The dream is for yoga therapy to be covered by insurance,” said Mindy Eisenberg, yoga instructor and author of ‘Adaptive Yoga Moves Any Body, a guide full of hundreds of poses with adaptations suitable for people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) or other conditions that impede movement. As a child, Eisenberg witnessed her mother’s struggle with MS, and saw her capabilities change at the whim of the disease. “I was about six when it really started to develop. For better or for worse, I was around someone who had a disability, so I’m comfortable,” said Eisenberg who’s lived in Birmingham, Bloomfield and Franklin.
Published at the end of 2015, ‘Adaptive Yoga Moves Any Body’ represents Eisenberg’s personal experience and her intensive work with Yoga Moves MS, a non-profit she founded that offers adaptive yoga classes for people with MS at various studios throughout southeastern Michigan. “(Our instructors) get beyond disability, and get more into the gift of what yoga has to offer. We focus on ability, not disability,” she said.
Once her students began asking for instructional aides to take home, Eisenberg brainstormed how she could help them practice at home. “I had an idea for a flip chart that they could stand up next to their mat, but the packaging would be really expensive, and the book was big.” She considered a video, but realized that without a book to accompany it, that could create hurdles because “if someone has mobility or cognitive issues,” she said, “they will move slower, and the video just keeps going.”
After five years of research, and learning from teachers around the country, a 400-page resource guide was printed. “We had to put together our own philosophy because there’s very little adaptive yoga being taught around the county.” One of the instructors she sought out was Matthew Sanford. “He’s like one of the gurus in adaptive yoga, and he teaches from a wheelchair, so I’m learning from someone with experience himself.” Composed of clear instructions and pictures of her students in the poses, ‘Adaptive Yoga for Any Body,’ is the only book of its kind. “There’s a section on coping with pain. I believe strongly in mindfulness, philosophy and practice, and that’s very strongly applied in the book.”
Each pose in ‘Adaptive Moves Any Body’ shows various adjustments to suit the individual’s needs. Poses are shown standing, seated, or with the support of props such as chairs, blocks, blankets and bolsters. “My experience is working with people who have limitations. I specialize in people with MS, but the condition has a range of different symptoms, so one person can see just fine, and another is blind in one or both eyes. Another may have drop foot; another is really tight. There’s so many different symptoms, and we found that knowledge of the various symptoms takes you across a wide spectrum of people with illness, like arthritis, stroke, or Parkinson’s.”
Having sold over 350 copies, the book has been mailed all over the world, including Belgium, Switzerland and Australia. “All the money from the book is feeding these (Yoga Moves MS) classes,” she said.