Fascia Based Yoga and Movement for Parkinson’s Disease

Yesterday I had the honor of teaching a movement and yoga class for people with PD at a conference sponsored by Dartmouth- Hitchcock Medical Center. I had a room of about 150 PD patients and caregivers. I won’t ever see most of these people again so I felt a lot of urgency about giving them something that could really benefit their lives permanently.
I decided to teach about the wonder of tensegrity and the fascia connections that build it.
Does anyone remember Buckminster Fuller and his domes? Quite simply, Bucky Fuller discovered that tensegrity structures have both more resilience and less stiffness. If you load tension into one place all the connecting pieces respond to create support and balance in a multi dimensional way.
So what is tensegrity? It refers to the forces of tension (provided by muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia) pulling on structure (bones and joints) that help keep the body both stable and efficient in mass and movement.
Huh? Tensegrity requires a shift in perception.. Rather than seeing our bodies as stable building blocks aligned from the ground up we benefit by recognizing that continuous tension spread through the body through relations that can change depending on forces that impact anyone place keeps us balance, flexible and responsive to stress. Think of a martial artist or a dancer. They depend on whole body response and integration to be injury free, strong and responsive to change.
This kind of movement is not just for these “movement advanced” people. We all need to claim tensegrity.
The components of our connective tissue help us to do just that. Derived of elastin, collagen and a very liquid matrix, connective tissue (fascia) as a an elasticity and fluidity that bring bounce to the whole system. It creates a kind of weaving or netting; in effect it is a  gelatinous fabric that gives non muscular shape and support to our bodies.
This is important for people both with and without Parkinson’s!
Try an experiment:

Pick an arm. Raise it up to the sky. See how far it goes.

Take a tennis ball and place it under an armpit. Squeeze it! Take a hold of your upper arm and gently push the arm up and down several times while breathing. Keep the ball in your armpit. Stretch your fingers out as you push down and relax them as you come up.


Now, with the ball still in your armpit, push the arm forward and back. Let your hand stretch open as you push back and close it as you come forward.

Now remove the ball and raise your arm. What’s different?  

Repeat to the other side.

Or join me in either PD classes, somatic movement for adults classes or through one on one work and discover your resilience, balance and fluid strength.

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Build Strength from Natural Rhythm and Ease

I have often been asked how to use the easy and supportive movements we learn through Original Body Wisdom in fitness, weight lifting, yoga and strength training. So, I am offering a course that will teach you how how to use relaxation as the basis for your power. This might sound counter intuitive but it isn’t at all.

The truth is, we all have rhythms that build on our bodies desire for varying amounts of effort and rest. Think of spending a day in the woods hiking. You might start out slowly and then pick up speed. You might rest frequently or run up hills with bursts of energy. You might be slow and fairly steady throughout. But, your body will clue you in on how to take this hike. And, in listening to your body, it will feel right. Your body can feel better in all your exercise activities when you learn how to apply it’s natural need for fluctuations.

We also get in the way of our body enjoying exercise every time think our movement is linear. It’s really not.  If you have taken a class or lesson with me the following will be a familiar exploration:  Simply lift your arms in a T shape shoulder height. Now do a bicep curl (If you are not sure what that is just bend your elbows and bring your hands closer to your shoulders), Now, try the same thing but let your elbows curl ever so slightly upwards. See if it feels stronger but easier to lift. Respecting the natural curves of our muscles and the angular bends of our joints take effort away and help us sustain strength. If you didn’t feel this right away, don’t worry. You might have it already or you might need some individualized feedback to feel the power and subtlety of the movement.

Bending, gliding, rolling and folding at your joints is another important part of strength, In fact, joint health is a crucial subject when ever we talk about strength and fitness. That is because you can’t be strong without dependable joints that are both stable and capable of responding to weight and directional change. It’s common to think that joints function well because surrounding muscles are strong and flexible. Experience has shown me that the functioning of the joints themselves are improved doing range of motion exercises that are specifically initiated from the joints themselves.

A clue as to how this works can be discovered by doing some shoulder rolls. Notice what they feel like. Now, imagine the actual ball of the shoulder joint rolling around in its “cave” as you do the movement. What changes?

The kind of work I offer is subtle and does require patience. It’s also ultimately quite transforming. Not only have my students regularly reported easier and stronger movement, but they report more comfort and ease with themselves.

Thank you for reading this and I hope to see you in class or for a personal session soon!

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The Ihunch sHuffle

Did you know that slouching can cause emotional distress and physical pain and limitation? A health psychology randomized trial study has shown that slumped participants used more negative emotion words, sad words, expressed being more at the affect of events and used fewer positive words. You know when you feel badly it’s hard ot have pep and to get out and move!

