"Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a right or wrong way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.” ~ Greater Good, U.C. Berkeley
To change the course of Parkinson's disease, you need to be mindful, moment by moment, of where parts of your body are in space and their movements. Conscious, intentional direction of movement needs to take place, because the neural circuits that previously guided movement have become broken due to neurons dying from the accumulation of a toxic protein, alpha-synuclein. The problem of PD is not deficient dopamine, it is neuronal death from alpha-synuclein toxicity. Consequently, supplementing dopamine does not actually heal anything, it merely reduces symptoms for a limited period of time. Evoking neuroplasticity recruits new neurons and new neuronal connections at the behest of consciously directed movement. The more movement is consciously directed, the more the brain rewires itself. Ultimately new neurons and nerve bundles guide movement until once again movement will not require conscious brain activity.
Meditation is the state of mind from whence mindfulness arises. The ideal would be for each PWP to take a complete meditation training curriculum such as the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Unfortunately, such training takes time and is not widely available throughout the country.
Picture there being two different applications of mindfulness. First is the meditative practice itself. The benefits are long-lasting and positive. But even if you do not become a regular meditator, being consciously mindful of your body—how it moves, how it is positioned in space— will allow your conscious mind to assist you in restoring your posture and gait to what it was prior to developing Parkinson's.
Parkinson's messes up your brain maps. Left unchallenged, those maps become the new ‘normal.’ But that normal isn’t normal at all. The good news is with mindfulness and proper exercise you can regain proper posture and gait. You evoke neuroplastic change.
While the emphasis of this program is on the deep mind and accessing altered states of consciousness, don't sell your conscious mind short. Armed with mindfulness, stay alert for Parkinson's movements and postures which you can consciously correct at that very moment. Every time you do, neurons pair up and start firing together.
Think about military recruits entering basic training. After three months, their posture, gait, and attitude have been radically altered; a result of actions of their conscious minds. For PWPs, the most important adjustment of all is correct posture. Never let yourself bend over. Stand straight and tall with shoulders back and down. Let your posture express the essence of what Winston Churchill said:
"Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy."
MINDFUL SWIFT WALKING(APPLIED MINDFULNESS FOR THE BODY)
Form - Posture Start by standing at attention. Head up straight as if a gold cord goes from the top of your head into your pelvis and down to the earth below. Your chin is parallel to the ground. Eyes fixed on the horizon. Shoulders back and down. Chest out in front as if leading with your heart. Continue this, being mindful of your whole body, checking whether your posture or gait starts to go back to the PD way. If it has downgraded, stop, re-align your body and then continue. Your body provides proprioceptive feedback to your brain. The more you mindfully walk, more nerves bundle together and reestablish how you would walk as if you didn’t have PD.
Intensity This is mindful therapeutic walking. Emphasize the Mindful part first. Walk fast enough that you can still speak normally, but that’s all. This is not for walking the dog. You can’t be mindful of your body if your attention is on the dog looking for the next tree to sniff.
Duration This depends on your fitness level, location, and weather. Start with at least 20 minutes. As you get more fit, gradually extend that time to one hour.
Frequency Start formal training three to five days a week. When you are more fit and can cover 3 miles per walk, three days a week is fine.
~~~~~~~~~ Anytime you're walking, remember to be mindful of your posture and gait. ~~~~~~~~~ The pace doesn't necessarily have to be fast. FORM first. SPEED second.