Early onset Alzheimers is proving to be a very different way of going through life. For Marsha and I this ever changing experience is the new normal. Everyday is a roller coaster ride. I watch Marsha going up and down, careening from side to side laughing, surprised, confused, scared, crying, and sometimes disappearing into a black tunnel that is both terrifying and sad.
Marsha Wenig, YogaKids creator and founder who has inspired so many with her insights into how children learn through yoga was diagnosed with Early-onset Alzheimers in November of 2011. In retrospect her symptoms had already been developing for many years.
The diagnosis came as the result of caring friends noticing the change in her behavior which led to extensive testing with neurologists at at Chicago’s Rush Hospitals Memory Clinic. Its impact had effected her, YogaKids and our personal relationship long before we were aware of what was really happening.
While there are many challenges that Marsha faces on a daily basis one of the greatest is being aware that she’s not able to grasp the things that were once were so easy and second nature to her. Not knowing what to do next is often crippling. Most of all Marsha misses her day to day involvement in YogaKids.
Now life and learning is truly moment to moment. For Marsha clear and detailed memories can turn in an instant to a blank screen, paralyzing disorganization and then back again to a social ease that she has always been adored for. Internally she is often as active and communicative as ever with insight and humor to share but collecting the words to express her thoughts is often impossible.
Alzheimers has led us both to a different kind of deeper awareness and appreciation of the moment. Kindness, compassion and gratitude has become our practice in a new way. Our yoga. The new mantra being “out of the head, into the heart”. Reminders to breath into and feel from the heart are posted on bathroom mirrors, the refrigerator door, by the back door. This practice helps break a tendency for fixating and obsession with troubling thoughts. If not revealing answers at least breathing into the heart (see heartmath.com) brings presence, some comfort and coherence.
Alz.org provides in-depth information about the disease with graphs, photos and illustrations of what happens to the brain in its different stages. At the same time the “best brains in medicine” don’t have much to offer in the way of explanations or the hows or why’s. This is one of Marsha’s most frequent and disturbing questions. “How did this happen?”
There are many theories as to how early forms of dementia develop. The process is thought to sometimes start decades before symptoms begin to show. A slow build up of environmental toxins, heavy metals, manufactured fluorides, electro magnetic radiation and gluten are all suspected contributors.
New drugs, sadly with unattractive side effects, are in development stages and most hopeful is an ultrasound therapy that is in the offing. Aside from the one drug Marsha takes our approach to slowing any progression is natural, dietary and lifestyle oriented.
Friends often call or Facebook with research they’ve read or stories they’ve heard about the virtues of coconut oil, DHA, vitamin D, turmeric, ashwaganda, CoQ 10, etc…we do it all. We’re gluten free, eat lots of organic, raw fruits and veggies, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, and occasionally include fish. Everyday starts with a couple of ounces of wheatgrass juice from our indoor farm followed by the Vita-mix blending up sprouts, greens, chia, maca, cacao and berries.
Googling the countries with the least occurrence of Alzheimers we found Fiji at the bottom of the list. Why? I suspect the high levels of silica in their water might be a preventative keeping the brain vital and healthy. There is no evidence that it is curative in any way but we include silica in our regimen and have explored everything from Fiji water, to horsetail, diatomaceous earth and Orgono Living Silica.
Our daily practice includes simple asana followed by breathwork, toning and meditation. It feels like the vibration of OM helps stimulate the brain. We visualize plaque and calcifications breaking up and tangles realigning. Yoni mudra also stimulates the pineal gland. All of this follows a Merkaba visualization and a lengthy heart-centerd meditation.
Marsha gets out and walks…a lot. Being outside eases and quiets her mind. Usually she’s with her best friend and sidekick Cooper our 10 year old pug. She also looks forward to weekly Access Consciousness sessions to get her ”Bars” run. Along with being totally relaxing the Bars process helps dissolve old belief “implants” which destroys and uncreates negative thinking patterns. As a practitioner I’m able to help with that at home as well.
Music also plays a big part in her day to day routine. Thanks to online resources like Pandora and Spotify it’s possible for Marsha to access the music she loves which ranges from yogic relaxation music to our daughter Dakota’s latest upbeat playlists. YouTube offers amazing binaural beats and isochronic music set to specific frequencies that promotes brainwave focus, health and wellbeing.
So what if this stage of Alzheimers can be reframed as an invitation? An invitation to explore how one can function more fully from the heart. To expand and appreciate ourselves as infinite beings. What if thinking and functioning are not localized in the brain? What if the breath is a key to enter the “tiny place in the heart” and access a more global, universal consciousness? What if it’s possible to transcend the limitations of the human brain altogether? Could this be an opportunity to remember or discover if we’re more than the limitations we’ve grown accustomed to accepting as the boundaries of reality? So what else is possible?
Marsha has learned from all of the amazing, exceptional children she’s worked with over the years that with many there’s much more happening on the inside than is apparent to others from the outside. And what if that’s ok? Is the early stage of Alzheimers a ravaging disease or a different way of viewing and being in this world? A new way of caring for and being present to each other…everything?
We’ll keep you posted.