What do Epilepsy, Autism, Hormones, Sleep, Music, Meditation, Exercise have in common? The Hippocampus and Neurogenesis.

This was my first full year of blogging and it has been an enormous learning curve.

Blogging has been an amazing way to connect with other people, read about life experiences, thoughts, emotions and ideas. Thank you to all the bloggers whose work I have read this year. It has been very enriching.

For me, I have been able to express myself in writing, and to say what I am thinking about – which is quite liberating.

Most of all blogging has helped me to make sense of epilepsy.

So, when I was looking back at all the subjects that came up in the last year, I was struck by how although very different subject areas were covered, a number of these topics  could all be knitted together in a ‘holistic’ kind of way via one area of the brain.

The hippocampus.(1)

Architecturally the hippocampus sits within the limbic system (2) fairly centrally inside the brain (towards the brainstem).

This area of the brain is implicated in; mood, memory, learning and spatial awareness. Because of these factors the study of the hippocampus has been important in diseases such as Alzheimer’s and depression.

Relatively recently scientists identified the hippocampus as one of a number of areas in the brain that is capable of neurogenesis into adulthood. (3) Neurogenesis is the ability of the brain to create new neurons.

For this reason the hippocampus crops up in lots of neurological studies.

Within epilepsy for example, some of the factors that aggravate seizure symptoms generally are sleep deprivation and stress. Sleep deprivation and stress negatively affect neurogenesis and there are a number of studies around the relationship with epilepsy and the hippocampus. One study in particular shows; abnormal neurogenesis in the hippocampus of people with epilepsy, increased neurogenesis in people with epilepsy and inhibited neurogenesis in the hippocampus, in particular a study relating to temporal lobe epilepsy (4). All of these problems can impact on mood, depression, memory and learning in epilepsy.

Having found information that epilepsy and autism can be linked I started exploring this area more and even found people advocating for both such as Epilepsy Action’s Advocate blog (5).

Within autism, the hippocampus is mentioned in studies relating to the importance of autism and working memory. (6) The reason I was looking at this relationship is because one of my friends who is on the autistic spectrum benefits highly from martial arts training. I read an article ages ago in ‘Martial Arts Illustrated’ magazine  about ‘Sandra Jane Beale Ellis’(7) who has autism and has spent her life helping people with autism to train in Karate (8). Recently someone posted a blog about how kung fu and tai chi training help people with autism. (9) These studies reminded me how much tai chi training helped me with seizures and how much my memory, concentration, co-ordination and overall health was improved by tai chi and karate training. Some studies of autism indicate that an enriched learning environment from a young age in autism can be beneficial to promote neurogeneisis (10).

Hormones such as cortisol negatively effects neurogenesis within the hippocampus (11) cortisol is elevated by stress. Studies relating to oestrogen show there may be some impact of this hormone within the hippocampus and co-ordination (12) I found this research interesting because of problems I have around oestrogen and progesterone and seizure control. Melatonin (13) studies within the hippocampus indicate that melatonin may have neuroprotective qualities and indeed other bloggers with epilepsy have said that they find melatonin supplementation to be beneficial (14).

This leads onto Sleep deprivation negatively influences or reduces neurogenesis within the hippocampus (15). I am quite interested in the importance of sleep in relation to this area of the brain, because it crops up a lot in my personal experience of managing seizures. Reading about Jill Taylor Bolt stroke insight caused me to think about how sleep influences the brain and why. The asdresearchinitiative also shows a study of how sleep pattern problems impact on autism. (16) During sleep the brain goes through a process of ‘pruning’ neurons, this process also happens at different times in life. (17) (18)

Music came up more recently in relation to the ‘Mozart effect ’ in classical music (19). Studies of the hippocampus in music show how the hippocampus is implicated in long term memory and stringing together music in the brain. The music of Mozart in particular has been used to train mice to carry out spatial tasks in mazes, and one theory is that music may activate the same pathways as spatial awareness in the brain. (20) Music can cause emotional responses and I was interested how the hippocampus is located in the emotional brain or limbic system.

