An early discovery in pursuing whole-body movement as the principle therapy for increasing my range of motion, re-connecting body and mind, and integrating Primitive Reflexes, was the importance of holding something in my hands as part and parcel of the therapy, thereby enhancing the Applied Neuroplasticity and Somatic Experiencing benefits of movement. We have previously covered the vital importance of using hands and fingers in progressive symptom reduction with PD,
so it makes sense to bring them into whole-body movement therapies too. Indeed, through Curiosity and Play, I’ve found that using hand-held accessories can greatly increase the ability to move my body, as well as the ease and range of motion I can access, during movement therapies. It feels to me that the tactile feedback is important, engaging areas of the brain in the motion which would otherwise be off-line if the hands are empty.
It can also result in bringing hand-eye co-ordination into play. Again, we have previously covered the crucial importance of eyes and vision in movement in general, and in PD in particular,
Indeed, when I am very symptomatic, my eyes glaze over and become unfocused. As I believe that persistently countering the symptoms we observe in ourselves is important for reducing those symptoms over the long term, hand-eye-co-ordination exercises can be beneficial in this regard. It therefore once again makes sense to try to bring this into play as part of whole-body movement practice. At the least, just holding something in the hands while moving the arms can draw the eyes and help keep the moving too. Conversely, exploiting vision in movement therapy can once again increase the ease, range and effectiveness of motion, e.g.
The best exemplar of these concepts I can give, and by far the most effective therapy I’ve found incorporating the ideas, are Smovey Rings. These are hand-held accessories, especially designed, by and for people with PD, to provide significant tactile feedback (they even vibrate as one swings them), and to be eye-catching in colour,
Illustrative Examples via Video Diary Entries
Over the last couple of years, I have documented several more examples and the results from seeking to exploit neuro-feedback gained through incorporating hand-held accessories into whole-body movement and play therapies. Here, I briefly cover some of these examples via entries from my Video Diary, recorded under circumstances where conscious movement is hard for me (after a dose of PD medications have worn off).
The first video is a very early one, which explored using a aluminium tube in the therapy. This allowed me to access “baton twirling” and “fencing” type movements, as shown. Points to observe include how, the first time I attempt to enter the "Errol Flynn" sword-play mode, I freeze up and have to try another action first. This freezing or "locking-up" is something that many people with Parkinson's will identify with. However, note then the fluidity and control of the motion, once it has been unlocked. There are also noticeable changes in my face, becoming more animated, less mask-less, when I do manage to move in this way, illustrating that engaging in such therapies can indeed provided temporary symptom relief.
Next is another very early video diary entry, which once more features the aluminium tube as the accessory to movement. I hope it is apparent in the video how much I was still affected by Parkinson's Disease back then, especially before I start to get going. Watch how I'm shuffling my feet near the start and look at my blank face, for examples. Even during some of the more mobile moments, the PD is apparent - for example, as I spin the pipe in one hand and enter a trance like state, the other hand becomes unconsciously retracted into a classic PD "claw", fingers completely still. There are also a couple of "sticky" moments, when I lose the flow, freeze momentarily and have to regather my mind set.
However, at the end of the video it can be seen how persistent practice with such therapies is slowly unlocking my movement - in this case, the video records how, for the first time, I was able to rise up on my tip toes, smoothly, with complete balance.
In the next entry in the series, I'm grasping a piece of cotton wool in one hand, while the other hand is empty, and the video illustrates how I can move the hand that I’m holding something in much more easily than the empty one. My empty hand is struggling and a bit jerky, whereas, just because I'm holding that piece of cotton wool, I can move my other hand quite fluidly and quickly. I then change hands and show the effect is mirrored.
The next two entries, which are much more recent, hopefully help to serve to demonstrate how far I’ve come by persistently and consistently pursuing these ideas. The first of these also covers how even wearing thick gloves provides enough tactile feedback to help bring my hands into expressive dance. The second shows me in action with my Smovey Rings.
Holding in the Mind
Interestingly, one does not need to physically hold items in the hand, even imagining that the hands are in play can work. For example, I recall this blog post, which shows a person with PD, with symptoms including significant tremor in hands and arms, practising the art of mime. Once he begins the mime, and imagines his hands in use, the tremors disappear completely. Another example comes from a top movement therapist, Elia Mrak, who I recommend following, here demonstrating the “Magic Tea Cups” concept, one of my favorite whole-body forms of movement to practice currently.