Blogging with Parkinson's

A personal perspective on Young Onset Parkinson's

Relaxation via Visualisation: an anecdote

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Relaxation techniques can be very useful to people with Parkinson’s. It makes sense: if your muscles tense up involuntarily, it should be possible to relax them deliberately and to attempt to stop it happening too often.

On Friday, I attended a class organised by my enterprising physiotherapist, one of a series designed for people with a recent diagnosis of Parkinson’s. The attendees are, naturally, a mixed bunch, but I am, at 40, the youngest there; I think I may also be the closest to the beginning of my Parkinson’s journey. I was feeling a bit tentative this week, because my overall fitness has been impaired by a chest infection that I’m still getting over. I’d managed, earlier, to participate in my yoga class that falls, coincidentally, just before the physio class (it’s a bit tight getting from one to the other, but it just about works). I thought I might have to sit out anything too energetic, but, fortunately, this week’s theme was relaxation.

We went through  few techniques familiar to me from my yoga classes, notably breathing and body awareness. We were encouraged to adopt the position known, in yoga, as the corpse pose (Savasana). This is a very simple pose, being essentially lying flat on your back on the floor with your arms and legs flopped out, palms up (if possible – my left wrist is stiff but I can just about make it turn enough). This pose is particularly advantageous because it also helps promote good posture – something else that becomes an issue when you have Parkinson’s.

Line drawing (made without a model) of the "corpse" relaxation pose. (C) Zalamanda

And then we tried a visualisation exercise, which entails imagining yourself in a relaxing place.

One of the most common relaxing places seems to be the beach. Off we went. A relaxation CD was playing pleasing wave noises. We were encouraged to think of lying on the beach, the waves lapping at the shore.

I think my imagination is a bit overactive.

Anyway, I started worrying about suntan lotion and wondering where my book was. Then palm trees got mentioned and suddenly we weren’t in Cornwall anymore. I decided it was too hot for me (and that I’d get sunburnt soon) and zoned out of the visualisation (by this time, some annoying synthesiser music had appeared alongside the waves on the CD, so I tried to block that out, too) and just concentrated on breathing and body awareness (which included tensing and relaxing groups of muscles).

I’m not saying that visualisation doesn’t work for me. I think I could build my own, and have fun doing it (at the moment, I’m favouring a moorland scene with a stream burbling nearby). Probably my biggest problem was that I’m not much of  beach person – or rather, that I’m not a sun worshipper. I like to walk along beaches, to build sandcastles with the kids and maybe read a book if I’m feeling lazy, but I’ve never been one for sunbathing.

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Interestingly, in the preceding yoga class, we’d done a similar exercise albeit without the visualisation. The doors were open and we could hear the birds singing outside… lovely. Then a Chinook came over – but, somehow, it didn’t quite spoil it for me. The birds were still singing after the helicopter had gone.

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4 thoughts on “Relaxation via Visualisation: an anecdote

  1. I find it very useful to have a “safe” place I can take my mind to when I want to relax, or stop worrying about something, unsurprisingly mine was by the sea in Cornwall, but now it’s The Chalice Well in Glastonbury. It can be a very useful tool, but I can see that someone trying to impose their idea of a relaxing place on you might not work. I hope you continue to find class positive, it sounds like a good thing.

  2. The class is definitely A Good Thing. In addition to the education/information aspect, it’s nice to meet other people in a similar situation, in a small group. (There is a Parkinson’s UK local group meeting but it’s at 2pm in Basingstoke… only 7 or 8 miles away, but with a school run that starts at 3pm, it’s obvious that that’s not going to work for me!)

    As far as the visualisation thing goes, I just think that you just need to find your own place (or possibly places). Knowing me, mine will be insanely detailed and will probably grow every time I go there, but right now, I’m building on a memory of Ilkley Moor*. B’aht ‘at, of course!

    *Honestly, Ilkley really was the place that suggested itself to me. It was only just now, writing it down, that it struck me about the song.

    • I think detail is the key, if you try to imagine a vague beach or whatever, you can’t always get a fix on it, I’ve never been to Ilkley Moor, but I’m sure it would be perfect 🙂

      • Oh, Ilkley is a lovely place. The town’s a bit posh, and the moor (which is ruggedly pretty) is right next to the town – a slightly odd juxtaposition. It’s also one of those places that you just have to try and go to, just to say you’ve been there.

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