Do you notice yourself hunching and slouching? All of that tension in yoir neck and shoulders impacts your lower body. In fact, the free movement of arms and shoulders help propel your gait and make walking easier and smoother.
It’s fine to slouch sometimes. Especially if you feel tired, defeated or sad. But it’s not a posture you want to make a habit. So, What can you do about it?
1. Minimize small screen time. The smaller the screen the more slouching. Retro large monitors are better for your neck and shoulders. Standing at a large monitor is even better.
2. There are 29 joints in a human hand. Increasing movement in these joints has a positive effect on your shoulders and any hunch you may have. Try this simple experiment:
Place your hands in a prayer position in front of your heart. Notice the position of your shoulders (caution – if the muscles between your hands and shoulders are not communicating well with each other you may not notice an effect. But don’t worry. You can change that). Now place the backs of your hands together and see if you can feel the difference in the position of your shoulders. It may effect your upper back as well.
3. Free your shoulders. We usually think of our shoulders as rounded forward ( slouching) or pulled back and down. Really the shoulder joints have complexity and can rest comfortably in a nice posture without your having to pin them back and down. 
Notice how your shoulders feel in relationship to your neck, head and upper back. Pick up a couple of tennis balls or small rubber balls and place them in your arm pits. Roll one ball up while you roll the other down. Your shoulders should move with the balls. Do this several times making sure the movement is gentle and easy. Then remove the balls. Notice the differences in your shoulders.
Of course, not all neck and shoulder pain is technology related.But getting a nice natural movement sequence happening between these seemingly unconnected parts can have benefits of:
  • Eliminating strain and overwork in your neck, shoulders, and wrists.
  • Turning and lift your head easily and without pain.
  • Building more upper-body strength through natural, functional movements.

Check out how your neck and shoulders can become much more free in 6 short weeks

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Strong, Flexible and Pain Free = Happy Body

I have no doubt you know that your core (abdominal and spinal) strength and flexibility have a powerful effect on all parts of your body.Maybe people sense this instinctively by tightening their gut to stand taller.

But did you know that your limbs and especially your extremities have a profound effect on your core? Yes, How you reach with your hands and and step through your feet can support or weaken the joints further up the line.

Let’s try a simple, sort of no brain, exercise to illuminate this.
Try walking with exaggerated duck feet, (Toes pointing severely to the sides).
Now try pigeon foot moves. (Toes pointing inward towards each other)..
Can you feel the impact of your feet on your ankles? Knees? Hips? Lower back?
After you did this experiment you might be saying to yourself: Okay. When I walk  can remember to point my toes forward. That will correct any imbalance in my walk.
But, you can’t just impose alignment on your body and make everything better. Your body is much more sophisticated and connected than that.

Simply changing the position of your foot won’t alleviate the problem. Smoothing out the relationship that travels from your foot through your ankle, shin bones, knees and up into your hips will.

The same is true of the connection from your hands to wrists, forearms, elbows, upper arms into shoulders and into your spine. Re patterning any habits of faulty communication or misused movement between these parts can correct these difficulties.
And, the re-patterning I work with through Original Body Wisdom also enhances relaxation, increases body awareness and builds balance, flexibility and functional strength.
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The evolutionary roots of precise and powerful walking

Fall is in the air and it’s a really great time to get out and walk. That is easier said than done if walking is tiring, painful or boring. Maybe it doesn’t feel as natural as it used to?

Our bodies are built for walking. There is a lot of “genetic lineage” that led up to and supports healthy and satisfying walking movement.  What is that genetic lineage?

Well, think about this:

Life started in the water and the water creatures that came before us grew fins that helped propel them forward in the sea. Then those very fins transformed into early arms and legs that got land reptiles and then mammals moving on the surface of the earth.  Through many permutations we humans developed and brought sustained upright posture into the picture.The key to sustaining our healthy upright posture and movement is to go back and experience key movements that set the stage for who we are now. It won’t be the first time you have done these movements; you went through them as an infant and toddler. But, once we hit 40 and above most of us have bad habits that cloud the clarity and support of our healthy movement foundation.

The Yoga of Walking Clinic is an awareness based method of uncovering the healthy functioning of your body. It’s pleasant, interesting and fun. You can read more on my website or sign up! I don’t want to fill my writing with testimonials but you can also read about the deeply useful experiences students have had with the clinic.
If you have already done a walking clinic it might be time for  a refresher. And now is the time to come as I have expanded the hours, experience and information. Walking will get ever more pleasant and beneficial.Hope to see you there!


