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

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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

Day 54! The Top Ten Things I’ve Learned

We’ve reached the half way mark! And what an adventure it’s been already.

Things I’ve learned in the first 54 days of Bend Over Backwards For MS:

  1. Practicing yoga is contagious. The more I do it, the more I want to do. With a regular practice I’ve found myself more aware of my body posture and thoughts throughout the day. I have become quicker to correct old habits and transition to the new ways I wish to inhabit.
  2. Attending a full class is amazing! I was able to open the New Year in a one of the largest most packed classes I’ve ever been to and it was wonderful! There energy everyone brought to the class was the most beautiful way to start 2015.
  3. If my ego leads my practice, I will pay for it. I never want to pass on an opportunity to do an inversion or an advanced variation being offered by a teacher. But that doesn’t mean my body is ready to tackle it all the time. While trying to maintain a daily practice, my body has let me know when I pushed it too far or let the excitement of the pose move faster than the readiness of my body. Listening to what my body has to say each day has been a valuable lesson in keeping it healthy.
  4. Yoga is for all bodies. There is no one-way to practice yoga.  I’ve practiced with so many different types of people and listened to how yoga has improved their lives. So thankful such a practice has been developed.
  5. Less is more. When I rush into a pose I sometimes miss the opportunity to notice what is happening with my body and neglect the little parts and how they’re engaging. Backing off and easing into a pose allows me to maintain correct alignment and recruit my whole body to work together in a healthy way.
  6. Breathing is the most important thing we can do. Duh. But seriously, it is.
  7. The physical practice is just as much about stability as it is flexibility. I finally learned how to stabilize my hips in warrior poses and lunges and it has made all the difference.
  8. I cannot heal my body if I don’t love my body. Perhaps one of the hardest lessons for me to really own, but I practice it daily. And in the meantime I have the words “I am wonderfully made” written on the top of my yoga mat as a reminder.
  9. Blocks are not just for beginners. Not every pose is designed to fit every body. Sometimes having a block to bring the floor a little closer is exactly what I need to engage in a pose.
  10. Yoga is a practice!  Have a sense of humor about it and enjoy!

Day 45 of 108 days of Yoga for MS

Keeping a consistent yoga practice has been challenging for me these past few weeks.  While I welcomed the challenge of practicing while traveling, engaging family member and new yogis in my practice, and finding the calm amongst all the holiday season chaos, it was not easy.  There were more than a handful of days where my practice felt squeezed into the corner (sometimes quite literally) or all I could offer was something more meditative and restorative.  While I found myself feeling frustrated during these times, it was important for me to remember to give my practice compassion.  December is the most chaotic month no matter what you choose to or not to celebrate.  It’s filled with unpredictable weather, crazed crowds, and lots of expectations.  Having my yoga practice, regardless of its intensity or presentation, helped me get through the month breathing, moving, and with a (little bit more) steady head.  However your practice shifted through the month, I hope you too can approach it with compassion and non-judgement.  Everyday we have the opportunity to practice again so despite your feelings of where you are at, or what you did, each day we’re given the opportunity to start fresh and put in what we want that day.  

Bend Over Backwards For MS Vinyasa Class

Come support Bend Over Backwards for MS! Be part of one day of my 108 days of yoga! Body worker and Yoga teacher, Rachel Berger Horcher is generously leading this 1-hour, all-level vinyasa class you won’t want to miss.

Sunday, January 18, 11:30am-12:30pm

Intense Conditioning-Homewood

18033 Dixie Hwy, Homewood, Illinois 60430

Suggested Donation is $10. All donations will go to the National MS Society.  Space is limited, but you can reserve your spot by making your class donation online at http://www.nationalmssociety.org/goto/108daysofyogaMS typing “Bend Over Vinyasa” in the message line. 

For more details visit: https://www.facebook.com/events/755704061151401/

And With That, It’s 2015

As 2014 comes to an end, and with the change of the day we’ll enter a new year, I feel the impulse to reflect, resolve, change. Cramped by the busyness of my everyday, I find myself stressing to find time to take advantage of this opportunity to reset and contemplate the changing of years. So, I think I’ll take my lead from my most coveted lessons from my yoga practice which is not to force change but rather to just observe and be open to what is there. I hope to move into 2015 with mindful openness, embrace the year with fullness, and breath through tight and challenging moments. However you choose to embrace the change, I wish you happiness, patience, and ease.  Happy New Year!

To donate to and learn more about #BendOverBackwardsMS, visit http://www.nationalmssociety.org/goto/108daysofyogams.  Help fight MS!

Yoga in 2015 With Wake Up Yoga In Philadelphia!

As we approach the new year, we often take time to reflect on the past and set intentions for the future.  Why not set an intention of a regular yoga practice?  Wake Up Yoga is eager to help.  Wake Up Yoga, a wonderful yoga studio in Philadelphia, is teaming up with Bend Over Backwards MS as we raffle off $100 in class credit on the first of the new year.  By donating a minimum of $27 to Bend Over Backwards MS before the end of 2014, you will automatically be entered to win.

Donate here: http://www.nationalmssociety.org/goto/108daysofyogams and enter the code WAKEUP2015 in the comment section.

About Wake Up Yoga:

http://www.wakeupyoga.com

Wake Up Yoga is a Vinyasa (flow-style) and Yin (passive yoga) studio with two locations: the original, in the heart of the Fairmount neighborhood of Philadelphia and on East Passyunk Avenue in South Philly. Our spaces are warm and inviting, the walls are the color of butternut squash, the teachers are excellent…and the community rocks!

Why 108 days?

Many have asked me why 108 days?  The number 108 has multiple significances in many eastern traditions. Its presence in mathematics, nature, and spirituality has drawn the attention of many yogis. Some choose to focus on the geometric significance of the number—108 equals 1 to the first power, 2 to the second power, and 3 to the third power, it also has 10 factors and is divisible by three which is a stable and balanced number. It is also the average distance of the Sun and Moon to the Earth. Some choose to focus on more spiritual significances- there are 108 beads on a mala (string of beads) that is used to help count mantras in meditation, it is believed that there are 108 energy lines that stem through the heart chakra. And these are just a few of the connections to the number 108. For all the reasons, it is not uncommon for a group of people to do a yoga mala, or 108 sun salutations in honor of a celebration or for a special cause.

Having a special cause of my own, I was always attracted to the idea of doing 108. I first aspired to do a yoga mala as a fundraiser to fight MS, but as the idea sat with me, something never seemed quite right. While the competitor in me grew excited with the challenge, it didn’t seem to honor the meaning behind my yoga practice or the cause I was fighting for. Since yoga, to me, is about being able to shift, adjust, and provide myself with whatever it may need to feel good, strong, and healthy, I felt it more appropriate to be kind to my body, and commit to my yoga practice.

Committing to 108 days of yoga, just like the number itself, provides many possibilities. I can give my ever-changing body the ever-adapting practice it needs. I can recruit a community to practice with me and strengthen our voice about fighting MS, practicing yoga, and keeping people healthy. I can share my practice as I travel with family, friends, new studios and teachers. I can raise a ton of money for MS that will hopefully lead to better treatments and a cure. Doing 108 days is not about rallying to complete a strenuous physical challenge, it’s about finding the patience to engage with my body on a daily basis and keep myself healthy.

For more about the significance of the number 108, check out these sites:

http://www.swamij.com/108.htm

http://www.yogajournal.com/article/practice-section/the-number-108/

http://satyayoganorfolk.com/uncategorized/yoga-fundamentals-the-meaning-and-mysticism-of-108-and-furthermore-a-little-explanation-of-malas-and-mantras/