Within meditation, Studies into meditation have shown that meditation influences neuroplasticity and neurogenesis positively within the hippocampus. (21)

Exercise studies show that exercise promotes neurogenesis within the hippocampus. (22) In relation to exercise and mental health exercise has been shown to have a positive influence on mental health and some studies show that this positively influences the hippocampus. (23) This could explain why life systems such as yoga or tai chi which incorporate meditation as well as exercise are very good for the mind and body, because they support growth in the hippocampus.

In the context of Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Kidney energy (24), is an area that I felt conceptually could be linked to neurogenesis by ‘pre natal chi’ (25) or Jing. This is because of the involvement of the Central Nervous System and stem cells in neurogenesis (26). I also thought that this could be carried across into ‘sexual energy’ or ‘kundalini’ in yoga.

Of course the hippocampus is only one small area of the brain and only one small part of the ‘whole body’, but I am interested that there are so many links with so many corresponding or similar impacting factors such as stress and sleep. The hippocampus is a bit like the ‘spaghetti junction’ of the brain! It is quite important how it fits into the whole body and mind because when it goes wrong or without it (such as was the case for poor Henry Molaison who had his hippocampus removed!)(26) things could get really messy!

The hippocampus is not the be all and end all of epilepsy and autism, or brain function; but I thought it was a good area to take a ‘big picture’ ‘small area’ snapshot into holistic mind body connections.

Normally I talk about one thing at a time, but it occurred to me that it can all fit together if you cross reference all these areas to help understand mind body health!

Happy Christmas and New Year! Wishing you all the best for 2013!

 

1)      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippocampus

2)      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limbic_system limbic system

3)      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neurogenesis

4)      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2654382/ epilepsy

5)      http://rosewinelover.com/      Epilepsy Action Advocate Blog

6)      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autism_and_working_memory

7)      http://challengeautism.wordpress.com/ Sandra Beale Ellis blog

8)      http://www.challengeautism.co.uk/#/autism-me/4543515032 autism and karate

9)      http://doctordilday.wordpress.com/2012/12/21/just-another-form-of-exercise/ tai chi and autism

10)   http://brain.oxfordjournals.org/content/124/7/1317.full#ref-29  enriched learning and autism

11)   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neurogenesis  cortisol

12)   http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16965297 oestrogen and cognition

13)   http://www.angelfire.com/yt/yas709neuroscience/hippocampus1.htm melatonin

14)   http://epilepsytalk.com/2012/11/19/epilepsy-and-melatonin-yes-no-or-maybe-so/

Epilepsy Talk

15)   http://asdresearchinitiative.wordpress.com/2012/12/24/top-40-research-articles-of-2012-autism/#comment-1391 autism research

16)   http://asdresearchinitiative.wordpress.com/2012/12/24/sleep-disturbance-in-autism/ sleep autism

17)   http://jonlieffmd.com/blog/new-brain-cells-many-triggers-for-neurogenesis pruning neurons in sleep

18)   http://ahmritanaturalmentalhealth.wordpress.com/2012/11/26/autism-spectrum-as-a-developmental-disorder/ see webinar

19)   http://dragonandrose.wordpress.com/2012/12/18/epilepsy-classical-music/ Mozart effect

20)   http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/bb/neuro/neuro99/web1/Sancar.html

21)   http://www.brainsync.com/blog/neurogenesis-your-brain-renewed/ meditation and neurogenesis

22) http://www.enotes.com/exercise-78701-reference/exercise-108360

23)   http://jonlieffmd.com/blog/new-brain-cells-many-triggers-for-neurogenesis exercise

24)   http://wellmother.wordpress.com/2012/12/20/reflections-on-winter-part-2-how-to-support-our-water-energy-and-the-energy-of-kidney-and-bladder-and-their-relevance-to-211212/ kidney energy

25)   https://www.acufinder.com/Acupuncture+Information/Detail/The+Definition+of+Jing+-+Essence prenatal Jing

26)   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neurogenesis

27)   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Molaison Henry Molaison

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Epilepsy in Chinese Medicine – ‘Towards a spirit of Peace’

‘Towards a spirit of peace’ is one of the most interesting texts I have ever read about epilepsy in the context of Chinese Medicine and is available on line. It is a work by an author named Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D. (see link below)(1).

