Call for Comic and Graphic novel submissions

Singing Dragon and Jessica Kingsley Publishers have recently started developing an exciting new line of comics and graphics novels and we are now open for submissions.

Singing Dragon publishes authoritative books on all aspects of Chinese medicine, yoga therapy, aromatherapy, massage, Qigong and complementary and alternative health more generally, as well as Oriental martial arts. Find out more on www.singingdragon.com

JKP are committed to publishing books that make a difference. The range of subjects includes autism, dementia, social work, art therapies, mental health, counselling, palliative care and practical theology. Have a look on www.jkp.com for the full range of titles.

If you have an idea that you think would work well as a graphic book, or are an artist interested in working with us, here is what we are looking for:

Graphic novel or comic – Long form

We are looking for book proposals that are between 100 and 200 pages, black and white or colour, and explore the topics listed above or another subject that would fit into the JKP/Singing Dragon list. Specifically we are hoping to develop more personal autobiographical stories.

Here are the guidelines for submission:

  1. A one-page written synopsis detailing the plot/outline of the book, as well as short bios of all the creators involved.
  2. Character sketches of the main characters with descriptions.
  3. Solo artist/writers or writer and artist teams should submit 5 to 10 completed pages to allow us to get a sense of the pace, art style and writing.
  4. Solo writers will need to submit 10 to 20 pages of script as well as the one-page synopsis from point 1.

Comic – Short form

We have some shorter comic projects underway and are looking to expand the range of topics covered. These books can run from 20 to 40 pages, black and white or colour, with dimensions of 170x230mm. We are mainly looking for comics that provide ideas and information for both professionals and general readers.

For example, the first in this series, published by Singing Dragon, is a book exploring the latest developments in chronic pain research.

Here are the guidelines for submission:

  1. A one-page written synopsis detailing the narrative style and subject matter to be explored in the book. Also include short bios of all the creators involved.
  2. Solo artist/writers or writer and artist teams should submit 3 to 5 completed pages to allow us to get a sense of the pace, art style and writing.
  3. Solo writers will need to submit 5 to 10 pages of script as well as the one-page synopsis from point 1.

When submitting please provide low-res images and send them, along with everything else, to Mike Medaglia at mike.medaglia@jkp.com

If you have any other ideas that don’t directly relate to the subjects described above but you feel might still fit into the Singing Dragon or JKP list, please feel free to get in touch with ideas and enquiries on the email above.

Raise awareness of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome this May

 

EDS awarenessMay is Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) Awareness Month, raising awareness of this multi-systemic and complex connective tissue disorder, and supporting those who live with this invisible condition.

As awareness and understanding of EDS are central to early diagnosis and management of symptoms, take the time to learn about the condition, and simple steps that can help the many people who live with it.

Learn more about EDS (especially type III – Hypermobility Syndrome) with these interviews and resources, and more:

Books:

Interviews:

Organisations:

See also:

© 2013 Singing Dragon blog. All Rights Reserved

Understanding and treating the complex chronic patient – an interview with Isobel Knight

Isobel KnightWhat makes treating the chronic complex  patient so difficult? Do you think there is still a lack of understanding about how best to approach this?

I think that practitioners are very scared by complex chronic conditions and can become very overwhelmed. I’ve had so many medical professionals dismiss me because they really didn’t understand what the problem was. Treatment of chronic complex conditions really does require a multi-disciplinary team of people and medical experts, as well as an overarching approach to treatment plans. This can all be overwhelming for one person.

Conditions become chronic and complex over the years. There’s often a long delay in diagnosis (research by the Hypermobility Syndrome Association in the UK suggests that diagnoses can take about 10 years). As an individual gets older, he or she will gather more problems, which makes treatment even more difficult, relating to more bodily systems. If the condition is intercepted younger, these can all be addressed and hopefully better controlled.

How has being an individual with EDSIII (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome – Type 3, Hypermobility) influenced the way you treat people in your clinic?

Based on what I’ve experienced, I can certainly spot the condition very quickly in people who haven’t had a diagnosis. Although I can’t officially diagnose, if the symptoms are there, I can get them sent to their GP for a referral to an expert rheumatologist. So in this way it’s really helped some people. I also know what ongoing management they are often going to require, so I can both refer them on to practitioners that I know, and support them with Bowen Therapy in the areas that I know they will need help with.

I’m never overwhelmed by what patients say, and I always believe them. And that helps a lot.

Why did you choose the autoethnographic approach in writing your new book?

That was inspired by an author I quote in the book, who wrote about life with a kidney condition and eventually turned it into a PhD thesis. I thought it was a really good way of framing the book. It uses my story as a basis, but also weaves in the stories of others, to ensure that it’s socially representative of that culture group. But also, this is a personal story. I include some quite personal details, and I hope that this makes it much more accessible to read, not a dry textbook. It really says how the patient feels, from my point of view and from the points of view of others.

