Volunteer Yoga Instructor Helps Multiple Sclerosis Patients

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yoga and MS

Gail Pickens-Barger is a doTERRA Elite Wellness Advocate who has been helping students to improve their fitness for 15 years. The yoga instructor is now also dedicated to serving the fitness goals of a particular population — patients with multiple sclerosis (MS).

MS is a demyelinating disease in which the insulating layer (called myelin) that covers nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord is damaged. This damage disrupts the ability of parts of the nervous system to communicate, resulting in a wide range of  physical and mental problems.

Due to the disease’s debilitating symptoms, Ms. Pickens-Barger leads most of her students in a sitting yoga practice, so the activity can be done safely. She describes her classes as “about 30 minutes of yoga, with 20-25 minutes of Zumba Dance Fitness, but done seated, as these folks do not have skills of being able to do walking/cardio classes.” After the seated dance portion, the class continues with balance poses using the assistance of a wall or chair, and ends with guided relaxation, meditation, breath work, and stress reduction. “I end the class with giving the folks doTERRA Lavender applied to their forehead for additional feelings of relaxation,” she said in a press release.

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society asked Ms. Pickens-Barger to lead the yoga lessons as she is certified in Adaptive Yoga for MS. However,  it took her two years to find a facility that could be sufficiently adapted to the needs of her students.

“I had to make sure the facility was ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] compliant,” she explained. She worked with her church to add appropriate parking and other equipment to accommodate the yoga students. “With the help of my church and pastor, we hold the classes at my church.”

The classes — Therapeutic Adaptive Yoga for Multiple Sclerosis — are held regularly at the Wesley United Methodist Church in Nederland, Texas, and endorsed by the National MS Society.

In addition to doTERRA and MS volunteer work, Ms. Pickens-Barger contributes to international service projects, and volunteers in two food ministries at Wesley United, the Backpack Buddies and Yoga for Food, in which she invites students to bring oatmeal to donate to a local Christian food bank. “We have children in our communities that for whatever reason, do not have enough food for the weekends. Through Backpack Buddies they get a backpack from their counselor at school full of food … then they bring back the empty backpack on the weekend,” she said.

The practice of yoga and its beneficial effects for MS patients have been reported in several studies covered by Multiple Sclerosis News.

The Multiple Sclerosis Foundation estimates that more than 400,000 people in the U.S. suffer from MS.

doTERRA specializes in the sourcing, testing, manufacturing, and distribution of Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade® essential oils through a global network of wellness advocates.


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    • Check out the resources that I found at the MS Foundation site.

      MS in Motion Support Group
      Southwest Branch Library (Community Room)
      7255 Della Drive

      Contact: Yvette 407-205-9049 / MSinMotion@outlook.com
      Meets: First Saturday of the month from 10:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

      Comments: Please call the contact person to confirm date, time, & location. We are dedicated to active empowerment. We have open discussions, provide up-to-date educational materials, and host occasional guest speakers. We offer support, good humor, and our experiences. Our group is targeted to the newly diagnosed, but we invite anyone affected by MS to attend our meetings. Social media: @Stilettos4MS | http://www.facebook.com/MSinMotion1

      Plus here is the National MS Society resources:

    • Wanda, I found this.

      Lake Magdalene MS Support Group
      Lake Magdalene United Methodist Church (Heritage Hall)
      2902 West Fletcher Avenue

      Contact: Rita 813-961-5510 / morrisandrita@verizon.net
      Meets: First Tuesday of the month from 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

      Comments: Please call the contact person to confirm date, time, and location. Our group focuses on coming together to share our MS experiences while providing support, education, and mutual aid. We learn new information and strategies for coping with our problems. We seek to develop a positive feeling of empowerment and increased self-confidence as we cope with life’s challenges. We welcome people with MS and their families to join our group!

  1. Jayne Meldrum says:

    I have just finished yoga training in India & have been a fitness instructor for 8 year . I also teach sit down classes to see people & I have been teaching laughter yoga classes both sit down & stand up classes for 8 years. I live in Australia & I am very interested in teaching your program for people with MS . Can you please send me some information regarding the above. My email is jayne.meldrum@yahoo.com
    I look forward to hearing from you regarding the above.
    Kind regards
    Jayne meldrum

  2. Susan O says:

    I’ve been going to an adaptive yoga class here in Colorado Springs for a couple year’s now and can vouch for the positive affects it has in keeping me in better shape to live with my illness and work on my balance. Thank you to our instructor, Stacie Wyatt. She too incorporates essential oils and meditation at the end of our sessions. I would not miss it.

  3. Hannah Rose says:

    I can’t get down on the floor. I fall a lot and can’t get back up by myself unless I’m near something where I can use my arms to pull me up. Could I just sit in bed and do the sitting part of the yoga?

  4. Dear Hannah,
    Get Fit Where You Sit, the Chair Yoga instructor, Lakshmi Voelker Chair Yoga™, Fitness & Exercises – “an accessible path to fitness” – has a DVD where you can do yoga poses seated on the chair. You can also check out videos from both the National MS Society website, and from the MS Foundation website for free and see if this is something that you might want to add to your exercise regiment! Plus I believe Byron Baptiste has a free DVD you can get from his site. Let me find out his contact information for you.

    Here’s the link.

    Plus if you do a bit of searching on the youtube/pinterest you’ll find chair yoga videos one can do in their home.

    Here’s my pinterest site where I have tagged several youtube videos.



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