In my previous two posts, the discussion was about sitting zazen, or meditation, as a way of calming the mind and clearing out the old negative thoughts and drama from the mind. This is an important part of getting control over the Adrenaline-driven, over-thinking Parkinson’s mind. When you finish sitting and get up, it is equally important that you can walk. So, today, get up out of your chair or off of the floor, and let’s walk!
I have had many conversations over the last few weeks regarding walking. Feet getting stuck to the floor, freezing in the middle of walking, and anxiousness over falling down are at the top of the walking, not-walking-well, list. Before you walk, let’s take a closer look at the dynamics of walking.
Prior to Parkinson’s, you walked without thinking about it. The body knew exactly what to do. When the Parkinson’s symptoms were starting to appear and you noticed you were not walking like you used to, you lost trust and faith in your body and you turned to your mind and said, “I am not walking the way I should be, please figure this out because I want to walk well.”
This granting your mind with control over walking gave your mind a promotion well above its expertise, abilities, and experience. Simply put, the mind does not understand all of the little nuances that have to occur when walking or doing any other moving. However, today’s discussion will focus on walking.
You think (that is your mind talking to you) that your foot must “step out” in order to walk. What your mind does not realize is that your knee must bend and come up to clear the way for your foot to “step out.” As a result of the mind not knowing this but still being in charge of walking, here is what happens:
1. Feet are stuck to the floor.
2. You can walk only by taking very tiny “baby steps.”
3. In the middle of walking with tiny “baby steps,” you freeze.
4. Your upper body goes forward and your feet stick to the floor, so you fall down.
And what do all of these cause? Fear and FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real). Here is where you will really see how the mind distorts reality as a result of its own shortcomings and then creates fear like there is something worse with you. Instead of the mind saying, “Sorry, I really do not know how to help you walk correctly,” it messes up your walking and then gives you the impression that something is dreadfully wrong with you and your walking. It is one of the reasons why it is so difficult to break out of the fear cycle associated with Parkinson’s…the mind is contributing to the poor walking and then blaming it on the Parkinson’s allegedly getting worse.
Since you have turned over walking power to your mind, you must now educate your mind on the dynamics of walking and do some exercising and stretching to assist your mind and your body in helping you walk better.
Okay. We begin with the gallbladder meridian and the knees. Click here for the gallbladder meridian. Please look at points GB 30-33. If you are sitting in a chair, chances are you are sitting on and compressing points GB 30-32, and possibly 33. These points trace the outer edge of the hamstring muscles. Look at the gallbladder meridian graphic again. If your hamstring muscles are tight (and chances are they are tight), you will have a very difficult time getting your knee to come up so that you can “step out” with your foot.
Okay! Let’s walk!!! Okay…I am a little ahead of myself.
Okay! Let get best prepared to walk!!!
1. Knee lifts. Stand where you can hold onto something for balance. Lift your right knee as high as you can as if you were in marching band. Return your foot to the floor. Do as many of these as you can up to 10 with your right leg. Then do the same thing with your left leg.
2. Hamstring muscles stretch. Lie on your back, bend your knees with feet on the floor (or bed if you do this in your bed), grab your right upper leg at the top of the back of your knee and pull your knee toward your chest. Return your leg to the original bent-knee position. Do as many of these as you can up to 10 with your right leg. Then do the same thing with your left leg. Here is an example.
No. This is not a picture of me.
3. Strengthening legs. Here is Qigong exercise to strengthen your legs, knees, and hips. Stand with your feet like this:
Bend your knees and rotate your waist so that you are facing the direction the front foot is pointing. Bend your arms at the elbows so that your elbows to your hands are pointing forward with your palms facing the ground. (If your balance is poor, stand between two chairs with their backs facing each other and hold onto the chair backs for balance). The movement: Inhale and lift your left heel slightly while shifting your weight to your right foot in front. Exhale and shift your weight to your back foot, lowering your heel to the floor and slightly lifting the toes of your right foot off of the ground. Repeat this rocking back and forth motion for a total of ten repetitions. Then, switch your feet and repeat ten times with your left foot forward and right foot back. This will help with balance, lubricate the joints of your ankles, knees, and hips, and increase your energy as you are “pumping” the the kidney meridian.
Okay! Let’s walk!!! Now you are ready.
Since you have completed the pre-walking exercises and stretches listed above, you have lubricated your joints, activated your hips, and stretched your hamstring muscles. This gets you ready to walk. However, you still need to teach your mind how to initiate walking.
Stand with your feet pointing forward, roughly shoulder width apart and look down as you bend and lift your knee up and step out with your foot. This will make the mental imprint that will teach your mind the dynamic of initiating walking.
I know you can do this. It takes time and effort to teach your mind how to walk correctly. As you realize that your body never forgot how to walk, you slowly will re-gain trust and faith in your body’s abilities, and then your body will take over walking again.
Take your time, follow the steps…and walk!
You are worth it!!!