Book cover: A Multi-Disciplinary Approach to Managing Ehlers-Danlos (Type III) - Hypermobility SyndromeIn the book, you go into quite a lot of depth on the psychology involved both in having a chronic complex condition and in treatment. Do you think that the importance of this area is underestimated?

Yes. I was actually really surprised how large the psychological section of the book ended up being. There are so many layers to it, trust being a very important one. The issue of trust is so important for any medical professional dealing with a chronic complex patient. Personally, I had been consistently told by a range of professionals that the pain I was experiencing was psychosomatic, and that there was nothing wrong with me. I think that most patients have years of that to contend with. In so many cases these conditions involve a legacies of problems that haven’t been fully handled since a young age. Behaviours change because of pain. That really has an impact on people. They get angry, they get depressed, they get anxious.

I’ve also included a section for the patient on managing chronic pain, cognitive behavioural therapy, and other psychological aids such as goal-setting, pacing, ways of communicating and dealing with doctors.

Medical professionals also need support psychologically in dealing with the complex chronic patient because, as mentioned, treatment can be very overwhelming for them, and quite emotionally draining. If one of your patients comes back every week with little improvement to their pain, it can be emotionally difficult as a therapist to make a positive spin on it and focus on treatment.

Social media seems to be a really supportive, positive force for the treatment and understanding of these conditions. How do you see this developing in future?

I think that because some patients with this condition can become quite disabled, and socially isolated, Facebook, for example, can be a real lifeline for them. It’s a way for them to get mutual support, to learn more about the condition, to realise they’re not alone in their experience. I’ve been staggered by the response to my Facebook page, and how it’s being used internationally to provide support and share information on this subject (but never any medical advice).

How do you hope this book will help professionals working with, and patients with the syndrome?

I hope that the patients will be able to see that there has been, in my story, quite a positive improvement due to the level of care I’ve had, and the experts I’ve managed to have access to. Physiotherapy has been essential in this. I’d like to offer patients hope but also the reality that this is a genetically inherited condition, which is about management, not cure. I hope that the book provides not only treatment information, but validation – they can take the book to their doctors to show them what’s going on. It’s as up to the minute as up to the minute can be in terms of medical research and practice.

In terms of the medical professionals, I hope that they can understand the full impact of a multi-systemic chronic complex condition, what it means to have bodily systems not working very well, and the impact that this has psychologically, physically and socially. I hope this helps them to develop a bit of a more empathetic approach.

I’m incredibly lucky to have been able to have 6 real experts in each field contributing to the book. This means that they’ve been really able to bring the book up to date with the latest research on treatment and medical management of the condition. That’s a real privilege.

© 2013 Singing Dragon blog. All Rights Reserved

Request a copy of the UK Singing Dragon Complete Catalogue

Cover of the Singing Dragon UK Complete CatalogueMake sure not to miss Singing Dragon’s latest UK Complete Catalogue. If you have not yet received a copy, please sign up for our mailing list and we’ll send a free one out to you ASAP.

Readers in the UK and Europe who request a copy of the catalogue before February 15th, 2013 will also receive a voucher for a 15% discount on the entire Singing Dragon list of books, with free postage and packing.

Take advantage of this opportunity to find new, forthcoming and classic books on Chinese Medicine, Holistic Health, Taiji, Qigong, Herbal Medicine, Yoga, Spirituality and more. Also, sample health-promoting recipes with The Functional Nutrition Cookbook, and Make Yourself Better with Philip Weeks’ books. Delve into the history of Ayurvedic Medicine and the Mudras of India, and discover the Five Levels of Taijiquan, Daoist Nei Gong and Chinese Medical Qigong.

To request your copy of our Complete Catalogue, please click here. To receive your 15% discount voucher, please be sure to click the checkbox for “Singing Dragon” under area of interest or else mention this offer in the “any further comments” section.

If you have previously received a copy of the catalogue, and would like to take advantage of the 15% discount, please feel free to request a voucher via email at post@singingdragon.com.

“Although fatigue may persist, it can go away” – An interview with Lucie Montpetit

Photo: Singing Dragon author Lucie Montpetit

Photo: Singing Dragon author Lucie Montpetit (Credit: Jackie Fritz)

Lucie Montpetit is an occupational therapist with over 25 years’ experience working in a variety of hospital settings. She runs workshops on managing fatigue, stress and pain using the approach she has developed incorporating a number of different techniques. She has personally suffered from debilitating fatigue and restored her health through the methods she now teaches others.

She is the author of Breaking Free from Persistent Fatigue – coming soon from Singing Dragon.

