NeuroSupportive Yoga Therapy
Yoga Therapy for Neurological Conditions & Movement Disorders
Neurological conditions and movement disorders present long-term challenges that often surpass the reach of conventional therapeutic interventions. Living with multiple sclerosis, early onset Parkinson's, or Huntington's is quite a different proposition from that of healing from an injury: short-term, intensive, and sporadic therapy does not support and sustain an individual for a lifetime. Yoga Therapy's whole-person approach to health and wellbeing, adaptability, and long-term outlook on self-care and quality of life provide a durative yet gentle form of therapy for the complex range of symptoms, changing emotional state, and stress / anxiety associated with the unpredictability of living with a neurological condition or movement disorder.
NeuroSupportive Yoga Therapy™
NeuroSupportive Yoga Therapy™ sessions are led by a C-IAYT yoga therapist specializing in neurological conditions who is familiar with the day-to-day, moment-to-moment variability and nuanced nature of symptoms or medication side-effects. Each session is adjusted to meet the client's current, ongoing, and changing situation and ability: to ensure ease and accessibility, Yoga Therapy sessions are provided at the client's residence in Bloomington IN, reducing the need for arranging transportation. For some, it can be the difference between being 'frozen' at home (those with Parkinson's will relate to this!) or having sufficient energy to shower, dress, and drive to and from an appointment at another location. For most of us, making lunch or running an errand are an afterthought: for those with MS or ALS, each moment of activity can be the difference –and choice– between spending time with friends and family, or being unable to function for the next few days or week. At times, it is necessary to pause and simply care for oneself.
Multiple Sclerosis - MS manifests in many ways, differing from one person to the next: balance and gait impairment, visual disturbances, spasticity and joint contracture, gastrointestinal issues, depression. Stress, be it emotional, physical, or mental can cause a flare-up of symptoms (exacerbation) or an outright relapse. The unpredictability of MS progression —from a once in a lifetime CIS (clinically isolated syndrome), to a relapsing-remitting pattern over decades, or a progressive and unrelenting worsening of symptoms— creates an uneasy, nebulous outlook on the future which clients often struggle with from the day of diagnosis. Yoga therapy for MS gently focuses on letting go of physical patterns which may contribute to chronic pain, anxiety, and physical tension, while providing a means of self-care and more body-awareness in daily activities. Sessions are not merely modified or adaptive yoga— they are specific to the person, and how best to benefit that person with consideration for the physical as well as emotional aspects of MS. Over time, and with a commitment to regular practice and application of what is learned from yoga therapy sessions, our clients have expressed both surprise and pleasure at the changes they observe... some more subtle, and others quite substantial.
Parkinson's - PD is often misunderstood by observers in that the body may appear awkward and wayward, a person's face enigmatic and set, yet inside is a thriving, sensitive human being. It does not help when long-term use of medications create significant side effects which may –rather ironically– accentuate some of the symptoms of Parkinson's such as dyskinesia, obsessive/compulsive tendencies, and hallucinations. Freezing, brain fog, and dyskinesia may manifest at any time, or withdraw for long periods: movement is helpful, but knowing when a symptom is due to the disease or to medication will affect the approach, and focus, of a yoga therapy session. This said, we encourage each individual at their level of ability, but are mindful that the body-mind connection may be better addressed by movement one day, and by awareness and anxiety reduction techniques on another.
Cerebral Palsy - CP is a congenital (present at birth) condition which will affect an individual for life. Spasticity, abnormal joint flexion, movement abnormalities (dystonia, chorea), seizures, vision and hearing problems can all be present, or manifest separately. We generally work with teenagers or young adults to improve self-reliance and find solutions to movement / positional / functional challenges.
Huntington's - Changes in personality such as irritability and anger are the first, usually overlooked, signs of HD. With time, symptoms worsen notably: discoordination of movements, an unsteady gait, and eventual loss of ability to walk or talk. Huntington's is usually inherited, and tends to develop at an earlier age with each generation. We find that anxiety and depression are common due to awareness of disease progression in family members, therefore yoga therapy sessions emphasize body-mind connection and letting go of negative, repetitive thought patterns.
ALS - Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The name speaks for itself: a- no, myo- muscle, trophic -nourishment. Progressive, debilitating muscle weakness due to atrophy, accompanied by cramps and twitching, are the most visible symptoms, yet these are followed by loss of ability to speak, swallow, and eventually, breathe. How can yoga therapy help? From the first onset of symptoms, there is a growing physical weakness which cannot be directly addressed through physical activity, yet which can benefit from gentle yoga therapy focused on breathing patterns to reduce vertical breathing (using intrinsic neck muscles to lift the ribcage as the diaphragm weakens), and overall gentle mobilization of the body to help with circulation, digestion, and range of motion.
Conditions with Neurological Involvement
Ehlers Danlos - Typically considered to be a genetically inherited syndrome with multiple subgroups, EDS symptomology ranges from chronic pain and fatigue, unstable joints and connective tissue, orthostatic intolerance and severe migraines to dysautonomia (malfunction of the autonomic nervous system). Yoga therapy is focused on stability, safe range of motion, and pain management.
Lupus - A systemic, autoimmune disease wherein the body's immune system attacks tissues and organs, creating systemic inflammation and affecting joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart and lungs. Stiffness, Sjogren's syndrome (dry eyes, mouth), photosensitivity, skin rashes and lesions, repeated low-grade fever, excessive fatigue, and unpredictable relapses are a few of the manifestations of lupus. Fatigue and pain management, as well as learning to reduce stress or reactivity to stressors may be emphasized in yoga therapy sessions.
Myasthenia Gravis - Significant ('grave') skeletal muscle weakness (arms, hands, fingers, legs, neck) is the hallmark of this chronic autoimmune neuromuscular disease, as well as possible trouble swallowing and difficulty with speech (dysarthria). Although muscle weakness is often managed with DMTs, over-exertion, stress, menses, pregnancy, as well as anesthetics and some antibiotics are factors which may worsen myasthenia gravis. Comorbidities (co-occurring conditions) such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus maybe present. Yoga therapy sessions will vary depending on level of ability or weakness, focus on identifying potential sources of worsening symptoms, as well as engaging in proactive lifestyle management.
NeuroPalliative Yoga Therapy™
The term palliative is one of the most misunderstood terms in health care. It is associated with end of life and last recourse, when in fact 'palliate' (in medical terms) means to ease the symptoms of, or lessen the intensity of, a disease. Neuropalliative care is a relatively new field in neurology which puts an emphasis on the whole person, encompassing the various aspects of a person's life when addressing long-term neurological and neuromuscular conditions— taking into consideration their physical, mental, social, and spiritual needs. NeuroPalliative Yoga Therapy™ is a wonderful adjunct to comprehensive therapy programs and neuropalliative care, in keeping with the tradition of metta /maitri (compassion, benevolence, active interest in others).
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Potential... Lost and Found
Yoga may bring subtle or sometimes dramatic changes into someone’s life, yet it is vital to remember that tangible results –both mental and physical– are possible because of intention and practice. Yoga therapists do not create that change but can be a catalyst and a support for that change. “The fact that she knows and understands MS has given me added confidence to try the poses and to learn new adaptations. Through her yoga therapy, she is meeting my individual needs.”__AW
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