Yellow River Center Mind, Body, Spirit Retreat and the Birth of PD Gladiators

None of us is happy with our PD diagnosis, but we each cope in different ways. The fact that you are browsing this website suggests that you or a person you care about is searching for a way to fight back against this chronic disease we are told has no cure. Vigorous and varied exercise (including mindful activities like tai chi and qigong) shows great promise for improving our quality of life, but it’s not the only way. I believe in a holistic approach even though including everything I think may help in our logo would make for a pretty cluttered t-shirt.

One ritual I start every morning with is an hour or so of tai chi, yoga and meditation that helps prepare my rigid body for the day’s activities and my mind for the day’s inevitable stresses. If a fortuneteller had told the Type-A young lawyer that I was a quarter century ago that these rather Zen-like activities would change my life, I’d have cussed and sued the fraud for my money back. But that would have been a grave injustice because the wise people who are the Yellow River Center saved my life and influenced hundreds more who are fighting back through PD Gladiators.

Without intending to do injustice to my wife Ellie or any of the dozens of others who have made PD Gladiators a reality, I always focus on my very first support group meeting as the turning point for me, when Bob Wells and Doris Williams of the Yellow River Center were excitedly waving a clinical trial that concluded tai chi could slow the progression of PD. They were offering a free 8-week tai chi workshop, and over 30 people signed up. It was the first time for me–and probably most of the group–that anybody offered hope that there was something we could do to take back some control over our disease.

Later that year, after a successful workshop, Yellow River Center (Bob, Doris and Ferah Withrow) organized their first retreat at Camp Twin Lakes. We had a nice time learning about stress reduction through mindfulness and socializing with our peers. One of the speakers urged us to make the choice to do something to influence the course of our disease. Inspired, I responded to Yellow River Center’s request for feedback with a manifesto on how they had changed my life and asked (Bob Wells says “challenged”) them to extend and expand their Parkinson’s workshops.

They said “yes,” and over the next three years, I joined their Advisory Board and then their Board of Directors, and spent many hours with them learning from their wisdom, experience and peaceful nature. They were my gateway into meditation and yoga and an interest in Eastern practices. They sparked the curiosity that led me to other scientific literature about exercise and PD that ultimately led me to the insight that became PD Gladiators, with a mission to make sure everyone with PD has access to PD-specific exercise programs and our doctors know that exercise gives us hope.

I can’t guarantee you that Yellow River Center’s second retreat (see the blog post below for details of this May 11th event) will lead to the type of seismic changes in your life that their first retreat brought to mine. But you will learn something new that you can take home with you and ponder, maybe something that becomes part of your daily ritual, something that will bring you some peace. You will enjoy a low-stress day with your peers. And you’ll have a nice lunch.

I hope to see you at Camp Twin Lakes on May 11th.

Larry Kahn

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