Can LFA T’ai Chi help people with Parkinson’s disease?

I would like to say there is no such thing as one treatment fits all and with the multitude of diseases and conditions we battle along with the numerous medical organisations all striving for the best possible treatments and cures we could be led to believe that there could never be one simple solution.

We are all unique in our own way, but we are all human beings and the basic principles for life are the same for all, therefore the solution to good health is relatively simple and is available to everyone.  

From my understanding of Parkinson’s, the disease causes a loss of nerve cells in the brain. One of the most vital requirements of a healthy brain is the continual supply of oxygen and we must give our brains the resources it needs for it to function effectively. 

At this moment in time there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, and from my understanding Western medication is currently only able to minimise or delay the effects of the condition for individuals depending on their stage and susceptibility.  I apologise if I am over-simplifying the severity of the disease or the valuable input of Western medication. This is not my intention, we in the Health Arts work alongside Western medicine and try to help as many people as possible.

Although I am not medically trained, I have spent many years studying the Health Arts and teaching health related exercises, acupressure and self-massage techniques and dietary health.  We look at the complete body and ways of improving the individual’s health.

The following gentle exercises simply work the body in ways to improve the lung capacity and oxygen intake. This in turn improves the respiratory system and the immune system whilst helping the body to rejuvenate naturally.  It is not advised that you stop taking any prescribed medication, if you are in any doubt you should seek the advice of a medical professional.  These exercises will work alongside your medication and treatments and will hopefully help to improve your health over time, if practised for a short amount of time every day.  It is not a miracle cure, there is no perplexing magic or complex scientific theory behind it, it just works.  If you practice daily, you will start to feel the benefits. All it takes is a little effort – if it improves your life isn’t it worth it?

The starting place is always with the breath, it applies to everyone, regardless of medical condition, fitness level or age.  Those of you who are familiar with my media posts or attend my classes will be aware that I continually talk about using the lungs fully. In brief, this means expanding the stomach when you breath in, moving it out in order to create space for the lower part of the lungs to expand, allowing them to fully inflate. In the West there is a tendency hold the stomach in and move the chest up and down but breathing in this way only uses part of our lungs. Then there is the need to exhale fully.As you breathe out, if you gently pull the stomach in it will squeeze all the stale air out of the lower section of the lung expelling any toxins that have accumulated.  

Start to pay attention to the way that you breath, a good starting point is whilst watching TV, simply place your hands on your tummy and observe your breathing. Once you become aware of your tummy raising and falling with the breath it will soon become a natural process.  Again, this is not magic, this is how we all started off in life. As a baby your tummy expanded and contracted with every breath, we were born with the ability to breath naturally for the best of our health, but somewhere along the line we stopped doing it as we got older favouring holding everything in and only breathing into the top half of the lungs. 

One of the symptoms of Parkinson’s can eventually be memory loss and this can be addressed immediately by learning to breath correctly. I would recommend that you look at our four directional breathing exercise and practise it three times a day, every day. It has no side effects and as well as improving the levels of oxygen in the body it will also help to take the strain off all the major organs of the body.  Don’t be tempted to stop practicing as you start to feel better the improvement is the incentive to keep practising, use it or lose it!

There are many more benefits from practising these deep breathing methods. Concentrating on the breath and being in the moment will help to ease stress and anxiety (which can also be a symptom of Parkinson’s disease) this will in turn improve the health of the mind. The exercise also strengthens the respiratory system and improves the lung capacity which also helps to build and strengthen the immune system. 

It is amazing that you gain all these health improvements by simply returning to the natural way of breathing that you were born doing.  With a little practice it will once again become your way of life and eventually you will not have to think about your lungs inflating correctly, they will do it automatically. 

Other debilitating effects of Parkinson’s disease include the decline in the muscular movements of your body, tremors, and the narrowing of the gait when walking. Our exercises can also help with these, the gentle health-giving movements will keep your muscles flexible without placing any strain on the rest of your body. With this in mind I would recommend the Golden Well Breathing Exercise, which can be practised from a seated or standing position. You will gain many health benefits if practising in a seated position. If you are able to stand, the exercise will also help to improve your balance, coordination, and proprioception. You will be more stable on your feet and will reduce the risk of falls. 

Finally, I would ask you to consider reviewing what you eat and keep in mind how for example you would look after your car or pet. You wouldn’t fill the fuel tank up with fizzy drink and expect the car to run smoothly or give the dog a chocolate bar and not expect a trip to the vets but unknowingly you could be consuming foods that are detrimental to your health exacerbating your symptoms or increasing your susceptibility.

Although not everyone is in a position to control their diet, for people looking to really improve the quality of their health we have the Chang Ming diet. At first glance it may seem a little severe. However, read it and see how you can incorporate it into your everyday life.   A few simple food swaps can make a world of difference. 

In summing up it all comes down to personal choices. The questions must be asked, do you want your life back?  and, Are you prepared to do something about it?

I have helped some people with Parkinson’s to make changes to their diet and add a little gentle exercise into their everyday life with great results, some have been able to live a near normal life. For others, they found the lifestyle changes I suggested to much for them and have chosen a different route. Some people approach it as if they are taking out a variety of different insurance policies trying a little bit of one thing and a little bit of another. Whatever route you take I wish you well.