Last night, my MS clinic held a free yoga class, designed specifically for folks with Multiple Sclerosis. I've long been attracted to Eastern religious philosophies and practices, and if you're familiar with Zen thought, you'll recognize some of its basic tenets in my "Life Bisected, and Dissected" posts on this blog.
I've always wanted to try yoga, especially the breathing and meditation facets of the practice. I've been aware of the mind-body connection since I was a child, when I would quite often throw up at the slightest emotional upset. I guess I was a little bit sensitive. As a toddler, my mother says that I would meet most any challenge with a good heave. I was like one of those cherub fountains in Rome, only with vomit instead of water. Not the most charming trait in a child, and kudos to my mom for her patience, nurturing, and carpet cleaning skills.
Luckily, the throwing up thing didn't follow me into adulthood, as I'm sure it would have been quite frowned upon in the workplace. Still, I experience emotional upset in a very physical way. So, I'm not a hard sell when it comes to the mind-body connection.
It was lightly raining last night, which gave me a chance to do some Wheelchair Kamikazeing on the slick city streets on the way to class. Since it was getting dark out, I couldn't do any videotaping, but zooming through the rain at dusk and startling umbrella toting pedestrians is something I'm going to have to do more of. I figure that as long as it's not raining too hard, my power wheelchair probably won't electrocute me. If anybody knows otherwise, I'd appreciate a heads up in the comments section, before I give myself the "Old Sparky" treatment...
I arrived at the class to find that I was one of four MS patients attending, and that the instructors were two lovely ladies who exuded wisdom and serenity. Each of the students in the class suffered from the different levels of disability. One had been diagnosed only a few weeks ago, and wasn't exhibiting any outward symptoms, another walked with a cane, another used a scooter, and I was there with "Legs", my power wheelchair.
To the accompaniment of candlelight and soothing music, the instructors led us through various exercises, each involving different breathing techniques and low impact stretching, and some included chanting. I've never been much of a chanter, but the combination of deep breathing and rhythmic chanting really had a dramatic effect, helping me to focus inward, achieve deep relaxation, and experience my body. I'd really rather experience somebody else's body, because mine functions a little less well than Quasimodo's, but you've got to play the hand you're dealt.
The instructors tailored each exercise to the individual abilities of their students. My right side is pretty much out of action, and my left side leaves a lot to to be desired, but the gentle ladies in charge were able to work some physicality into even my routine. The class was topped off with a short neck massage and some aromatherapy, and the entire experience was an extremely positive one.
If you get the chance to yoga, I say go-ga.