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Who, me? Improvise?!

Updated: Sep 19, 2023

I hear you. Improvisation may sound scary, silly, perhaps even pointless. I can write furiously from where I am, as a decades-long performer and teacher, until I’ve bloodied my fingers. But nothing will change your mind until you open it. Improvisation must be experienced. So rather than me just telling you more, I’m going to lean heavily on the testimonials of some of your fellow PNMD members sharing their experiences with the class we’ve been running since March 2023. We meet on Wednesdays from 10a-11:30a at the Oak Room of the Grace Presbyterian Church and Thursdays from 10:30a-12 noon at Lynnewood United Methodist Church.

Yes, And…eXercise! Is a fun, freeing, uplifting, and mind-opening experience. Yes, and…you can be silly too. The people I’ve met are wonderful and I find myself thinking about them often and being excited to attend the next class. - JayMarie G

What is it?

Yes, And…eXercise! Is the name of the 501(c)3 nonprofit I developed out of the research I ran in my my doctoral studies. This class is called the “Jam for Joy” and it is made up of 90 minutes of music, games and stories in a safe and brave space. Our goal is to connect, create and communicate. We do so by listening and responding, playing and learning to trust the unknown in ourselves and each other. And we end up laughing a lot.

It was really fun and beautiful to see the way people relaxed and laughed. There were just as many men there as women and they all really got into it! Keep on doing what you're doing! I will support you in any way I can! - Carol F.

What is your background?

I earned a PhD in Interdisciplinary Health Sciences studying the effect of improvisation and storytelling on Parkinson’s disease. My dad, Dan, was diagnosed with PD in 2001. I first introduced improvisation to him in 2014 when I noticed him starting to say “no” to opportunities. Those habits of isolation worried me. Improvisation, just like my non-profit, is foundationally built on “Yes, And”.

It's an hour and a half of guaranteed laughter and fun! - Beth D

What is “Yes, And”, and how does it apply to Parkinson’s disease?

In its simplest terms, Yes, And is acceptance and active engagement. In terms of Parkinson’s, you can look at it as “Yes, Parkinson’s disease is part of my life And here’s what I’m going to do because of it”. That may include accepting the real threat of isolation and therefore making extra efforts to socialize. That could also include the understanding that your body needs extra intent to get moving, so you increase your exercise.

I’m trying to organize my schedule, so I don’t miss all or part of your sessions anymore. You have me hooked. As I watch individuals I know in the group, they are transformed and I want to get a piece of that.

- Gil P.

Is this just for people with PD?

Absolutely not. This is a full community activity and works best when we’re all in. Care partners, family members, co-workers, medical and wellness experts are all welcome.

I have participated in this class since its inception. I look forward to attending every week - it has definitely become a highlight in my”toolbox” of resources for dealing with my Parkinson’s. The friendships I have made are definitely of the lasting variety. Robert is an exceptionally gifted facilitator - we are very fortunate to have his expertise available to us. I am very grateful for PNMD’s support for this fledgling endeavor. I have no doubt that with time it will grow to be self- supporting. In the meantime, I appreciate the PNMD Board’s commitment to this innovative resource for people with Parkinson’s.

- Karen Q.

Bottom line: What’s in it for me?

Bottom line: you get what you give. You must be present to win. Show up, allow yourself to laugh, connect and have fun, then you tell me what’s in it for you. My research shows this work increases confidence, communication and creativity. One thing I hear consistently is that participants feel heard and seen in this class in a way they’re not anywhere else. Parkinson’s has a way of making people like they can’t. We consistently play with what you can, often uncovering things participants had forgotten or discovering things they never imagined they would do.

I have been fortunate to participate in Robert Cochrane’s Wednesday’s Parkinson’s program in Walnut Creek since its introduction. The goal of the class is to challenge the participants to utilize our cognitive/physical skills while forming bonds among us. I look forward to each Wednesday because it is my chance to reconnect with others involved and move my body. With Robert’s encouragement, the class reaps benefits for getting to know each other. He strengthens our thinking and motor abilities.

I look forward to this Wednesday activity. - Terry T.

Please visit our websites, to see more testimonials, research and ways you can get involved. Feel free to reach out to me directly with any questions:

Robert Cochrane, PhD

Founder and CEO, Yes, And...eXercise!

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