This is NOT a text about epilepsy although it is covered, but rather it looks at a wider concept. The ‘Shen’ or ‘spirit’ in Chinese medicine and its embracing view of the body heart-mind in oriental medicine.

The ‘shen’ or ‘heart-mind’ is how I think about it in words, but mostly I would say ‘spirit of the heart’ is how I feel about it.

I feel that the role of the heart in Chinese medicine is seen as having a great deal to do with consciousness. From what I have read of Ayurveda it appears to be held as the same or similar.

In the west the heart is perhaps overshadowed by the brain’s electrical discharges, and the importance that is attached as the brain being the ‘hub’ of the body. (2)

The first chapter of this book goes to great lengths to explain the Shen, and so I will not go into it in depth, except to say that the heart is seen as ‘the Emperor’ in its role alongside the other organs of the body.

There are barriers that cause problems in understanding in relation to accessing information on Chinese medicine.

The Chinese language is written as ideograms, the sounds of the language all are totally alien to English language speakers. Variations in tone and pitch could be compared to learning to play a new musical instrument for the English tongue; a language that has you patting your head and rubbing your belly, and tap dancing all at the same time.

Then the philosophy, differences in thinking, the possible conflicts that arise from cultural, social, and religious beliefs.  The Great wall that surrounds China could be a metaphor for many barriers in understanding.

Why did I read this text?

The most beneficial part of my tai chi training by far has been in relation to training in awareness. Perhaps this is also called mindfulness? (3)

Without awareness I wouldn’t be able to feel seizures starting, I wouldn’t feel that my back hurts, my joints hurt and my belly is churning. Is my vagal nerve trying to tell me something? Is my anger or my fear or my grief making me ill?

I don’t know, but if I feel then I can try to understand.  If I am aware how I feel then perhaps I can change the emotion.

When I feel emotions, I am more likely to become ill, in particular if I don’t acknowledge them and where and how they have arisen.

This text talks about emotions in the context of ‘emotional equilibrium’ something I’m sure we all aspire to obtain but very, very few I suspect will achieve.

Even if we have fleeting glimmers of equilibrium, there may well be more emotional storms than sunny days.

Who feels good all the time anyway? Isn’t it part of being human to feel, in all the emotional colours?

My emotional storms are accompanied by lightening, this has given me extra motivation to want to look at how to heal them before they take a hold and turn into a thunderstorms.

It may be that describing it in words is not appropriate because it relates to feeling.

I don’t like being allergic to emotions.

The last time I cried for a day because I was sad, I had seizures for 2 days afterwards. I don’t know which is worse; crying because I am sad or the fact that if I cry then I’ll have a seizure.

Does this mean heart is broken?

I don’t think so, I still feel with my spirit the same as everyone else.

1)      http://www.itmonline.org/shen/index.htm

2)      http://www.wakingtimes.com/2012/09/12/the-heart-has-its-own-brain-and-consciousness/

3)      http://alysonyoga.wordpress.com/2012/11/04/whos-in-control-of-your-mind-one-benefit-of-mindfulness/

A Breath of Fresh Air – Post viral O2

There is nothing like influenza to boost catch up reading.

Ironically the book I chose to read was called ‘The Revelation of the Breath’ by Sharon G. Mijares Editor.

This collection of short essays on breathing did at least serve the purpose of ramming home to me why I was sick in the first place (unhealthy breathing patterns). It is a fabulous introduction to many breathing techniques from east to west, religious, spiritual and medical.

What I particularly liked about it was an article on breathing for Aikido by Darrell Bluhm Shihan.

I really like aikido but have never read up on it in particular because my teacher who is a bit of a traditionalist, put the emphasis on ‘doing’ not ‘reading’.

When I asked if there were any books he recommended he told me in no uncertain terms that it was practice not reading I should be concentrating on.

Fair point really.

But this book is really good  at explaining breathing techniques, their purposes and the philosophy, physiology and psychology behind them.

