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Kripalu Guest Stories: Emily S.

A Space for Healing

A woman confronts her future with Parkinson’s disease.


Emily S.

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I was with my younger daughter, Carolyn, when I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. I had a bad flu; then I developed back pain and a tremor in my left hand that would not go away. I saw several doctors before going to a neurologist. When he said, “I think you have a mild case of Parkinson’s,” my daughter nearly fell off her chair. But I was grateful to learn it was something I could deal with. The neurologist was so positive; he explained that I was in a good position because it was late-onset Parkinson’s and there are great drugs to treat it.

Right away, Carolyn got on the Internet and said, “Mom, Kripalu has a weeklong program for people recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s and their care partners. Do you want to go?” I said, “Yes, if my daughters come with me.”

I had been to Kripalu 11 years earlier with my daughter, Elizabeth, before she underwent her seventh surgery for a bullet wound that had grazed her vocal cords and had taken out her voice. We spent the weekend doing yoga, attending group sharing sessions, meditating, and becoming centered. The surgery she had after our stay was successful and gave her a voice. She credits her time at Kripalu for her healing, as do I. So I signed up to return to Kripalu for the Parkinson’s program last fall.

The medical experts were so accessible. They made themselves part of the group, participating in our daily discussions and yoga and dance classes. I was able to ask a neurologist about a specific medication that had been recommended to me. I was resisting taking it because I was feeling healthy. But he told me that I’d feel younger if I took it. When I got home, I started it, and he was right—I feel 10 years younger. The improvement is amazing, and I lost my fear of the medication.

In the program, I gained a better understanding and acceptance of my symptoms. I learned adaptations, and I no longer struggle with buttons and zippers because I gave myself permission to buy pants with elastic waistlines. Noon dance was the most fun of all, and the teacher had me moving across the floor in a way that was exhilarating. Since then, I’ve found ways to stay active with exercise that I enjoy. I now take three movement classes a week and do light resistance training at the gym.

Being at Kripalu was a transformational experience. And it was helpful for my daughters to participate in breakout sessions for care partners to address their own concerns. And we all took advantage of the wonderful Healing Arts massages and facials. Kripalu, for our family, is a healing, restorative place.
—Emily S., Evanston, Illinois