Volunteer Yoga Instructor Helps Multiple Sclerosis Patients

Patricia Silva, PhD avatar

by Patricia Silva, PhD |

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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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