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.


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

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:


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!