In this interview, Lucie recounts her personal experience with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and how overcoming this condition through a combination of occupational therapy techniques and Eastern health modalities inspired her to help others to do the same.


Can you please tell us a bit about you and your personal and professional interest in improving the lives of people with persistent fatigue?

First, I’d like to explain that I chose the expression “persistent fatigue” because although fatigue may persist, it can go away. A frame of mind open to hope is important in healing.

When I started working as an occupational therapist, I was interested in understanding the drops in energy of my patients. Despite people’s motivation to get better, a lack of energy became apparent in rehabilitation. I encountered different types of lack of energy, whether patients were suffering from major depression in an acute psychiatric setting; war veterans suffering from late onset diabetes leading to leg amputation; or young mothers who just encountered their first major energy drop from multiple sclerosis or a rheumatoid arthritic attack. Personally, I went to see a neurologist at the age of 29 because of sudden energy drops and my GP thought I had multiple sclerosis, but nothing was found and it went away within two weeks. Then, after my second child was born, I had multisystemic symptoms that my GP did not understand. He said I must be stressed. But I did not feel I was more stressed than my co-workers and friends who had to conjugate career and family life.

Book cover: Breaking Free from Persistent FatigueEventually, despite my relatively healthy lifestyle, I had to find another doctor who put me on sick leave with the diagnosis of myalgic encephalomyelitis. It took me about two years to recover from the persistent debilitating fatigue. After that I started to do workshops for patients suffering from similar daily challenges. My book reflects in part my own findings to regain my health as well as the work I have done as an occupational therapist with patients suffering from debilitating fatigue associated with different diagnoses. So it is not a book about disease but about finding solutions according to different ways of gaining back one’s physical, emotional and psychological energy balance. For many, it is also a path towards empowerment and finding a new meaning in daily activities.

Can you paint us a picture of what the person with fatigue goes through on a daily basis?

Once the imbalance is severe, here is what I observed in my patients: Sudden energy drops at fixed time during the day or after physical exercise; poor sleep of different kinds (inability to fall asleep, waking up many times during the night with an urge to urinate and/or unable to feel refreshed even after a good night’s sleep); food and environmental intolerances; exacerbation of known allergies or new allergy appearances; dizziness; mood swings; foggy thinking; no buffer to deal with stress; having a hard time doing little things around the house, such as washing dishes, due to lack of energy and reduced capacity to organise and plan; having projects in mind and interests to pursue but the inability to do so due to lack of energy; not being able to lift grocery bags without shaking like a leaf and needing to go to bed right after; preferring to be alone but not necessary being depressed – essentially just needing to use as little energy as possible to “survive another day”.

What causes this debilitating condition?

One thing for sure is that long standing exposure to stress is a cause of this debilitating condition, but not only psychosocial stressors like your work environment, a conjugal separation or the death of a close relative. These can also include viral infections, postural stressors that leads to jaw misalignment and lack of sleep, nutritional deficiencies that prevent the production of energy at the cellular level, candidiasis, and long term exposure to moulds, endocrine disruptors, heavy metals, allergens, electromagnetic smog and other environmental pollutants.

The accumulation of stressors leads to the imbalance of your psycho-neuro-immuno-endocrine (PNI) super system, known by researchers as allostatic overload.

What makes it worse, and what makes it better?

Continuous exposure to stressors of any kind – insomnia, not respecting one’s limitations and forcing oneself to do more – makes things worse. To make things better, get rid of the stressors when possible; eat energising foods rather than energy draining processed foods; modify daily habits to optimize the natural chronobiological hormonal cycles of one’s body; learn to change one’s mode of reacting into a more energising way of responding to daily life challenges; and make informed choices while honouring one’s strength and limitations. Choosing the right physical intensity of exercise to regain one’s capacities is crucial, while choosing key nutrients to optimise cellular energy production is also important in the process. Learning how to breathe efficiently through the nose in order to optimise the oxygen input is also very important.

What is the book about, and what motivated you to write it?

For many years, I have been dissatisfied with medical answers that purport to address the debilitating fatigue suffered by my patients with auto-immune diseases. Lack of resources and understanding, finding quick fix medications such as antidepressants for patients clearly suffering from musculoskeletal symptoms such as fibromyalgia, and having difficulty finding answers with the variety of health professionals I personally consulted inspired me to write the book. I needed to find answers firstly for myself, and then got the urge to share my findings and what I had learned with others facing similar prejudices among some health care practitioners. So the book is about finding personal solutions, different for each reader because of their own type of debilitating fatigue and personal way of over-spending their energy. People will learn how to make an energy balance sheet like one would do financially when consolidating debts. From their findings, they will figure out how to save energy in their daily lives and regain their inner mind-body balance towards health.

Can you talk about how your work and approach is influenced by Chinese medicine and other practices?