I was particularly taken by Buteyko for asthma, sleep and apnoea, and Rebirthing completely reframed birth trauma. The section on Freediving was quite revealing. Personally holding my breath is not an area I have ever explored (one of the diving instructors I met said that underwater diving and epilepsy aren’t a good gas and air mix).

Maybe I’ll just have to practice pausing between air intake and exhale for now. There are lots of rhythms to use after all.

Breath can be energising or relaxing, exciting or tranquil. Huffing and puffing can be quite good fun 🙂

I like that someone took the time to write about how breathing can be a revelation.

Make of it what you will I hope you enjoy this book as much as I am.

Here is a link to view it, also available from Amazon.

http://www.sunypress.edu/p-4912-the-revelation-of-the-breath.aspx

At One With Flu – when it’s not a good idea to put up a fight

I have now been in bed for over a week.

I am a little bit put out.

Viruses trigger more seizures and I spent my first 3 days twitching.

It has taken me nearly a week to come to terms with the fact that something smaller than I can see, probably only made up of protein/ amino acids has hijacked my immune system and busily replicating its way through my cells.

I feel violated.

Unfortunately it seems that trying to ‘do’ something about it is the last thing that I should be doing.

This time it looks like I will have to stay in bed for another few days until my body has finally ‘slept’ it off.

Trying to feel inner peace for my flu virus is actually quite a strain, my liver is clearly having a field day.

I’m off to try to mediate on compassion (and do lying chi gung).

My Favourite ‘Pep’ Blogs – ‘Gin and T’ for your in box

When your health’s gets you down in the dumps there are things you can do for yourself to make your day go better.

I do this by seeking out the people who are having a good day. Friends and family sometimes aren’t enough.

Getting connected via the internet is a useful tool to make connections via social media, networking and blogging sites. If you can’t talk or leave the house this can be the only way to get ‘empowered’.

There are lots of people out there who have insight into wellness, holistic and mind -body medicines. Remember you are not alone in being unwell and that the nature of the human condition means that this won’t change.

If you have been somehow hoodwinked into thinking that poor health is something that happens to other people or that you are unlucky enough to be alone in your suffering then it’s time to look around!

EVERY BODY NEEDS BACKUP!

Remember – no man is an island! 🙂

Seriously;

The current medical model does not include a pep talk at your doctor’s from a wellness warrior. This is a great shame because getting us into shape when we are not at our best can need military strategy.

Don’t just rely on your doctor.

For this reason some of my favourite blogs are from ladies and gentlemen who in their own way are driven to educate us on our health and well –being. Either by sharing their experience or by providing information about how to improve your physical, emotional, mental or spiritual health.

I have some regulars that I stream directly into my life and some of these I would like to share with you.

In no particular order I give you;

Number 1

http://www.thewellnesswarrior.com.au/

Jessica Ainscough

This lady is clearly THE ULTIMATE aptly named ‘wellness warrior’. She survived cancer and so to be honest every word she writes I cling to like a limpet; because you don’t know how good you have it until you read about someone else’s misfortune. This lady is very positive and provides me with a little ray of sunshine even when I feel like a glow slug.

Number 2

http://sierrabender.com

Sierra Bender

Following some truly awful experiences around ectopic pregnancy Sierra went on to write ‘Goddess to the core’ and brings to America ‘Boot-camp for goddesses’ with yoga and empowerment teaching, in particular aimed at women.

I have not read the book but I find Sierra’s weekly updates on the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual bodies very insightful. My in -box would be empty without her and I would like to meet her one day.

Number 3

http://www.brucelipton.com/

Bruce Lipton

Bruce is not a man who is afraid of ‘out of the box thinking’ and for this reason I could kiss him!

Even if you don’t share any of this maverick biologist’s research views you should check him out for sheer positive collective thinking.

It’s all down to experience at the end of the day. If you read this man’s research you may realise it’s NOT just down to your genes.

This man is the ultimate warrior for ‘Mind over matter’.

Number 4

http://www.energyarts.com/

Bruce Frantzis

Another Bruce on the warrior list, this time a real life martial warrior. Bruce’s blog updates are very much tai chi orientated but his life experience is well worth researching.

