Simply Walking, Good for the Mind

mobilaserA recent article in the Orlando Sentinel focused on Dr. Jay Van Gerpen, a neurologist who specializes in gait.  He’s working with Parkinson’s patients on a study to help them stay on their feet and retain brain health.  Van Gerpen uses a simple tool, a laser device attached to walkers or canes that shoots a red laser beam in front of the person walking.

The theory is that visual cues can help Parkinson’s patients walk without freezing.  A telling sign of Parkinson’s is when gait and movement become imbalanced or halting. When patients focus on stepping over the line, they access the visual part of the brain, which bypasses the motor output area that isn’t working.

The old saying “there are many ways to skin a cat, ” proves true.  The laser provides a work-around.  The end result, a higher level of functionality.  One user stated; “When I wasn’t able to move as much, I noticed my brain was much worse,” Puckett said. “With the laser I can move, get around, and am definitely able to concentrate better.”

Now, regular readers will know I invariably tie these kind of news articles into the practice of Yoga.  Yep, here it is: when we practice moving from one posture into another, we are challenging the neural pathways, as well as stretching our tendons and joints, and maintaining muscle strength and tone.  We work with balance and we move with both symmetry and asymmetry.  As Jason Wallis, owner of Fitness Over Fifty says, “It’s good to keep the body guessing.”

So, as our society has become increasingly sedentary it’s important to remember; simple activity, like walking, is a great offense to maintain health and functional fitness.  Exercise improves or maintains circulation, ie: blood flow, which helps keep our tissues healthy, and keeps our systems active, challenged and in use.  In this example, we use an external tool (the laser) to maintain health when one part of system stops working properly.  Ingenious, really.

The Orlando Sentinel’s Marni Jameson has written several articles on Parkinson’s you can find a sub-category here.  The link to this article has many photos and a short video.  It’s informative and worth the time.

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Men’s Yoga – November Update

Some Housekeeping and Good News!

First, I’ve mentioned this after some classes, but it bares repeating. This year marks the first summer where classes haven’t dropped off. There is now a large enough group of guys that even if the most regular can’t make it, we’ll still have 4-5 guys on Mondays. Senior Men has a smaller group, but is very committed. I appreciate all of you, those who’ve been with me since the beginning and those who have joined recently.

Second, we will have class Monday evening on Veterans Day, FOF is open. And, we will have class as usual the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. If you haven’t been for a while, we’d love to see you! Men’s Yoga – Mondays at 5:30pm and Senior Men’s Yoga – Wednesdays at 2:30pm.

The Gospel of the ToltecsToltec Traditions

As you know, I’ve been reading deeper into Totlec traditions. I enjoyed Don Miguel Ruiz’s popular book The Four Agreements and am familiar with the authors related to Carlos Castaneda. But I wanted more background on the origin of the Toltec concept of intent.

One of the books I tracked down and have been reading from in class is The Gospel of the Toltecs. I’ve reviewed it here.

I find that the Toltec philosophy of intent parallels the Yogic focus of concentration. One of my favorite passages from the book: “Do not allow the scattered ashes and the crossroads to give you orders.” In other words, do not allow a past failure or the simple presence of a new choice to distract you. We clear away the clutter to attain the correct perspective. It’s often easier to talk about these concepts than to effect change. But that is why we practice!

Paul Grilley

Paul Grilley with friend.

Paul Grilley on Anatomy

I first came across Paul Grilley at Kripalu, where I got my certification. They used a section from his video Anatomy for Yoga during our training. Grilley is committed to helping people understand how their body works and why forcing the body into an “ideal” of the pose can cause injury. His contention is that we don’t often allow for skeletal variation and misunderstand tension and compression as expressed in poses.

Grilley recently responded to an article written by William Broad who has been examining injuries from Yoga both to Men and Women for several years. Broad has been criticized for generalizations and inaccuracies. However, I like how Grilley drills down simply in his response.

As Yoga instructors, we often say “listen to your body” or “back off as needed.” But this explains why pushing will actually do more harm than good, if we’re working against what the body can do.

Men’s Yoga new location, adds senior’s class

Starting in January, my Yoga for Men classes will move to the Willamette Wellness Center / FOF at 6735 SW Country Club Drive, Corvallis, Oregon. It’s a very nice space.  They have blocks, but folks should bring their own mats, if possible.  And the price is quite reasonable (price updated, January 2013):

$9.00 – drop in         $7.00 – 15 class pass ($105)         $6.00 – 30 class pass ($180)

Beginning Men’s Yoga – This class introduces Men to Yoga and establishes familiar routines for the continuing student to build competency.  The class is active and can offer a work out to those who desire it, but it also includes a focus on alignment, breathing and relaxation. Mondays from 5:30-6:30pm

Beginning Senior Men’s Yoga – This is an accessible class that focuses on the set up of basic and attainable postures and breathing exercises.  We use a chair for balance and comfort and classes end with deep relaxation. Wednesdays from 2:30-3:30pm

Please note, while both classes are labeled “beginner” a main focus of these “men’s” yoga classes is to foster community among men.  So, any level is welcome.