As an occupational therapist I was trained to view my patients from a holistic perspective, which is in accordance with my personal understanding. People require a meaning in the activity they are doing in therapy; they need goals of their own to reach in addition to those of my rehabilitation treatment plan for them. From my perspective as a martial artist of many decades, I am also influenced by the efficiency of energy expenditure, the need for the energy to circulate through the meridians and the influence of the breath during outer and inner Qi Gong and martial practice.

For me, the autonomous nervous system (ANS) follows the yin/yang principles. Patients I treat, for different reasons, have lost the balance of their PNI super system. This has direct repercussions on the ANS as it reverts to a constant “fight or flight” reaction mode as a result of too many stressors that leads to a narrow, skewed perception of daily life. In these circumstances, the ANS becomes too much yang.

I teach patients to reconnect with their bodies through their senses, the awareness of their body and posture in space and their breathing pattern. Then I use different Qi Gong exercises according to the level of energy of my clients or Chan Ssu Chin Tai Chi exercises (known as Silk Reeling Cocoon exercises) to reconnect further with their breath and body and the body’s ability to heal itself. Sometimes I use Neurofunctional reorganisation – Padovan’s Method® (NFR) with the patients to regain the balance of their autonomic nervous system and sleep rhythm: it is a powerful tool that follows brain plasticity principles. I had used NFR mainly with patients suffering from neurological conditions that follows brain plasticity principles in the past. Many of the NRF exercises help my clients suffering from debilitating fatigue as well because it helps reorganise posture, breathing, and ANS functions and rhythms.

Once the body starts to regain its natural rhythms, I encourage my patients to implement what they found useful in therapy into their lifestyle. I teach them about chronobiological rhythms so they can choose for themselves the minor changes in their daily habits that can help foster the natural flow of hormones and chi. Finally, when the patient starts to get out of the constant “fight or flight” mode and is ready to respond in a new way, I make use of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) principles to help make changes to the energy draining perception of daily life to energising life habits that are better suited for the recovery process. All of those life changes follow the yin/yang principle to break free from persistent fatigue while restoring the inner balance called homeostasis in Western medicine.

How does the book reflect your general philosophy about health?

For me, health is a dynamic equilibrium within oneself. Equilibrium takes place in the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual dimensions of our lives in relation to our environment. If a person is disconnected from one aspect of his or her self, the imbalance will eventually be reflected in the other dimensions of his or her life. I believe that every person who comes to consult me is in part responsible for restoring and then maintaining his or her PNI super system dynamic balance that we refer to as health. People are amazing at finding ways to change their lives in ways that make sense to them. Once they realise from a new point of view how they were living, they have no interest of returning to their previous lifestyle.

Our environment has never had such a strong negative impact on our health. Depleted soils and foods, pollution of all senses, the intrusion of technology in every aspect of our daily lives and having to deal with the compound effects of so many hundreds of chemicals even before we are born are also major stressors that health professionals too often neglect. These are also consequences of living in a world that is too “yang”. There is an implicit false belief that we have to be busy and multitasking most of the time. We can be proactive in maintaining or restoring our health once we gain knowledge of those relatively new phenomena. Knowledge is power. Feeling empowered rather than feeling a victim of a disease changes your outlook on your condition. This frees your body-mind and it starts to heal itself faster. Allowing a few minutes per day to be rather than to do is sometimes sufficient to maintain one’s inner balance.

Finally, how should this book be used by the reader?

The book is to be read and applied according to your level of energy. As a start, people who have low energy would benefit from knowing how to nourish their bodies to optimise energy production. Then they should go to the chapter that appeals to them. Usually, a gut feeling leads people to what they need. If a reader is too exhausted to concentrate on reading, I recommend bringing the book to a true friend or the health professional he or she is working with to do some of the exercises with the assistance of the health professional.

Copyright © Singing Dragon 2012.

Managing stress and achieving balance through seated Tai Chi and Qigong exercises – An Interview with Cynthia Quarta

Cynthia W. Quarta has taught martial arts for over twenty five years and was the Activities Director at an assisted living facility. She continues to teach seated Tai Chi classes in a number of locations to a range of ages and levels of physical fitness. She lives in Great Falls, Montana, USA.

In this interview, Cynthia talks about how she came to develop the exercises in her forthcoming book, Seated Tai Chi and Qigong: Guided Therapeutic Exercises to Manage Stress and Balance Mind, Body and Spirit.


Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to practice martial arts in the first place?