Bruce suffered severe back injury following a car accident and spent many years re-training his spine.

As a person who suffers from back pain myself I respect him for not only his immense skill, knowledge of Tai Chi and martial arts, but also as a survivor of back injury!

I found it necessary to read his books to really benefit from his experience and understand how he has overcome problems with – training. You don’t need to be doing tai chi to listen to his meditations which are available to download in some cases.

Number 5

http://epilepsytalk.com

Phylis Feiner Johnson

Everybody has their specialist subject and this lady is the ultimate ambassador for mine. I have not managed to find any other blogger with such a rich encyclopaedic knowledge of epilepsy. Phylis is using her life experience to educate and inform others about epilepsy. I only wish I could ship her to the UK to meet my consultant, because I think she knows more than he does.

Number 6

http://www.drfranklipman.com/big-pharma-define-better/

Dr Frank Lipman

Last but not least Dr Frank Lipman the newest addition to my inbox. Promoting alternative wellness on a grand scale in New York. This link is to his blog about ‘big pharma’.

Even though I do take medication, there is a good argument for all things in moderation.

It’s important that we don’t neglect the whole.

Without medication I would have seizures, but it is worth noting that even with medication if I neglect the whole body – Mental. Physical, Emotional and Spiritual then I get sick anyway.

Meditation is my medication.

It is important to keep learning about your body.

Don’t be blinded by science it hasn’t got all the answers.

It is important to look for ‘Back up’ and depending on what health condition ails you, your personal reading may lean towards specific health conditions. Facebook, twitter and specialist websites exist to take us to other people when we are not able to leave the house.

Get Googling!

Don’t be alone when you need help.

Get conneted, get smart, get empowered and get well!

Pushing The Boundaries – Epilepsy and Karate part 1

Wearing a Gi (karate suit) is a bit like going on camera because you gain a few pounds.
What on earth was I doing?
My first brush with a Dojo (Japanese martial training hall) was when I was 12. It was my good friend (or fiend depending on how you look at her) who thought it would be a good idea to go and train with or local karate club under Sensi Roger Sayce.
Roger was well loved by everybody who he taught and to this day I will never forget how every time he saw me he would ask when I was going to start training again.
So it didn’t last long.
Roger never gave up on me, if only he were alive today I would be able to tell him how much I now appreciate this and thank him.
There were a couple of reasons training came to an end. One was the distance and effort required to get to town for after school training (a mile to a milk stand outside a farm, 12 miles to town with my neighbour who was going training and her very kind dad who offered me lifts), Seizures and medication and also the grading examiner who was a bit scary. As a 12 year old I think I started shaking when he started shouting and shook all through the examinations – just two of them in two years. I was not brimming with confidence as a child and so I was quite happy to go and train without re-visiting grading’s (where you get a shiny new belt).
Mum and Dad were not enthused by my new found hobby and steadfastly refused to support me in my pursuit of ‘violence’. Unfortunately they missed the bit about fitness, discipline, confidence, self -defence, spirit, etc.
Eventually after a couple of years I stopped training at the level of temporary red belt or 8th Kyu.
Years passed and I declared I would start karate again ‘over my dead body’.
Time passed and my good friend married someone who also eat, slept and breathed karate. She and everyone else I started training with reached dizzying heights of ninja skills and I just got more and more sick.
And so, years later, I started karate training once more for a large number of reasons.
After being described by my friend’s husband as a ‘tai chi tree hugging hippie’ I thought I should check out the local club once more (pride in NO way played a part).
In all seriousness there are good reasons to train with people who seem to have turned out confident, self -assured, independent, assertive individuals. When faced with life’s problems they all seem to stand firmly in the face of adversity.

What did I have to loose?

Epilepsy – Yoga for Mind, Everybody and Spirit

So now that I have spent some time looking for reasons why yoga and tai chi are good for health, I am curious to find out if anybody else has been benefitting from mind-body training for seizures.

As it happens I have recently found a couple of articles which were really good and indicate that I AM NOT ALONE!

