2014-01-31 / Front Page

Relief in sight

DVD brings relief to Parkinson’s patients
By Tracy Orzel
Contributing Writer

Elizabeth Burd, right, began teaching yoga classes for people with Parkinson's and other movement disorders in 2006. Burd said she was touched to see so many of her students, such as Nancy Snow, left, volunteer to be in the video. (Courtesy photo) Elizabeth Burd, right, began teaching yoga classes for people with Parkinson's and other movement disorders in 2006. Burd said she was touched to see so many of her students, such as Nancy Snow, left, volunteer to be in the video. (Courtesy photo) SOUTH PORTLAND – If someone had told personal trainer and yoga instructor Elizabeth Burd 10 years ago she would release a yoga DVD for people with Parkinson’s disease, she would have said, “No way.”

“I can say in retrospect that I’m so glad I pushed through my fears and anxiety about it and decided, ‘Well, why not try it,’” said Burd who just released her instructional yoga DVD, “PD Yoga For ME” a month ago.

Burd began teaching yoga classes for those with the degenerative nervous system disorder and other movement disorders at the Medically Oriented Gym in South Portland in 2006.

Soon after developing a yoga class for those with Parkinson’s disease, Burd said her students began asking her if there was something they could do at home and encouraged her to make a DVD.

“That’s when I started thinking about it in a more serious way,” said Burd. “The whole thing has been a great, wonderful surprise.”

Faced with the daunting task, Burd turned to two friends, Tom Pakulski and Paul Haley, to help film and edit the project, respectively.

Pakulski, who owns his own production company called Energy Films, said the experience was “fantastic.”

“Elizabeth hasn’t really done a video before, I think of any kind, but she was obviously very prepared and knew exactly what she wanted to do and it went very smoothly,” said Pakulski. “She knew the material and she was very, very comfortable on camera.”

“They were both just so supportive about helping me, so things just kind of fell into place. And then I did the Indiegogo campaign to raise the money, but they still gave me an amazing discount,” said Burd, who was able to raise $3,000 of her $5,000 goal.

Filming, which began at the end of March 2013, was completed over several days. The DVD opens with a meditation and brief centering exercise before moving on to stretches. Featured are several of Burd’s students demonstrating different postures.

“It was really sweet to have everyone in there, rooting for me, rooting for everyone else and for really wanting to participate in something that is going to hopefully reach so many people and improve their lives,” said Burd.

Judy Lombard, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in August 2009, has been taking Burd’s class for three years and owns a copy of “PD Yoga For ME.”

“Now I don’t have to worry if the weather’s bad and I can’t get to class. I still have the DVD,” said Lombard.

Lombard, who was asked to be in the DVD, but had to decline due to a blood clot in her thigh, said she didn’t realize she needed yoga until she took Burd’s class.

“Because it was early on in the disease, I thought I was pretty flexible until I took her class and realized how inflexible I was. So it really helped me a lot,” said Lombard. “That’s the other good thing about it – no matter how bad you’re feeling or whatever is wrong with your body, there’s always something to get out of the class because you can work around what’s bothering you.”

Those who purchase the 45-minute DVD will learn how to listen to what their bodies need at any given moment, stretch safely and improve their range of motion.

“Basically practicing being present with sensation and allowing the stretch and allowing your body to move through the limitations,” said Burd.

Most of the poses are seated and focus on the upper body. Though there are several lower body options, the routine is designed for those who don’t want to or are unable to get down on the floor, making it ideal for those in wheelchairs or beds.

“It’s basically a yoga class on tape,” said Burd.

The difference between a traditional yoga class and a yoga class for those with Parkinson’s? Modified poses and a slower pace.

Burd said people who take the class or buy the DVD see immediate results because deep breathing works directly on the nervous system.

“As you begin to do the opening meditation or brief centering – as soon as you start that process – your body tends to relax. When you start relaxing, then you start to feel better,” said Burd. “Then you add movement … and then you start to feel even better because the endorphins start to kick in and the muscles in Parkinson’s patients are often so tight all the time that even the slightest bit of relief can be huge to someone in that situation.”

Since the release of “PD Yoga For ME” a month ago, Burd has sold about 20 DVDs through word of mouth alone and plans on making two more, “Just so that people can also have a variety of things to pull from,” said Burd, before adding, “It does get old after awhile, to do the same program.”

Burd also plans on training other yoga teachers to teach her method, opening more classes in the Portland area and writing a book about yoga for people with Parkinson’s.

In the meantime, students can now practice yoga from the comfort of their own home or attend Burd’s weekly yoga classes Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to noon at the Medically Oriented Gym.

“The (class) at the MOG is actually now open to anyone with any kind of limitations, so arthritis, fibromyalgia, joint replacements – even if you’re just stiff and you think, ‘God, I can’t do yoga because I’m stiff.’ This is a really good starting point for anybody really,” said Burd.

To purchase a copy of Burd’s DVD “PD Yoga For ME” visit her website at http://www.pdyogaforme.com/.

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