Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Interview with Patrice Priya Wagner on Meditation for Multiple Sclerosis

Accessible Yoga Blog: Where do you teach? Who is the population?

Priya: I teach Accessible Yoga for people with disabilities in the San Francisco Bay area and classes to people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in Oakland. As a yoga therapist, I bring the added wisdom of yoga-based healing to any session that I offer.

This August, I’ll also be presenting a meditation workshop for beginners. I’m excited to share this simple yet powerful practice to newcomers and share the current clinical evidence that substantiates what many of us know through personal experience: quieting the mind can benefit our health and create a space for serenity in our life.

Accessible Yoga Blog: Can you share an experience that stands out?

Priya: Although every student in my current class has been diagnosed with MS, each one has a unique set of symptoms. That’s why they call MS a “designer disease”—no two cases are alike. In addition, my students present with the “wear and tear” on the body that sometimes comes with aging and, again, each has different issues that I need to be mindful of when instructing.

When I first considered teaching this group, I thought that it might be easier for me since I shared the same chronic illness with my students, but this has not been the case. I’ve found it a great challenge to teach this group, mostly due to the disparity in symptom severity of these particular students.

Just my luck, you might say. And it’s true: I’m lucky because I’ve gained a greater empathy for people living with disability than I ever thought I would develop. I’ve found myself feeling thankful for the opportunity to be of service to these individuals (I teach pro-bono) and deepen my compassion at the same time.

Accessible Yoga Blog: Why do you teach this group or this population? What made you choose this specific group?

Priya: I was diagnosed with MS in 1988 and didn’t practice yoga then. When I started practicing and subsequently became certified to teach, I taught people with and without disabilities.

After a while, I realized that I wanted to teach people with MS since I had first-hand knowledge of many of their challenges, and my skills could be of better use to them than to other groups. I was secretly hoping that my classes would provide a place where, after class ended, participants would share with each other their concerns about the disease—somewhat like a spontaneous support group. I’m happy to say that the classes have turned out that way.

Accessible Yoga Blog: What are you excited to do next with your students?

Priya: Stress overload is not healthy for anyone, but it can have an especially bad effect on people with MS, speaking anecdotally. In my current classes, I’ve been teaching different ways to handle stress using pranayama and meditation and was pleasantly surprised when several students requested we spend more time on meditation. I’m looking forward to guiding them in diving deeper into the serene waters of seated meditation.

Patrice Priya Wagner, RYT 500, C-IAYT, is trained in Integral Yoga and has taught people with disabilities since 2008. Priya holds a seat on the Board of Directors of Accessible Yoga and assisted or co-presented in Accessible Yoga conferences in New York City, San Francisco, and Santa Barbara. She currently teaches yoga classes with a focus on meditation to people with multiple sclerosis in Oakland, California.

This post was conducted and edited by Kathleen Kraft.

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