Yoga Journal December 2011 community – ‘signs they are a ’changin’ page 24 has an article by Anna Dubrovsky about deaf yoga founder Lila Lolling. (see deafyoga.org.)

Unfortunately I can’t find this article on-line to create a link. Apparently epilepsy is not the only health condition to pose a challenge in class participation. Lila Lolling has set up deaf yoga classes to include and encourage participation in yoga by deaf people. (see link 1)

Being deaf in a yoga class creates its own unique challenges and she has been building bridges towards inclusion. Interestingly, in relation to her own health; ‘Diagnosed with epilepsy as a teenager, Lolling credits yoga with keeping her seizure free and off medication,’ according to the article. This is very encouraging to me!

Pretty quickly it was apparent that EVERYONE participating in yoga are reaping health benefits. There is a wealth of online resources explaining what health problems benefit from yoga.

In 2009 and 2010 I returned to yoga classes locally, this time as a tortoise (slow and steady). I can put my head on the floor now and put weight into my head and through my neck. I am not quite upside down yet – but give me time!

Our community classes are called ‘Yoga I Bawb’ this is Welsh for ‘yoga for everybody’. (see links at bottom of page) We are very lucky to have such a holistic co-operative approaching the teaching of yoga to our local community! If you are in the locality drop on by!

Info sources: 1) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wWsSFuxlj5k

2) deafyoga.org (link given in yoga journal article)

3) http://www.yogawithlila.com/yogawithlila/About.html

4) http://www.yogaibawb.org.uk

5)http://alysonyoga.wordpress.com/2012/10/08/yoga-i-bawb-agm/

Epilepsy – Breathing ‘Quality Not Quanity’

So why is breathing so important in epilepsy?

Yoga and tai chi are both beneficial for epilepsy management but what is the reason for this?

I have spent some time looking at what others have to say about breathing in relation to seizures. Here are some of the points which came up that have helped me to understand why breathing exercises are beneficial for epilepsy management.

These are extracts from Kenneth Cohen which are very illuminating.

According to Dr Fried’s The Psychology and Physiology of Breathing, “Rapid breathing (i.e. hyperventilation) reduces brain blood flow, while slow, deep breathing enhances it, other factors being equal.”5

‘Wilder Penfield, one of the world’s leading neurosurgeons and experts on epilepsy, wrote, “the mechanism whereby hyperventilation elicits change in the EEG and seizures in epileptic patients is still unknown. It may act by causing a partial ischemia (reduced blood flow) due to cerebral vasoconstriction, and there may be some increase in excitability accompanying the lowered CO2 concentration.”6 (ref info source ) p116

This book by Kenneth Cohen is a fantastic resource for any chigong or tai chi practitioner as it very clearly lays out the components of chi gung practice.

Kenneth Cohen makes accessible through his understanding of the Chinese language and qigong practice what is often lost in English translation.

What he makes clear is that research into breathing has led to the discovery that arteries can constrict causing changes in blood flow to the brain.

If you are prone to seizures or migraine this is very valuable information indeed.

Information sources:

The Way of Qigong – The art and science of Chinese Energy Healing by Kenneth S. Cohen ISBN 0-345-42109-4

Links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilder_Penfield

Epilepsy – Tai Chi as Physical and Occupational Therapy

Chinese moonwalking is a very interesting pastime (I find).

It also involves LOTS of breathing.

There are many who disagree, running does it for some, swimming for others or just good old-fashioned karate.

But for me, when I started to learn tai chi a door opened. A ray of light began to descend onto what was turning into a very bleak winter of the mind and body.

As far as health was concerned, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I finally turned a corner.

It did take 2 years of training to turn the corner but the point was the seed was sown.

Unlike Michael Jackson’s moonwalking, the chinese moving meditation class was not fast.

Hedgehog rehabilitation was to be a slow, restful and ultimately time-consuming affair.

But at least in my tai chi incarnation I could become a tortoise (even if in evolutionary terms this may have been a step backwards). The point is you can’t learn to run before you can walk.

The beauty of being a tortoise is that it doesn’t require you to be inverted. Most of the serious standing practice asks that both feet remain firmly planted on the floor at all times (unless you happen to be standing on one leg).

