108th Day Celebration

The 108th day of Yoga for MS was celebrated with an amazing group of caring and generous individuals at Bloom Yoga Studio.  Between the donations for the yoga class lead by Sharon Wentz and the raffle with many prizes donated by local businesses, the evening raised $1,400 to do directly to the National MS Society!  Here is what I had to share at the event:

Thank you all for coming out this evening and joining me in this yoga practice and helping me celebrate what has been an incredible journey of 108 days of yoga, spreading MS Awareness, and raising $10,200 to fund programs and research that will hopefully bring an end to MS!

As I look around the room, I see many faces that have supported me through this journey, people who this would not have been possible without. It is this community that has made Bend Over Backwards For MS so strong. You have hosted Sunday morning yoga practices from your basement, lead donation based classes, asked your friends and family to donate, written articles about me, practiced by my side, committed to 108 days of yoga yourself, and cheered me on as I worked through the ups and downs of this campaign. Thank you.

Through this journey of 108-days, I’ve had the privilege of meeting new friends and teachers. I’ve gained insight and knowledge from teachers here in Chicago, and also Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and LA. I have watched this community of mindful, caring people grow from a group of my closest friends and family to new friends across the country. I am in awe of how much people care about helping others and are eager to spread their generosity.

Thank you to Kerry, Anna, and the rest of the Bloom community for working with me through this campaign and hosting this wonderful event tonight. Bloom has been my home-base yoga studio for the past 9 years. It is where I fell in love with yoga and realized its potential to shape my life for the better. It is so fitting that I celebrate this journey here.

And I couldn’t get through a single day of this without the love and support of my amazing husband who encouraged me on a random October morning to go ahead with this, of my many crazy ideas. He created time for me to get to class, contact donors, and expand our community. He picked up my slack when I was pooped from intense weekend workshops and brought me flowers to celebrate my half-way accomplishment. He even stepped out of his own comfort zone to do yoga himself! Thank you, Jeremy.

Living with MS has meant that some days are better than other. Some days I’m more tired than others. Some days I wake with achy body parts or feel like my vision is blurred. It has meant sometimes having to do what my body is telling me and rather than what my heart wants. Having a regular yoga practice has helped me tackle the challenges of MS both physically and emotionally. There were days through this journey that my body didn’t want to leave bed. I felt discouraged that by day 92 my physical yoga practice wasn’t stronger than I had hoped it would be. Perhaps some of you saw the photo I posted of me in a supported twist over a pillow that evening. What I learned from that day was that my practice had become much more advanced. I learned how to shape my practice to fit what my body needed. Which is the only way I can get through not only doing yoga everyday, but living healthfully in general. My body is not strong enough for an intense daily practice, but my heart is persistent enough to not give up on taking care of myself. I am thankful for all the yoga teachers I’ve had through the years that have helped me receive this lesson.

One of which is the lovely Sharon. Sharon was the first yoga teacher I told I had MS and since that day she has supported me both on and off the mat. I am so grateful to have her as a teacher, friend, and inspiration. Thank you, Sharon.

Thanks again to all of you for being here!

Thank you to everyone who helped make that evening and the 108 days such a success.  As of today, we have raised $10,400 and I’m still fighting until we reach $10,800.  To help us raise the final $400, please make a donation at http://www.nationalmsssociety.org/goto/108daysofyogams.

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What Is MS Anyway?

When I was first diagnosed with MS, I spent about a week thinking I had Muscular Dystrophy. Which I quickly felt silly about, but the more I learned about Multiple Sclerosis, the more I understood why many people had such a difficult time really grasping the disease. Multiple Sclerosis literally refers to the multiple lesions the disease creates when it attacks the myelin sheath that coats the entire central nervous system. When the myelin sheath (think of the plastic coating on a wire) gets lesions, the messages both received and transmitted by nerves get fuzzy. When we don’t receive the correct messages through our nerves our sensory system becomes impaired and when they can’t transmit clearly motor functions get impaired. As a result, MS symptoms can affect all functions of the central nervous system including numbness, vision and hearing impairment, speech challenges, loss of balance, fine and gross motor troubles, fatigue, and depression. With the exception of symptoms that require the assistance of a wheelchair, cane, or other tools, most symptoms of MS are invisible.  This can make it challenging for people to understand the severity of one’s symptoms and difficult for patients to receive the support they need. It can also leave the general public confused.

