling program.

If you’re interested in the JCC’s Parkinson’s programming, visit www.bostonjcc.org or call 617-558-6459.

Holly Rabinovitz
Assistant Wellness Director
Boston Jewish Community Center