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“What’s Keeping You From Gliding Through Life: The Yoga Of Happy, Healthy Hips”

Yoga is about understanding the art and science of life. That includes the bringing together of opposites: activity and rest, strength and flexibility, intention and receiving. What makes it possible to bring together these opposites into a cohesive whole? Integration. Integration allows our bodies and minds to flow easily and freely.
Integration helps us glide through life.
Gliding is literal and figurative. Certainly its about our attitude and mental perceptions, but it’s also about how we actually move in the world. The fluidity, strength and coordination of our hips are essential for a good glide. But hips won’t move in a fluid and pain free way, if the rest of the body isn’t integrated with them. Body parts,places like feet, the pelvis and sacrum have a profound effect on the flexibility and function and freedom of your hips.
Think of your hip joints as highly evolved balls in cups. They have to rotate around evenly and without getting hung up on glitches. What can make them glitch?
Mis-stepping can create glitches. How you land on your feed gives information to your joints. Do you habitually walk on the outer edge of your foot? That is one way to shift the placement of the ball in it’s cup. Do it enough and you get a friction effect, straining the joint.
Another common way to get a glitch in your hips is by twisting your pelvis. Think of a metal bowl with two holes on either side of the bottom. Water spills evenly through the holes unless one side of the bowl gets twisted. Now the shape of the hole is changed and the directionality of the water changes too. So it is with your hips in relationship to the bowl that is your pelvis.

What can you do to help this? locate the sacral part of your spine. It’s below your lower back curve. Lie on a firm but comfortable surface. Roll and rock gently on the sacrum in circular and arcing movements. You will loosen it up and give it some freedom so it can adjust itself.
Another common problem is the lack of tone or too much tone in the floor of the pelvis itself. Too loose and the weight of your abdominal organs can fall forward stressing your hips. Too tight and movement gets restricted.


What can you do to help this? Sit comfortably in a relaxed but not collapsed position. Imagine your perineum ( the point exactly in the center of your pelvic floor) as a flashlight. See if you can imagine the flashlight getting brighter with each inhalation and more dim with each exhalation. With practice you will gently find the muscles of the pelvic floor working and they will alternate between expanding and contracting with your breath.

 Working to creating alignment through stretch or strength can help these patterns. But, it’s in the ordinary movements we make a thousand or more times a day that we really influence and change our bodies. By gently and clearly introducing more natural but forgotten ways of movement, you bring yourself back into alignment and increase strength and flexibility.


Want to take my 6 week course Happy HipsFriday session begins September 11 and the Saturday session begins September 12.

 Want to learn more? Call me, email me or sign up online.  Make your hips happy.
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Your Original Body Wisdom and Qigong

A lot of people have asked me if I have studied the Chinese movement and energy system — Qigong. 

I was always drawn to its elegant and rich moves and underlying imagery but I had never formally studied the practice. Thankfully, over this past fourth of July weekend I attended Roger Jahnke’s Qigong workshop “Feel the Qi” at the Omega Institute. It was a great experience and I already see the benefits of Qigong practice. 

I think Dr. Jahnke is a really excellent teacher because rather than just learning a series of movements, he taught principles of Qigong and its basis in Chinese philosophy and medicine.

He guided us into both intellectually understanding and feeling how forces of both the earth and the cosmos act upon us.

It felt like I was being pulled by different magnetic forces that met and interacted in my body ad energy field. I felt both truly insignificant (as we appear to be on the universal level) and yet so vital and empowered. I felt a sense of having some meaningful role in the larger sense of life through how these forces conduct and circulate through my body. It was kind of humbling and expanding at the same time!

Roger also explained that there are 9 phases of Qi (Healing Promise of Qi) .

By engaging them we have a potential map or recipe for physical health and mental / emotional well-being. Like any good map or recipe, these forms are guidelines. It’s through our actual walking of the path that we find what works for us!

I felt a natural infinity to walking this path. In fact, I feel a deep sense of calm and renewal that has stayed with me from the workshop. The movements themselves were very familiar.

I am gratified that my own study of my body’s innate wisdom serves me in learning more.

Perhaps the most obvious similarity is circular movement. I know for my own self that changing my thinking over the past 20 years about movement as linear to subtly spiraling has made my muscles more fluid, my joints more limber and my movement effortless. I think my lifelong embodiment of movement exploration really helped me experience Qi.

I know I have also felt energy of tides, pulls and circulations in my body and in others for a long time.

Noticing how there are particular passageways for energy to move as a kind of holistic mapped system was a great gift to me

Stay tuned for my next post.

