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Posts tagged ‘Yoga’



My therapist told me today that NPR is doing a fascinating series of shows this week about the cerebellum.  It obviously caught my attention.  Here it is.  I kinda always thought that the cerebellum only affected physical stuff, boy was I wrong.  Physically, the cerebellum ‘fine tunes’ movements.  Like the writing thing that I cannot do, my brain can’t control that fine motor movement enough to let me do that.  Bringing a fork or drink to my mouth with my right hand, can’t do it.  I don’t have the fine tuning of that movement anymore.

So since the cerebellum controls fine motor movements, it makes perfect sense that the cerebellum would also have a role in fine tuning emotions.  This I also lost.  Sometimes, I just can’t control my emotions or the way that I act.  I can’t put on the brakes to my emotions that I used to be able to do and that is socially acceptable.  I can fly off the handle at a moment’s notice, if the wrong thing is said to me.  And I hate it.  I would voluntarily amputate my “good” left arm if it meant that I never had to deal with these emotions anymore.  Unfortunately, until Pat came into my life, nobody except one friend of mine tried to understand this about me and very often things were said to me to make my anger much worse.  This has led me to cutting off communication with certain people because I just can’t keep banging my head against the wall trying to explain this and getting nowhere.  Talk about stress.  Meditation helps this greatly.  C’mon neurologists, seriously.  There is so much that neurologists should be recommending to patients that have loads and loads of research, Dean will tell you all about it.  But my big thing is meditation.  So, please docs, please pay attention to this research, please.

Meditation research articles


Balanced Brain

Everyone who has had a stroke knows the name Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor.  Maybe not everyone, but if you don’t know that name, you should.  She has dedicated her life to studying the brain and then she had a stroke herself.  She’s been through the HELL, she knows.  Hers is the first book I read right “after.”  To say it was an emotional read would be an understatement.  But it’s a really good book.  The main premise of the book is – well I forget what the main premise is.  But a strong message of the book is that your brain can change and adapt until the day you die so don’t believe all those medical practitioners who told you that recovery is over at 6 months or 2 years or whatever.  F’ em!  I forget if she talks about meditation in the book, but she does here.  She’s a big advocate of meditation and how it can help to balance the brain, which is pretty damn important for someone who had a stroke because the stroke will have caused one part of one side of the brain to go bye-bye.  I started to meditate for emotional reasons but oh man, I got a heck of a lot more benefits from it than just emotional.  Hopefully by the day I die, although that might never happen as I can’t seem to die, but hopefully by the time I do expire meditation will be prescribed by doctors and not just recommended by some people.  If you’ve never meditated, try it.  Give it a few months.  Seriously, try it.  Meditation changes the brain.

Please go here for a better, affordable alternative to learning Transcendental Meditation.


Sleep and Rest

There is a theme in stroke recovery and that theme is ‘repetition.’  I say it all the time.  But I think I say it too much.  I think I’m giving the wrong impression.  It’s easy for me to say that now, 3-years post-stroke, because that’s what I need to do.  I need to do a crapload of repetitions.  But that first year this was NOT the case.  I don’t know when the right time is after a stroke to start exercising intensely and for long periods of time.  I don’t know.

What I do know is this…..The importance of sleep and rest is EXTREMELY downplayed.  Healing takes place in the brain when you are asleep.  That’s when the brain recharges.  The first year after my stroke, I was afraid to move – so I barely did.  The first year, why I did this I have no idea because I very much wished I was dead, but that first year I would walk on my treadmill for an hour and a half to two hours every single day.  This meant holding onto the handrails with a death grip but I did it.  Don’t ask me what motivated me to do that because I have no clue.  I’m serious, I was suicidal, I wished the stroke killed me.  But it didn’t, it left me disabled.  Walking on the treadmill would wipe me out for the rest of the day.  That was it for me.  Other than my treadmilling, I rested.  I slept.  A LOT.  Max of 3 hours of activity a day.  Then at 9 months post-stroke I started a practice of meditation and chanting.  For nearly a year, everything I did in my yoga practice was sitting in a chair.  There was very little physical movement.  I sat in a chair, did meditations and breath work using very specific brain protocols.  A little at a time, a very little at a time, I was able to do more and was less afraid of physical movement.  The meditations and breath work rewired my brain without actually performing a specific movement.  And also, I still slept and rested a lot.  I got back into exercise very SLOWLY and with A LOT of rest.

