Today I drive to my individual yoga session with Paul and Carolyn Zeiger. I take the freeway because I am running a few minutes late. In the car, I practice voice exercises while driving. Today my voice sounds "not too bad," but I'm afraid to brag about this temperamental voice, while sometimes sounds clear and other times, sounds weak and the words are garbled.
Paul contacted me earlier this week and asked if he could videotape me at today’s session. “Absolutely,” I respond, as I am curious about my progress. I’ve been pestering him for three years to purchase a video camera so he can document the changes in his Parkinson’s patients due to practicing yoga.
I arrive five minutes early. I take my pink yoga mat out of the trunk of my Honda and am not aware that Paul has already started videotaping. When I walk in, I smile and say “Good Morning, Paul.”
The session proceeds as usual, but today Paul videotapes a few of the yoga postures while Carolyn provides the coaching. I do the bridge, the cat/cow position and march around the room.
When it’s time to watch the videotape, I wonder about the identity of the angry person who is getting out of the car. I am shocked to discover that it’s me with my Parkinson’s mask. I immediately wipe that angry expression off my face and replace it with a forced smile.
When I see myself in the cat/cow yoga pose, again I’m flabbergasted at how FAT I have become. After losing the 15 pounds that I gained post-DBS, I recently earned my lifetime membership at Weight Watchers by reaching my goal weight. The next time I am videotaped, I will wear black.
And when I watch myself marching on the tape, I observe that somehow I’m unable to keep the beat, even after many years of music training.
The only segment that I like is when I do the bridge pose where I look thinner than when doing the cat/cow.
I am relieved that the Zeigers don’t have a videotape of me three years ago when I began yoga lessons with my head down, tight DBS wires pulling my neck to the right, and a hunchback.
Sometimes ignorance is bliss.
For more information on yoga and Parkinson’s Disease, check out Paul and Carolyn Zeiger’s website at:
Addendum from Paul Zeiger:
I reviewed the videos from yesterday and note the following:
1. Fast, effective and safe completion of a number of tasks getting stuff out of the car and locking up: Sure you were not paying attention to your face, but that was because you were giving needed priority to agility. Your face brightened up as soon as you got to walking up the sidewalk.
2. Excellent stride and coordination in normal walk around the room,
3. An excellent Cat Pose, worthy of someone without PD, plus fine response to assists,
4. Ditto for Bridge Pose, particularly important with respect to the effects of PD on the upper back,
5. And even at your biggest challenge, marching, you were on the beat at least half the time,
I've pondered your blog comments along with the above observations,and conclude that video recording is a powerful and useful tool, with special capabilities for observing things that one might otherwise overlook -- a little like a microscope. It worked that way for me years ago when I had my university lecturing videotaped. It also calls for careful setting of expectations up front; we'll be careful in the future.
H. Paul Zeiger, Ph.D.
Why video PD students? Is it useful? Or just painful?
Before I get to the mea culpa part of my response to Kate’s entry, let me say a few words in defense of our use of the camera. … J
On various occasions, we have filmed our students for TV, printed articles, our website, etc. Rest assured that in every case we obtained written, informed permission to photograph them and use their images for specified purposes. One thing we noted is that although they are most generous about making their images available to the public for educational purposes, many (most?) do not want to see their photos. This is not surprising. It can be painful to see what our bodies can no longer do, or how changed our appearance is—simply due to aging, never mind the distortions of the body that can come with PD. The photo makes it all too real. As Kate said, sometimes it is just too much to have what you already know staring you in the face.
Nonetheless, such records can be invaluable: partly to record changes from baseline, partly to show students exactly what their bodies are actually doing (as opposed to what their brains think the body is doing), to provide information to their neurologists, physical therapists or others on their health care teams, and to note and celebrate improvement in a clear and concrete way—and share it with family and others. In Kate’s case, we are definitely celebrating progress over three years—progress in spite of the number of years she has had PD.
Anyway, as Kate said, she bugged us for three years to get a video camera. She was right on all counts, and we finally succumbed to her entreaties. One of the reasons is that researchers studying PD have learned that the only way to enable those with PD to truly understand what their bodies are doing, is to show them, and also the best way to document changes is to use video. In addition, in our case, we can tell our students how well they are doing, but are our comments accurate? are they simply self-serving justifications of our program? This way, our students can see for themselves.
Now, some students will not want to be videoed—ever—others will, but might not want to see the videos, and so on. Our plan is to offer this possibility to students, and make judgments as to when it is appropriate and useful.
As for Kate, this is the mea culpa part, she is someone we acknowledge as one of our particularly intrepid students—she will try out just about anything that she thinks makes sense and might help her and others with PD! But even the most intrepid among us have our sensitivities, and that includes Kate and me. Like Kate, I am one of those people who’s up for all kinds of adventures and experiments. Nonetheless, sometimes I end up part way into something suddenly feeling foolish, or stupid, or miserable and thinking that maybe this was not such a good idea…. When Paul tried out the camera by filming me from the back bending over my flower arrangements, I was NOT happy with the results! So, thanks for reminding us, Kate, that we need to be more sensitive to the impact of the photos.—even on the intrepid!