All my best,
Thanks Howard ! I love to walk and so I will try doing the pre – walking exercises first. Have a wonderful week.
Love and Blessings to all,
Don & I were just talking about doing some stretching – these definitely will help me loosen up to be able to walk longer distance.
Thanks and God bless, Beth
Great, that’s what Werni really needs and surely will help him to walk in an easier way and hopefully soon without fear!!!
Thank you so much for your wonderful support we appreciate very much.
Tery and Werni
Thanks for the walking tips. My biggest problem with walking is I’m leaning too far forward which gets me moving too fast and sometimes I literally cannot stop without help.
Do you have a suggestion for this?
Two things I can suggest:
1. I made certain my hunched-forward body was steady and my center of balance was over my feet prior to walking. Then, for a long time, I opted for shuffling, taking very short shuffle-strides, and moving very slowly. This kept my center of balance over my feet, and I got where I was walking (shuffling) without freezing or falling.
2. Last year, I read James Parkinson’s essay from 1817 (he is the one they named the disease after). He gave both of his patients a walking stick and had them hold it centered in front of their bodies. That way they stood a little straighter, and it assisted them in slowing down their walking (got rid of the feeling like you are going up on your toes, falling forward movement).
Hi Howard, I really miss walking. I will definitely do these pre walking exercises today and start marching. 🙂
Thank you very much.
Hi Howard and Warriors, this post is so interesting as this week I have opted for trying to lift my knee to take a step rather than trying to lead with my heel, so you’re in my head again Howard haha 🙂 Well I shall give it my best shot. I laughed when you wrote ” that’s not me in the picture” as I was thinking ” is that Howard?” 🙂 Get out of my head Shifke 🙂 xx
Waseema thanks for your lovely message on last post, I will ask my chiropractor about your suggestion.
Mayarita, you’re missed here my friend. 🙂 xx
Jimmy very profound line ” one more day with Parkinson’s is one less day without Parkinson’s ” you really made me think about that one 🙂 xx
Thank you, Howard, for this wonderful instruction how to improve walking. Thank you also for the great Skype today: you have an incomparable way to make it possible to address even embarrassing issues, that is to be vulnerable.
Love and blessings to you and to all.
Hi Howard , we are truly grateful to you for mentoring us GOD bless you Howard.
Thanks Howard. This is really helpful as I find walking hugely challenging. Could you clarify something for me, please? With the hamstring muscles stretch, is it important to actually grab hold of the upper leg with the hands or is this just to assist the legs if the bend is difficult? It’s just that I seem to find it easier to simply pull my knee up to my chest without using my hands.
Happy walking everyone…
You are welcome Anita,
Grabbing the leg with the hands is to assist if the bend is difficult. If you can pull up your knee without using your hands, then it is fine to do this stretch without using your hands.
Walking is what I need to do – but it’s where I have my biggest challenges. I’m going to try this!
Blessings and thank you
Hello all you lovely people lovely to be back here fighting hard. Feeling so pleased as am walking small distances with varying degrees of success and funnyness!
Learning not to care what people think and proud of my efforts. Proud to be in the company of such valiant fellow shufflers! Love ya all. Howard, you are a ray of sunshine. Thank-you xxx
Well hello there old friend. Joyous to see a post from you 🙂 and delighted that you seem in great spirit. Rock on Melanie S, cos you Rock my friend. Big Love to you Warrior. 🙂 xx
I have found a helpful way for me to practice my walking is to walk up and down my hallway in rhythm to a song like you would if you were marching. I sing to myself while I walk. Music seems to invoke a rhythm in our body. Besides it makes for a positive practice. Hope this is helpful to some of my warrior friends. Much love to all.
Veronica ( Australia )
I also have a couple of ways of using a rhythm to support my walking. One is to repeat over and over in my head, rhythmically, “I have – the power – to heal – myself”. The other is to have my partner or son walk slowly and rhythmically, link arms with them and match my steps to theirs. This latter one is almost magical in its effect sometimes.
It is interesting Howard about the walking stick. I choose to use a stick outside of the house for one reason only and that is so my posture stays upright and protects my back. Some people say to me that they don’t want to give into using one but they continue to walk stooped over and complain about constant back ache. I would rather swallow my pride and walk hunbly upright as I have faith that one day I will walk upright without it. It is all about choice in the end as Howard keeps saying. For the moment I choose to accept where I am at. I have my focus on the goal. Thank you Howard for your continued guidance and love to all.
Thank you for your continuing support of yourselves and each other. As many of you have noted, when you are feeling music or walking to a cadence or holding the arm of one who cares or using a walking stick, the one thing that is consistent is that you are walking…and you are walking better than when you “think” too much about the walking itself.
In order for these things to occur, you must have recovered enough that your legs are walking in a more normal manner. The more you can “un-block” the mind wanting to control the walking, and the more you can surrender to the body to walk the way it knows how, the more you will see your walking improve.
Have a beautiful day!
With gratitude, love, and blessings,