Look, I’ve been through absolute hell so I have a WILDLY different perspective on things than other medical people.  What I’m about to say I would not have said 3+ years ago.  When you spend years and years in school to become a doctor or therapist it makes you have a certain air, an ego, an arrogance.  I get it.  I had it.  I had it big-time.  Every single doctor or therapist I’ve ever met has it to some degree.  Some a little, some a lot.  I had it, then I had something else.  I had a stroke and those arrogant doctors not only didn’t help me, they made it worse.  I did my own research and found my own ways to get “better.”  That involved a hell of a lot of sleep and yoga. the real kind.  It’s expensive and not covered by insurance(which is utterly ridiculous) so you have to pay out-of-pocket for it but the price is irrelevant to me, it gave me my life back.  I now know things, a lot of things, about recovering from a brain injury.  Again, I wouldn’t have said this 3 years ago but today I’ll say it – Why on earth would you take the advice of someone who hasn’t walked this path?  The “experts” I saw gave me NO helpful advice.  If I offended anyone with this post, then you’re gonna be offended.


Trunk Ataxia

I told a couple of people that I would research trunk ataxia and see if I could make any specific suggestions other than just strengthening the trunk.  I never had trunk ataxia.  I had ataxia BAD, still do but it’s not so bad anymore, and it did not affect my trunk.  It affected my right arm and leg.  I have a friend who has significant ataxia in the trunk and told me that for a while, she felt her trunk shaking even when she was just sitting down.

Here’s what I think………………balance exercises would be extremely important because balancing engages the postural muscles.  But balance exercises require standing….and balancing….and that’s too much to ask of some people.  Soooo here’s an exercise that I used to give to people right after back surgery to help engage, be aware of, and strengthen those muscles.  It’s fun and it’s a mental game too.  Ok maybe I’m stretching the truth by calling it fun.  Lie on your back and put a blood pressure cuff under your low back.  Then inflate the cuff to about 80 mmHg.  Then you contract both the muscles in your belly and in your low back.  They work together.  Once these muscles are contracted, you do leg lifts and different things with your limbs while trying to keep the blood pressure cuff at 80.  Ataxia is a problem with control and this exercise is all about controlling those muscles.


Meditation Practice

The more I read, the more I’m convinced that meditation is the secret to recovering from a brain injury.  Here, here, and here.  There is a mind-blowing amount of research that supports the beneficial effects of meditation on the brain.  So neurologists, what’s it gonna take?  What’s it going to take for you to start recommending a daily meditation practice to your patients?  Apparently, a mountainload of evidence is not enough so what will it take?  Please, please tell me.  I will find it and give it to you.

Please go here for a better, affordable alternative to learning Transcendental Meditation.


Meditation and the Brain

I was really pissed off when I wrote my last post so I thought I’d do a post about something that is the antithesis of anger – meditation.  When you meditate, you’re affecting the brain DIRECTLY.  When you’re doing all those repetitions of stuff, you’re affecting the brain INDIRECTLY.  Both ways of affecting the brain are incredibly important and vital.  There is no question that meditation changes the brain.  Look at all this research.  Everyone thinks meditation involves clearing out the mind.  Well I can’t do that.  It’s impossible for me to do that.  As much as I tell my mind to stop and not think about anything, it’s going a mile a minute.  No matter what.  That’s why I love the type of meditation that I do.  A lot of the meditations that I do keep the mind active.  This allows me to meditate while dealing with my always working mind.  I’m slowly getting to the point that I can just clear out my mind.  I’m far from that point right now.

Please go here for a better, affordable alternative to learning Transcendental Meditation.



The first year, maybe 2 years after an injury like this you’re going to seriously contemplate checking out of this world.  I did.  I contemplated that a lot, probably everyday.  Don’t.  Those first couple of years, just stay alive.  The hell stops.  When I got sick, I didn’t read anything like this that told me that my life was actually going to improve a lot and the nightmare would end.  And I read everything.  So, if you’re a relatively new stroke survivor, know this – it gets better.  That first year Oh.My.God.  I so badly wished that the stroke killed me.  Now I don’t wish that.  The reason I didn’t off myself is – well I’m not 100% sure why.



Someone made a point yesterday that was really profound and true.  If I hadn’t gone to school for physical therapy, and if I hadn’t been trained to do research for medical stuff a certain way I wouldn’t have found my meditation practice.  When I was 9 months out of my stroke, I was desperately searching on the internet for something that could help to get me out of the HELL that I was in.  The doctors weren’t helping me.  So I knew how to find credible research and I kept getting results for KY on  This is what I was taught to use in PT school.  I have no clue what I searched for.  I can’t remember, but this stuff works, it gets results, the research says so.  However, if you choose to practice this also be very cautious when choosing a teacher.


Saving a Life

There is a big, big difference between saving someone’s life and keeping that person alive.  My neurosurgeon did not save my life, he merely prevented me from dying.  He kept me breathing.  Meditation saved my life.  It made me want to live again, to be a functioning member of society.  Before I found this practice I was depressed as hell and wanted to die.

Please go here for a better, affordable alternative to learning Transcendental Meditation.