I saw my first martial arts demonstration (jujitsu) when I was nine years old. I wasn’t able to take lessons, however, until many years later when one of my advanced ballet students asked to be excused from classes so she could take her black belt test. That was the first I had heard about her involvement in the martial arts. I offered to barter dance lessons in exchange for instruction in her style of Korean karate (Kwon Bup) to which she agreed. Shortly after that she began teaching several other classes in which I also participated. I finally received my black belt and, after my sensei moved out of town, opened my own dojo. Throughout the succeeding years, I had the opportunity to study Eagle Dragon Chinese Kenpo Kung Fu as well as a smattering of WuShu and Tae Kwon Do.

What motivated you to write this book, and what is it about generally?

While I was working as the Activities Director at a local retirement community, I used my dance and martial arts background to design an exercise program for the residents. When the community changed from one for able-bodied retirees to an assisted living facility for those with limited physical mobility, I had to change my approach. With the help of a core group of resident fitness enthusiasts, I developed a program of seated exercises based on the Yang style of T’ai Chi Chuan and the energizing exercises of Qigong.

This book presents a series of seated exercises to benefit people of all ages and levels of fitness. It is written for therapists and caregivers who want to provide an alternative, effective and creative approach to healing. The book includes instructions specifically for these health care professionals to assist them in their work with their patients/clients.

Why do the Tai Chi and Qigong exercises you’ve adapted in the book lend themselves so well to being practiced in a chair?

Both Tai Chi and Qigong are gentle exercise systems that provide healing and increase overall wellness. Regardless of a person’s situation – whether they are recovering from surgery, recently injured, elderly, or dealing with a chronic disability – these exercises are safe and yet amazingly effective. The emphasis in these exercises is on proper breathing and the involvement of the mind in the process of reducing stress, increasing energy and improving oxygen levels. For that reason the practitioner need not be in top physical condition or, for that matter, even able to stand in order to reap the benefits from the use of these exercises.

What positive effects can professionals hope to see in their clients and patients as a result of using the exercises?

The professional who uses this system with his/her patients will see immediate results in stress reduction, increased oxygen levels, improved appetite, more restful sleep, and a decrease in pain and stiffness. Mayo Clinic, Harvard Medical School and a number of other medical facilities with research divisions have published studies on the benefits of regular Tai Chi and Qigong practice. I encourage any health care professional considering whether or not to try this program to research these studies (most of them are conveniently available online).

Are there any common obstacles that professionals face when trying to guide their clients/patients through the exercise? How can this book help?

The primary challenge is the lack of knowledge and familiarity. Most of us in Western countries haven’t been exposed to Eastern medicine to any great extent. Overcoming the resistance to a new, holistic approach to improved health is usually the biggest obstacle at the beginning. As time goes on, though, and as patients begin to experience the benefits, their attitudes will change. This book contains a basic but inclusive explanation of Chinese medical theories to help professionals explain to their patients why these types of exercises can improve anyone’s level of health.

Why is it important to include a chapter on self-care for the professional?

If there is anyone who needs help in managing stress and achieving balance in their busy lives it is those who labor daily with patients who are ill or disabled! Therapists must be both relaxed and balanced in all areas of their lives if they are to help others achieve their wellness goals.

How does the book reflect your general philosophy about health?

I believe that an exercise program that works in combination with a healthy lifestyle and a well-balanced body, mind and spirit is the secret to a long and vigorous life. The exercises described in my book are gentle and safe and because they are designed to be practiced while seated, they provide a program that can be used daily even by those with physical limitations or of advanced age. In other words, this exercise system can be used throughout one’s life from youth through middle age and on into the later years, while at peak physical condition or at a stage of life when diminished mobility and strength present a daily challenge.

Copyright © Singing Dragon 2011.

Anywhere in Any Chair – Yoga for All – An Interview with Edeltraud Rohnfeld

Edeltraud Rohnfeld qualified as a yoga teacher at the Berlin Yoga Institute Asha Rekai in 1991. She taught private yoga classes in Berlin for 15 years and trained yoga teachers and healthcare professionals. She later specialised in chair yoga, learning from its founder Erika Hammerstroem. She moved to Ireland in 2008 where she runs seminars on chair and classic yoga.

Here, Edeltraud talks about the many benefits and joys of practicing yoga, and how the exercises in her new book,
Chair Yoga: Seated Exercises for Health and Wellbeing, can help individuals with physical disabilities take control of their bodies and their lives.


What drew you to yoga, and how did you develop an interest in the seated form?

When I was 22 my sister showed me my first yoga exercises. I had just returned from a six-month trip to Israel feeling a little confused and without a clear perspective. I had reached a point where I was wondering what I should do with my life. Discovering yoga helped me not only physically, but emotionally too. Every time I did yoga something beautiful happened in me. It was different than doing sport. Not only my body benefited, but my mind and my soul as well. I began to feel more stable and gained more clarity in this very uncertain period of my life. I became more focused and was able to be more aware of all the possibilities life had to offer me. I practised yoga for years and undertook numerous courses. As I became more knowledgeable, I began to practice yoga with small groups of friends and it gave me such a pleasure that I then decided to become a Yoga Instructor.

