Managing Parkinson's Disease with Tai Chi and Qigong
interviewed by Instructor Lis
For Alex, Tai Chi and meditation play a major role in maintaining his
quality of life.
He began classes with Brett back in 1996 learning the traditional Yang
form, but went overseas in 2001. On his return, he didnít resume lessons
due to various commitments. He continued to practise the Yang style,
but found "attending classes becomes crucial, if you want to maintain
integrity of practice and commitment."
It was not until 2007, when he was diagnosed with Parkinsonís Disease,
that he decided to return to the Academy.
The key issue with Parkinsonís Disease is that a neuro-transmitter
called dopamine, which facilitates electrical impulses between the nerve
synapses, is produced by the body in reduced quantities. In extreme
situations, it ceases to be produced at all. The result is a
disconnection between the brain and the muscles, causing coordination
problems and shaking. Medication helps to reduce these symptoms but
does not cure the disease. Apart from medication, the key control
factors are diet, exercise, meditation and personal management of the
At first Alex was reluctant to admit there was a serious problem with
his health. He has practised different forms of meditation and yoga
since the 1970s. Sometimes, this intensive inward focus can result in a
build up of energy which releases as bodily shaking. His wife and one
of his sons correctly pointed out this was a new and different issue
altogether so Alex saw his doctor.
Finding a management framework is difficult, but he discovered that
Tai Chi and Qigong are excellent aids to do this.
"The practice of Tai Chi not only provides relief, but it also provides
the philosophical basis for discipline, well-being and synchronicity.
Tai Chi, as opposed to physical work-out, aerobics and hatha yoga
exercise routines, has the integrity of a vast body of Taoist
and Buddhist philosophy and meaning underpinning it."
Alex recalls his dismay when, on returning to Tai Chi, he was confronted
with the completely new Hun Yuan style.
"I thought I would come back for a refresher course. It took some time
to get used to this more fluid style. However, now that I'm doing
Refinement classes, I'm finding it more therapeutic and rewarding than
the Yang style Ė the more flowing Hun Yuan style helps me with
ďI want to express my gratitude to Fontane for her high integrity and
clarity of instruction, and to Brett for his relentless quest to loosen
us all up, to create better fluidity in our practice and to provide
depth of meaning."
ďTai Chi makes me think because itís a system of controlled movement
requiring deep coordination of mind and body. This is ideal for
managing Parkinsonís. Things people take for granted like coordination,
muscle control for everyday actions etcetera are no longer automatic for
me. I have to consciously control every movement. When I start a
class, Iím not so good. I need to do the warm-ups to begin focusing,
but by the end of the lesson Iím doing really well, Iím fine. I like
the group energy effect, too. That helps a lot, the energy exchange.Ē
Movement was an aspect heíd always liked about Tai Chi. ďIíd always
found yoga a little passive and sought an external outlet for the
energy. If it isnít expressed externally, the energy can turn in on
itself and lead to a more introverted personality. As Iím already that
way inclined, it is not something I want to exacerbate. My son is a
very good martial artist and Iíd always been interested in that, but
didnít like the combative aspect. Tai Chi fits my requirements
perfectly. I love the sequential nature of the movements and the
constant flow between yin and yang, the inner depth and the centuries of
tradition and knowledge bound up in it.Ē
ďI like the integrity, the sense of connection with that heritage and
past masters, which is provided in our classes by Brett and Fontane who
I think are wonderful, caring teachers.Ē
(This is an actual
interview, but the name
been changed for reasons of