I have now started monthly visits
to a regional branch of The Parkinson Sufferers Society.
Just exactly what this last group want or hope for from me
is not so easy to summarize but it has in all been by far
and away the most interesting and rewarding (for myself as
a teacher/instructor) encounter of the three, so I shall begin
with a report on this my new professional association with
The Parkinson Sufferers Society - and describe my 'approach'
to providing these people what they think they need in the
way of Tai Chi.
First it must be understood that what they require above
all is an instructor who is sympathetic to their condition.
They had that with their last instructor because he was I
believe a friend or relative of one of the Societies members;
so he knew a bit about the disease but, as was unfortunately
proven, he did not know enough about Tai Chi or perhaps more
precisely, how to teach it. He ran out of things to say after
only three sessions. Nevertheless I would say that his intentions
were good. I should anyway be grateful to him whoever or whatever
he was for it was he that prepared the ground for me and stimulated
their interest in the first place. I only came into the picture
when the Chairperson of the Society had done a Google search,
visited my website, read a few articles and from that decided
that I just might be the sort of person that might be able
The next step was for them to send me a wad of fact sheets
detailing the particular difficulties that Parkinson's sufferers
experience and conditions that any therapist or 'healer' [a
word that I am not keen on] must be aware of and accommodate
within any 'treatment'. Between the receipt of that wad of
information sheets from the Parkinson's Society and my first
visit with them, I had identified these below as being crucial
to understand before any therapeutic Tai Chi could be effectively
The condition can (due to lack of muscle control in the face
- see "Muscle Cramps" below) create a misleading
impression, leading incorrectly to being perceived of as being
difficult, deaf, disinterested, drunk or unintelligent. As
a consequence many people with Parkinson's feel very isolated.
Can be slurred. Monotonous with lack of variation and expression.
Hoarse and tremulous. Disordered in rate or rhythm. Responses
may be very slow. Leads to similar misunderstanding as those
About 30% of people suffering from Parkinson's will at some
times experience "Freezing" - which can also lead
to an increased risk of falling.
4. Muscle Cramps:
A. Dystonia: Movement disorder. Involuntary contraction of
the muscles, causing spasm. Muscles become hard due to contraction
without relaxing (not the same as "cramp").
B. Akinesia: Reduction in or absence of movement, muscular
rigidity, "cramp". Muscles become hard and less
elastic. In Parkinson's, most common in the feet. Spasm in
the calf muscles can cause the toes to curl into a claw like
position. In other cases the big toe hyper-extends - pointing
5. Smaller Muscles:
'A. 'Blepharospasm': Intermittent or sustained eyelid closure,
caused by the contraction of the eyelid muscle. Aggravated
by stress, looking up or down, reading, driving or bright
lights (photophobia: abnormal intolerance to light).
B. Sialorrhoea: Drooling a.k.a. dribbling. Saliva pooling
and trickling from the mouth. Not because more saliva is produced
but because the tendency to swallow every now and again (even
when not eating) is slowed down (See "4B. Akinesia"
Aggregated by poor (stooped) posture and inadequate lip seal.
Everyone has difficulty in swallowing if they cannot close
their lips tightly. You try! Try to swallow with your mouth
In some cases, simply improving the posture can alleviate
Everyone would drool if the kept their head down and shoulders
haunched for any length of time. It happens to us all when
we fall asleep sitting up.
An apparently small and insignificant thing like swallowing
and consequential eating problems can have a tremendous negative
impact upon a person's quality of life at home, and in terms
of their social life. Those with the problem can become anxious
about swallowing anything for the fear of choking. Many eat
less than normal and loose weight. They do not enjoy eating
and feel embarrassed, or experience panic or anxiety attacks
at mealtimes. All of this has a demoralising effect; because
eating and drinking are essential parts of life and the social
aspect is as important as the practical, biological function.
Fundamental Tai Chi and Chi Kung practices
So anyway, in some cases, simply improving the posture can
alleviate Sialorrhoea. So that's good! So I decided that I
was willing to give it a go if they were, convinced as I am
that simple and fundamental Tai Chi and Chi Kung practices
can help. As for all of those other conditions that I list
above is concerned, I am just as sure that a little Tai Chi
or Chi Kung will do no harm at all. Obviously I will not be
teaching them the Yang Long Form, not only because I do not
meet them as individuals and I go to their place rather than
then coming to mine, but because The Yang Long Form is not
(for now) what they need. Full blown Tai Chi Form one day
perhaps, but in the meantime the introduction of some simple
posture, movement, limb coordination and breath exercise is
a step in the right direction!
Accordingly, I paid my first visit and presented my first
session to 15 or so enthusiastic participants gathered in
a Community Centre in Cosham, Portsmouth, Hants UK, on Wednesday
26th of this month. I am pleased to say that it went very
well and my advanced bookings have already been extended into
next year. I am quick to add now that the success of the event
and enthusiasm for more is due in no small part to the participation
and masterly input of my Tai Chi teacher, Raymond Wood who
has generously agreed to advise and assist me in this project,
and attend all of the sessions with me. Furthermore, we have
agree with The Parkinson's Society that we will follow up
all sessions with notes and illustrations where necessary
of the exercises practiced the proceeding month - along with
more concise and considered text summery of relevant issues
raised. In turn I intend to use all of the notes and, with
Ray's expert advice and my own hands on and direct experience,
devise a full and every day program of Chi Kung and Tai Chi
style exercise program for the generally aged or infirmed.
The Yang Long Form its not; but any one can do it and it sure
won't do any harm!
First, just nod your head to and fro (chin down and then chin
up) - 6 times down, 5 up. Breathe out as you lower your chin
for the first time. Breathe in, chin up; breathe out, chin
down. Finish with your chin down. When finished (6 down 5
up) keep your chin lowered for two breaths (in out, in out).
On the next (3rd) in breath - raise your chin up and balance
your head on your shoulders like a strawberry atop a knickerbocker
That above is the first notes made recording proceedings
at the first PSS (Parkinson's Sufferers Society) session.
Aside from this we also did two other head/neck/cervical (particularly
the Axis and the Atlas) vertebrae exercises. Following this
Ray led the group in some very interesting, easy to do 'stepping,
pushing and breathing' exercises. These too will be documented
soon and will, along with some ongoing suggestions for practice
to keep the participants busy with till we next meet (we have
already agreed this with the participants) go on to make up
the "full and every day program of Chi Kung and Tai Chi
style exercise program for the generally aged or inferred"