As of today there is no cure. Researchers are working hard to develop treatments to help limit flare-up and minimize symptoms, but none are a guarantee. And none have yet stopped MS in its tracks.

Most people who find out I have MS are shocked. After all, I don’t look sick. I’m active.   I’m social. I look healthy. But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel my MS every day. To stay healthy I practice yoga, to keep both my mind and body healthy, and I focus on eating clean, whole foods. I am hopeful that maintaining a healthy life style will minimize the impact MS has on me. But I also, believe in the work doctors and researchers are doing to find out how to stop MS. And that is why I devote so much of my time and energy to supporting these research projects and raising funds to help find a cure.

If you are also interested in contributing to the fight against MS, please make a donation to the National MS Society at http://www.nationalmssociety.org/goto/108daysofyogaMS

5 Best Ways To Help Us Raise Our Final $6,000

!. Make a donation!  http://www.nationalmssociety.org/goto/108daysofyogams No donation is too small.  Participation helps raise awareness and brings in more $$$ so give whatever you can and watch how it’ll grow!!  Especially when you…
2. Ask your employer to match your gift.  Many and most employers are eager to support causes that are important to their employees.  And several major companies already have a relationship with the National MS Society so they’ll be even more eager to match your gift.
3. Challenge your friends!  Want to get $108 donated but need to lighten the load?  Ask 3 friends to join in with you and everybody donate $27.
4. Share our page, share our link, and ask friends, family, high school classmates, strangers to consider donating.  With so many people affected by MS, it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t know someone with this diagnosis.  You never know who might be looking for some way to fight back.
5. Attend one of our two final fundraisers and invite a friend to join you.  You’ll get a fantastic yoga class lead by an excellent teacher and an opportunity to fight MS!  Join us on 2/28 in Homewood https://www.facebook.com/events/927393393968084/ or for the Final Practice on 3/7 at Bloom Yoga Studio https://www.facebook.com/events/1541263199448671/

Yoga Where You’re Planted

It’s Groundhog’s day, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, and Chicago’s just endured its 5th largest snowstorm. As I sit cooped in our condo with my stir-crazy 1 ½ year old, I’m ready to get outside and spring cannot come soon enough. The internet is filled with photos of half-naked yogis practicing yoga with ocean or mountain background and I’m sick of being jealous. Snow, wind, frigidly cold, I love this city regardless of the weather so my yoga practice is going to show it! I invite you to join me and post your pics of practicing yoga outside wherever you live.

Head Stand in the Snow

Bend Over Backwards For MS is all about raising funds and awareness to help fight and put an end to MS.  Through completing 108 days of yoga I hope to make some noise, meet some great people, and share how living in a compassionate and mindful manner can strengthen our community and benefit us all!  To donate to or learn more about #BendOverBackwardsMS please visit http://www.nationalmssociety.org/goto/108daysofyogaMS

44 Donations in 10 days? Yes, please!

Hey All,
We have only 44 days left of Bend Over Backwards For MS, but aren’t even half way through the fundraising.  I’ve been been feeling super proud of all the wonderful yoga going on, how my personal practice is developing, and all the fabulous support I’ve been receiving.  But the whole intention behind this is to fight MS, so I need to step things up a gear and I need your help!  Let’s get 44 people to make a donation in the next ten days.    I’ve asked all of you, and picked my friend’s and family’s pennies multiple times, so to get 44 participants I’m gonna need you to help me.  Can you get 4 people to make a donation? They can donate whatever they’re comfortable giving,. Maybe they can ask 4 friends themselves.  We just need more involvement to start more movement.  Direct your friends, family, co-workers here: www.nationalmssociety.org/goto/108daysofyogamsI already made the first donation just moments ago.  43 left.  Let’s do it!
Thanks for all your powerful support and energy!
love, rachel