I will write more on my observations of the intersection of my (and many of our) somatic movement work as it melds with Qigong.



 donna and roger j

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The Yoga of Natural Breathing

Did you know that just being curious while relaxing creates a “sweet spot” for learning something new? Neither did I, but thanks to Lisa Wimberger, I understand how the work we do in Body Wisdom  gets us into that state. Biochemically what is happening when we experience this relaxed curiosity is that we are increasing the flow of dopamine, neuroephrine and acetolyne.  The synergy of these chemicals create the best conditions for fun and sustainable learning. So, when you apply curiosity to a new movement you are ripe to create a new neurological pathway. In Body Wisdom we are creating the pathways for ease, comfort, strenngth and resislience. Relaxed curiosity is our trusty companion through the process of learning new movements and ways of being in our bodies. Essential to all expereinces of relaxed curiosity is a enjoyable relationship to your breath. So much has been written about and thought about breathing that its important to go into a little bit more depth to understand my perspective on what I’m calling Natural Breathing.

Natural Breathing is both an outcome of and a doorway into relaxed curiosity. Since Natural Breathing is the starting and “constant point” of the Body Wisdom experience lets explore it in more detail.  Natural breathing differs from deep breathing or breathing exercises because it reveals your breathing rather than trains it. Think of it this way: you could train hard for a marathon but never meet your goals if you have a troublesome movement in your ankle. That movement would have to be addressed for you to really get speed and endurance. Similarly, troublesome movements in your nostrils, lungs, ribs, diaphragm, abdomen, pelvis neck or shoulders prevent you from really breathing freely.

Here are a few things I notice that get in the way of people have natural, effortless and full breath:

Restriction in your ribs, lungs or diaphragm will make deep breathing will feel very effortful. Some people will even feel stressed or light headed by deep breathing. Solution: Understand how to coax movement in places that have been unresponsive to the movement of your breath

Over use of certain muscles in breathing. Often, I see people using the trapezius and scalenes to bring breath into the chest. Although these muscles do play a part in breathing when over used they will make your neck and shoulders very tight. Solution: Learn how to gently inhibit over- enthusiastic muscles.

Underestimating or ignoring the effect breathing has on posture. Most people pull their posture out of alignment to “get” a deep breath and then lose postural support on the exhalation. Solution: Experience how natural breathing works in concert with good posture.

Belief that there is a definitive “good breath”. In truth, our breathing patterns are meant to change with activity, rest, exertion and emotional states. Solution: Discover a spectrum of healthy breathing possibilities.

Please join me Transform your breath gently and playfully!  Freeing Your Natural Breath 7 week courses start Friday May 22nd and Saturday May 23rd.


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Change your mind, change your muscle tone

Many people ask me why stretching often gives them only temporary relief from tightness and pain.

It’s because stretching does not change the brain. And to change the body we need to change the mind.

Our muscles spindles have nerves that relay information between our spinal cord, brain and muscle. Technically, this function is called the alpha-gamma loop and it keeps us alternating between action and proper resting tone as needed. But stress and injury cause the the feedback loop to get dysfunctional. By allowing gentle muscular “pumping” in proper sequence we get the loop to function correctly again. The muscles change and, more importantly, the mind changes. It sees easier and more supportive pathways in movement and in life.

Try it out in my next course Liberate your Neck and Shoulders beginning March 20 and 21 in Hadley. Enrollment is limited.
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Happy Hips Happy Heart

Do you remember the exquisite movement you had as a child? And how happy it made you? You could jump, bounce and run with such energy and pleasure! You can’t become a child again but you can reclaim some of the happiness, natural  spring and resiliency you have lost.

How? Through letting your body lead the way!
There is a mental and emotional harmony that comes from learning how to let your body (and not your mind) lead your movement. Research is starting to show how following signals from the body up to the brain (instead of top down brain to body) eases stress, creates emotional resiliency and enhances learning. It also allows the body to to move more support and comfort.
In fact, when your whole body movement sequences in just the right way you will experience pleasure and satisfaction in ordinary activities that now might be tiring, stressful or pained. This is because human beings evolved to use minimal energy and effort to accomplish any task. Yet, most of us use much more effort than we need. Think of a pitcher unwinding a throw. You can see the elegant, fluid and supportive movement that is so natural.
Understanding how your body naturally works helps you have this beauty and ease in your own movement. This fall I am offering a course called Happy Hips that helps you understand how your hips, knees, center and ankles move together and propel you forward in life.  And do it with a spring in your step.

Working together we can introduce more positive possibilities for your movement and get you to relax.. This is important because being at ease is the start, not end point, of feeling better.
A couple of years ago I started really asking  why people were describing my classes as “movement meditation”, Homeopathic Yoga” or “Nervous System Nirvana.” I realized that they were feeling the power of relaxing into new, and yet natural, experience. My “takeaway” is that less is more and that our bodies want to make changes. They do doing it best in supportive and comfortable atmosphere.
Please get more information on Happy Hips Here.
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