I begin my essay about ‘Yoga is for Everyone!!!’ with a quote from Pema Chodron about why it is important to mediate:
‘People often say, “Meditation is all very well, but what does it have to do with my life?” What it has to do with your life is that perhaps through this simple practice of paying attention—giving loving kindness to your speech and your actions and the movements of your mind—you begin to realize that you’re always standing in the middle of a sacred circle, and that’s your whole life. This room is not the sacred circle. Gampo Alley is not the sacred circle. Wherever you go for the rest of your life, you’re always in the middle of the universe and the circle is always around you. Everyone who walks up to you has entered that sacred space, and its not an accident. Whatever comes into the space is there to teach you.’ - Pema Chodron, The Wisdom of No Escape.
I do this deliberately to emphasize the point that yoga IS meditation and therefore for everyone. If that is not enough to convince you, consider my first deep understanding of exactly how it is that yoga is for everyone. It was during the 2011- 2012 teacher training year and all of us 200-hour teacher-in-training yogis and yoginis had gathered for a monthly intensive weekend, this month with master teacher Baxter Bell. He opened one of his session by telling us that one of the best yoga practitioners he knew is paralyzed from the neck down. We all exchanged confused glances and Baxter went on to explain that in reality only a very small part of the practice of yoga are the asanas—in fact the asanas are one of eight parts—and they are there to bring into the physical realm the ‘yoking of mind and body,’ the ultimate objective of and literal translation of the word ‘yoga’ from Sanskrit. He went on to say that having a physical body that can master all the poses is not as important as ‘embodying’ the philosophy. Baxter’s story was powerful for me and it changed the way I understood yoga and my role as a teacher and my approach to facilitating anyone who has a desire to learn yoga, even if they are paralyzed from their neck down.
Later that spring we had another master teacher, Tias Little, who also brought more light to the subject. Tias mentioned several times over the course of the intensive weekend that ‘If you can breathe, you can do yoga.’
The purpose for this paper is to provide a brief summary of the information I have obtained in the past several months about the significant benefits that can accrue to sufferers of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) who practice yoga on a regular basis.