Two years after completing my education in 1993, I met Erika Hammerstroem – the founder of Chair Yoga. She was an experienced Yoga Instructor who felt a strong need to aid group members who sometimes found it impossible to continue classes due to physical, aging-related limitations. Not wishing them to be excluded from participating in their much loved yoga classes, she began to adapt and devise exercises based on the classic form of yoga but using a chair instead of a mat. The interest in the classes was so great that she then went on to educate the Instructors so they could go on to teach classes. I was one of her students and I began to take my own chair classes in addition to mat yoga.

I began to develop more exercises as my experience grew. I wanted to share as much knowledge as I could and, realising the interest was so great, I decided to write a book about it. Erika Hammerstroem loved the idea. Sadly, she passed away in 2004 at the tender age of 82, just a few months before my book was published in german. I dedicated my book to her and to the angel to whom we prayed together.

I have been teaching both Classic and Chair Yoga for the last 17 years, and I get great pleasure from teaching anyone who loves yoga. My hope for the future is that Chair Yoga will be practised more widely throughout the world, allowing yoga to become more accessible to people who previously thought they could not do it, and to offer my seminars to Yoga Instructors all over the world.

What are the key benefits of practising Chair Yoga?

The key benefits of Chair Yoga are very similar to those of Classic Yoga. The only difference is that the risk of injury is significantly reduced on the chair. The whole body is moved and becomes more supple. Movements incorporate the spine, and all muscles and inner organs get gently stretched and strengthened (including the heart). The exercises support circulation, enabling better oxygenation to all the cells of the body, to the digestive system and to the immune system. It helps to reduce and cope with stress, anxiety and insomnia and increases self-esteem. By practising Chair Yoga frequently, one can feel more balanced in life and it can enable you to have more joy in life whilst becoming more flexible.

How does the book reflect your general philosophy about health and wellbeing?

In my opinion health and wellbeing is about finding a balance between one’s physical and psychological needs. By undertaking yoga frequently, one can improve and maintain good flexibility and strengthen muscles. Combining this with a good balanced diet, sufficient rest and regularly practising relaxation techniques, one can achieve good physical wellbeing.

The body and mind are strongly linked; if the body feels healthier, the mind will feel clearer and calmer and perhaps more receptive and better able to deal with the challenges in life. People need to have more self-awareness of their individual needs. Yoga empowers people to be more able to focus on their individual needs and not to give in to negative influences.

There is a strong connection between people feeling emotionally stressed and experiencing physical symptoms. Rather than trying to suppress worries and fears, yoga helps people confront their anxieties instead of ignoring them. This in turn can help us become emotionally strong and empowered. It has certainly helped me to find my way through difficult periods in my life, and to have faith and be more accepting of the things that I cannot control.

With my book I want to encourage everybody who is interested in practicing yoga to take their life in their own hands and make the best out of it. Despite any physical or psychological limitations, you can still practice Chair Yoga and significantly improve your health and wellbeing.

Why was it important to include a section about diet?

Whilst practising yoga greatly improves one’s health and wellbeing, in order to achieve the maximum benefits one needs to eat healthy too. A student who smokes, drinks alcohol and eats “junk food” will not gain as much from yoga as an individual who does not.

Throughout my years teaching yoga I’ve met many people who are not well-informed about how to make healthier dietary choices – for example choosing to eat “whole” foods as opposed to refined foods. Additionally I’ve had many students who were unaware of the importance of drinking water frequently while practising yoga. Yoga helps the body excrete accumulated toxins. With enough water the body is able to flush out these toxins; failure to drink enough water can result in headaches and joint and generalised pain throughout the body.

It was critical for me to inform my readers of the role diet and nutrition play in complementing yoga and in improving one’s health.

However, as I discuss in my book, it is not necessary for the individual to be vegetarian or a non-smoker in order to practice yoga. Awareness and understanding may enable students to begin to gradually change and alter their eating, drinking or smoking habits. It is important for people to achieve this in their own individual way. Many of us acquire bad habits over a period of years and therefore changes must be made slowly and at a realistic pace. Yoga is not about pressure or force and every person must respond to their own goals at their own pace.

How should this book be used?

First and foremost, I would recommend that the reader examine the Introduction and exercises. Try a few exercises which may be of particular interest or proceed to “Chapter 13: Exercise Guidelines” and start with a 15-minute program.

Depending on how you find the program, extend it to a 30-minute program in the next session. Try not to over-do the sessions. Instead, give yourself small realistic goals such as 2-3 times a week for 15 minutes, and aim to continue this at regular intervals. As you feel more and more able, increase first the length of each session and then the frequency.

