Although the practice of yoga originated in the distant past, it’s still relevant today, especially as a means to connect the mind and body, reduce stress and ease pain associated with a number of diseases, including multiple sclerosis (MS).
With approximately 400,000 people in the U.S. affected by MS and the number of cases continuing to rise worldwide, it’s little wonder that many of our lives are touched by this disease through personal experience, family or friends.
At an early age, Mindy Eisenberg of Birmingham, Mich. watched first-hand as her mother battled the emotional, physical and financial toll of MS. Her mother’s disease progressed rapidly, and within a few years, she was living in a wheelchair, later requiring full-time nursing home care.
Those difficult childhood memories spurred Mindy’s desire to help others, which later translated into a career as a certified yoga instructor and founder of Yoga Spirit and Wellness, LLC, a program specializing in adaptive yoga therapy. Adaptive yoga therapy is an innovative, multidimensional approach, which is tailored to the whole person and uses the disciplines of structural and therapeutic yoga, breathing, meditation and relaxation techniques, which can complement health care and other alternative approaches for health and well being.
At four locations (and soon to be five) throughout southeastern Michigan, Mindy offers classes that she developed called Yoga Moves MS. The classes focus on guiding, assisting and empowering MS patients with varying symptoms. While some Yoga Moves MS students may require a cane, walker or wheelchair, or suffer from fatigue, pain, depression or cognitive issues, they may still be able to move about independently. Students experience the core benefits of yoga, including balanced energy, increased flexibility/strength, improved digestion and circulation and better sleep patterns. The small group classes (8 to 12 people total) are staffed by two or more instructors and last two hours, which allows patients to receive the personalized attention and encouragement to push boundaries, including executing poses on the mat, in the chair and even standing. The class also includes meditation, restoration and discussion about yogic or ayurvedic dietary and lifestyle principles.
What makes Mindy’s Yoga Moves MS program truly unique is her personalized approach to teaching. Her classes are open to all MS patients, no matter their range of mobility, and she adapts her style to each individual. For two months, Mindy has been helping a man who was skeptical and scared to attend classes. Recently, he showed Mindy his “small” victory: he could lift his leg into the car. This student, who didn’t think he could move his toes, realized that his “I can’t” turned into “I can” after tuning into his mind-body connection. Many of Mindy’s students – like this man – find that they can indeed move their toes or practice a yoga pose that did not previously seem possible.
Mindy’s vision for the future is to help more people living with MS become aware of the healing benefits of yoga and expand access to this type of therapy around the country – especially for people who are unable to afford it. She’s currently partnering with the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation’s Health and Wellness Program to make it possible for local students in financial need to attend her weekly classes. The Yoga Moves MS annual fundraiser draws 300 attendees and continues to grow every year. In addition, Mindy is currently writing an adaptive yoga book for those with MS and similar conditions.
“Yoga provides mindful coping skills that would have helped my mom,” said Mindy. “It’s certainly not a cure, but can help with quality of life, comfort and peace of mind. Witnessing first-hand the ‘small miracles’ that can happen for MS patients from yoga – increased movement, added flexibility and improved mental clarity – is my motivation to keep this program going. I’m inspired by these individuals who not only are helping themselves, but healing each other through their support and commitment to this practice.”
This article is presented by Biogen Idec as part of the MS Visionaries™ program. This program recognizes individuals such as Mindy who are doing something positive for people living with MS. Biogen Idec is not affiliated with Yoga Moves MS or any of the other MS Visionaries featured on this site and does not endorse any services that they provide. Always check with your doctor before starting any exercise program. Biogen Idec does not control the websites referenced in this article and is not responsible for their content.
For more information about Mindy and Yoga Spirit and Wellness, LLC, please visit www.yogaspiritwellness.com.
© 2014 Biogen Idec.
To learn more about MS, click here.