Tai chi also helped me to begin to come to grips with my body’s limitations (of which there are many).

Some of the problems that occur from anticonvulsant prescription medication are fatigue and pain management. Either, I was taking SO much mediation that I couldn’t feel anything at all, OR  every time I had a seizure I would be in pain for months.

During the last few years I have suffered really serious back problems as a result of seizures. After one particular episode I couldn’t feel much of my right side and my back muscles were like jelly and had no integrity.

It has taken a long time to get them re-trained. Additionally, problems begin to show up in the rest of the body.

I would not have been aware of or able to correct these problems if I had not been introduced to Tai Chi and Chi Gung practice.

Tai Chi is very subtle and I think that if you are an athlete in prime condition, not a day’s ill-health in your life and in top cardio vascular fitness; the subtleties of slow movement may be lost completely unless long-term perseverance is sustained.

Life in the fast lane can mean that the slow lane isn’t an option for those fortunate enough to have qualities such as speed (more Hare than Tortoise), untill serious physical injury or illness leads to either immobility or seriously limited mobility.

 A lot of people only consider the slow lane when they get run over in the fast lane (they didn’t start out as a hedgehog or a tortoise). Sometimes, the Hare gives up and doesn’t try the slow lane because the Hare remembers what it is like to go fast and doesn’t adapt to the changes in circumstance.

Most serious professional athletes and sports people need physiotherapy at some time in their career.

It pains me to say that many hedgehogs do not discover yoga or tai chi, and therefore do not get the opportunity to experience evolution through internal (mind, body and spirit) self-development.

I would recommend Tai Chi to anyone who is suffering from a health condition, in particular Chi Gung. I would recommend it even if there is no health condition as it is a good practice as a life system, like yoga.

At some point I would like to talk about why Tai Chi is so good for health but not in this post.

It took approximately 2 years for me to stop having seizures in my Tai Chi class. I was having them very regularly when I started, and I used to be unable to complete the class because I would have a seizure.

A less patient teacher would have got fed up with me, but my tai chi instructor just took it in his stride and performed Reiki on me if  I was unwell.

I think on reflection where other exercise classes had failed this teacher succeeded, because there was no judgment about me and for the first time in my life I stopped comparing myself with what other people could do physically just for long enough to look at myself . Also, and this is very important, he never once told me that I couldn’t do something.

This last point is very important to how anyone learns. A class where a teacher  motivates, encourages and facilitates learning through enabling the students by providing skills that lead to understanding has a high success rate.

I would say that as a student of tai chi with a label ‘Disability’ this was the most important factor. It is really hard to learn if the teacher has given up on you before you have started. So many times the word ‘disability’ is mistaken for an excuse to expect less of the individual.

 Whether its physical or academic education the term ‘disability’ can break an education before learning has begun. Projections about expectation (or lack there of) from the external can impact heavily on what a person achieves, because if no-one around you expects anything of you how can you yourself hope to achieve anything?

I can’t compete with people when NOTHING about my body works properly. Much of the time exercise at school had been all about competition. Running the fastest, jumping the highest.  So what is the point in trying to be like everyone else in the class when it is clearly a complete waste of time?

 My body, like everyone else’s is unique to me. Not one person is the same. I think  this is something that is often forgotten in the haste to be the best, or be the same as other people in the haste to fit in.

 In particular if you are female, women compare themselves to each other in a dog eat dog world. This is a cultural and sadly often destructive pass time. How many of us have looked in a magazine and wanted to look like a model or movie star?  I don’t think that it is just women, but we are the ones who are supposed to have a job, be a mothers, look beautiful, be slim and have our cake and eat it!

So Tai Chi was taking care of my body, but as I mentioned, this change did not come about overnight.

The Body an owner’s manual. If only we were born with all the instructions.

The main thing that I have learned from this experience is that it doesn’t matter if you’re not as bendy, fast and fit as other people. It is MOST important that you understand WHY YOU are not bendy, fast and fit.

 It is  important that you know how to keep YOURSELF HEALTHY.