Remember never to force yourself to do yoga, but practise it with joy!

Copyright © Singing Dragon 2011.

Bending without Breaking – Author Isobel Knight talks about dancing and living with Hypermobility Syndrome

Isobel Knight is a dancer who has Hypermobility Syndrome (HMS). She completed her MSc in Dance Science at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in 2009, and now works as a Manager in the clinic there, also giving lectures on HMS from time to time.

Here she answers some questions about her new book,
A Guide to Living with Hypermobility Syndrome: Bending without Breaking.


How has Hypermobility Syndrome shaped your life as a dancer?

I did ballet from the age of five and loved it straight away. I saw my first Nutcracker at age seven in London for my birthday treat, and remember watching the dancers on pointe and thinking I would really like to do that. I got the book, Life at the Royal Ballet School by Camilla Jessel as a Christmas present in the same year, and was fascinated by the training the ballet dancers had to go through, and their very obvious dedication. That book is still one of my favourites. I would still love more than anything to go and spend a few days at White Lodge watching the dancers learn.

My dancing career has been very ‘stop-start’. I danced from age five to nine and only got to Grade 1 level and then stopped owing to a change of schools. I then started dancing again at the age of 13 and all my former classmates were in either Grade 5 or 6. I had a lot of catching up to do, but really relished the challenge. I remember when I had not long been back that one of the girls in my class said to me, “you’ve got lovely turn-out, you are so lucky.” And I was. And I am, largely due to my having Hypermobility Syndrome (HMS) which means I have a larger than normal range of movement and, in dance, allows me to achieve positions that most other ‘normal’ people find too stressful on their bodies. In many ways I have a good body for classical ballet (except I am not a size 8, and tiny and petite). I have very good rotation at the hip because of my hypermobility. I have good strong feet (not always in keeping with some hypermobile people) and a pleasing arch of the foot, a flexible back and good extensions. I was also aware early on that my legs were what my teacher called “swayback”, which was another aspect of hypermobility, and my legs were and still are an interesting shape because of knee joint hypermobility and this is desirable in ballet for additional leg extensions.

However, despite my hypermobility being an advantage to me in some ways, interestingly, my coordination isn’t very good and, while I did well in classical ballet, I failed miserably at sports. Impaired coordination is another common symptom of hypermobility. This means that sometimes it takes me longer than others to learn new movement patterns. And because of the larger range of motion, there is always so much extra to manage and control for the hypermobile dancer.

When I re-started ballet at 13 I had a lot of catching up to do. I would often attend the classes of the younger children and stand at the back so I could learn all the steps I had missed since giving up at age nine. When puberty hit, many of my classmates gave up ballet as their bodies tightened up and they were struggling with their own lack of turnout and the demands of the higher grades of the syllabus. I, on the other hand, was coping very well with the changes in my body – aside from growing pains and a very regular calf pain and cramp, which was so severe I often couldn’t walk normally first thing in the morning! These were probably the first signs of HMS, but I had also broken my leg when I was seven and have never walked properly since that time, walking far more like a ballet dancer than a ‘normal’ person.

Just after I finally took Grade 6 and Pre-Intermediate exam, just weeks prior to my 18th birthday, I started to get lower back pain. At first my teacher and I thought that I had overdone things, but after it had persisted for a few weeks – mainly being painful in positions such as arabesque – I was sent to my GP and I had my first sessions of physiotherapy which did briefly improve the pain. Unfortunately it never went away entirely and I battled on with this until I was 23, having had more time out of ballet owing to university. I then took my Intermediate (Vocational Grade Examination) and had a year of doing Advanced Level 1 ballet before the pain took its toll. I reluctantly decided that I had better stop as I thought the dancing must be exacerbating my back pain.

Tell us about your diagnosis – did it help you

Following an eight year break from ballet, I took it up again after attending a pain management course where I learned that “pain didn’t always equal damage.” By then my back pain had been diagnosed as related to a disc prolapsed at L4/5 and disc degeneration. The reason for the pain would have been caused by hypermobility at this section of my spine and a complete lack of muscular strength to control it. The disc diagnosis is very much secondary, I believe. The pain management course incorporated exercises and stretches to recondition our de-conditioned bodies and psychological strategies including pacing activity and goal-setting. Upon discussion with the doctors and physiotherapists at my pain management course, there was universal agreement that I could return to doing classical ballet; that it would not be detrimental to my back pain providing that I paced my return to class very carefully.

I started to do syllabus classes with a local dance school in my area in South London. This was in late 2006. I was very frustrated initially because my brain remembered how to do the steps, but my physical body found it very difficult. I stopped again in 2007, dancing from the privacy of my flat, and then started to do classes at Danceworks in Central London, which are open classes of many levels. I started doing a class where I knew the teacher, but kept on injuring my calves. From late 2007, I went on a diet and started to lose much of the weight I had gained owing to my complete inactivity. As I started to feel better in myself, I started to do more and more classes, even though I wasn’t really ready for this, and in February 2008 partially tore my right calf muscle. However, this for me was not the end of ballet, but just the beginning of a very long journey to recovery, as it turns out, at the mercy of HMS, which was diagnosed in 2009.

We were doing some testing for dancers at Trinity Laban and this was the first time that I seemed to fit into the category of potentially having Hypermobility Syndrome. Very shortly after that my physiotherapist (Katherine Watkins) suggested that it was very likely, but of course the ultimate diagnosis comes from a Consultant Rheumatologist.

When I received my diagnosis I was initially quite upset because I really didn’t want this ‘thing’, and just thought I was very flexible. But the more I started to find out about the condition, the more it was obvious as to why I had so many problems all my life – e.g. walking late, being clumsy and having poor coordination, regularly injuring myself and then ending up in constant pain. I then pieced other related syndrome features such as having fatigue, asthma, IBS, and it all begun to make sense.

What is your day-to-day life like with HMS?

I have to think through the results of my actions and normal movement that other people would take for granted can have huge repercussions for me. For example, just doing too many reps of an exercise can cause overuse injuries and induce serious fatigue very quickly. Lifting my nephew too many times fatigues my arms and shoulders to the extent I can hardly hold a newspaper the next day.

The fatigue combined with the pain have also meant that I am often just too tired and have no energy to manage socialising and going out at the end of the working day, resulting in my cancelling social events often. It is very difficult – and I have let many friends down – but luckily most are tolerant and are usually understanding.

How did the book come about – what motivated you to put pen to paper?

I think I was fed up with having to explain to people constantly why I was always getting injured and was so often in pain. I felt that there was an essential need to tell my story and explain, through the eyes of a person with HMS, just how insidious and multi-systemic this condition is.

I also felt there was a need to justify my symptoms and show that that neither myself nor other HMS patients are hypochondriacs – that the pain, fatigue, and constant injury are real aspects of the condition. So I wanted to write the book to support other HMS patients, but more than anything else to try also to educate medical professionals and explain to family and friends just how difficult this condition can be to manage. I also identified a gap with respect to patient-led literature on the subject; other sufferers told me they really wanted to try and write about their experiences but often got too fatigued in the process, something I can very much identify with!

What is your outlook for the future as a dancer with HMS?

I think that subconsciously I knew that I would never have a career as a dancer (with or without the HMS). I never really enjoyed performing as a dancer, (although as a musician, I do!) and just knew I didn’t have the right physique for classical ballet. I think I knew that I would love a career that involved working with dancers, so I have managed that successfully in working therapeutically with dancers, as well as my work at Trinity Laban as the Clinic Admin Manager.

I have always loved the discipline and structure of classical ballet classes. My body knows how to do most of the movements, and it has always felt “right” for my body. Since I have now been through an extensive physiotherapy rehabilitation programme which is likely to have to continue in a maintenance capacity forever, I think that my chances of safely continuing classical ballet classes for a much longer period are more likely. Indeed, I hope I will still be doing ballet when I am an old lady! If I keep matching my strength to my flexibility, and listen to my body when it is too fatigued to dance safely, there is no reason why this shouldn’t be the case. Exercise is a crucial aspect to the management of HMS, and what better exercise than classical ballet, where being hypermobile is a natural and aesthetical asset. Finally, having the eye of a good ballet teacher is absolutely essential, and the support and guidance of a expert HMS physiotherapist. Without these two I would have more difficulty in continuing to pirouette in safety!

Copyright © Singing Dragon 2011.

‘The 12 Chinese Animals’ Wins Silver at ForeWord Magazine’s 2010 Book of the Year Awards!

We are thrilled to announce that several of our books have been honoured in ForeWord Magazine’ Book of the Year Awards, which were established to bring increased attention to the literary and graphic achievements of independent publishers and their authors.

Master Zhongxian Wu’s The 12 Chinese Animals was among the award winners, scooping the Silver medal in the Body, Mind & Spirit category.

Other medalists include books from Jessica Kingsley Publishers, of which Singing Dragon is an imprint.

Dr Darold Treffert’s Islands of Genius: The Bountiful Mind of the Autistic, Acquired, and Sudden Savant won the Silver medal in the Psychology category;

Susan Yellin and Christina Cacioppo Bertsch’s Life After High School: A Guide for Students with Disabilities and Their Families won the Bronze medal for Education;

And Rudy Simone’s Aspergirls: Empowering Females with Asperger Syndrome received an Honorable Mention in the Women’s Issues category.

Congratulations to our award-winning authors and everyone who worked hard to publish these books that make a difference!

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2011.