Yoga class for multiple sclerosis inspiring its patients

Published: Oct. 26, 2017 at 7:52 PM EDT
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By: Julie Montanaro | WCTV Eyewitness News

October 26, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- The number of people doing yoga has doubled in the last 15 years, and research shows it can help with everything from back pain to post traumatic stress.

A yoga class in North Florida and is rolling out the welcome mat for patients with multiple sclerosis.

"This class saved my live," said Jodi Seitlin, who was diagnosed with M.S. in 2008.

"I think I spent the first five years being really angry," she explained. "I was very closed off and very isolated."

Seitlin is now a regular in the front row at OMS Yoga, a class taught by a yogi with multiple sclerosis and an M.S. certified nurse.

"You might see them in an office setting and they might have weakness or instability," explained class instructor Megan Weigel. "Then, in this class, you tell them to hop to their hands and they do."

"How does it happen?" she asks. "I can't explain it."

Cheryl Russell and Megan Weigel have turned their passion for yoga into a free class for M.S. patients; a safe space where they can work on their balance, strength and flexibility without judgement.

"They're stretching us in a lot of different ways," Alison Wilson explained. She's been working on her poses since attending the first class in 2012.

"It can literally keep me moving. I have the tools now," Wilson said.

The class is kept cool, instead of hot, and modifications are made throughout the room. The class in Jacksonville has become so successful, it's stretched to Charleston and Philadelphia.

"It's the most empowering thing I've ever done" Rusell said.

It's not just the physical challenge that brings people back. It's also the promise of instant friends.

"Everyone in this room understands there are good days and bad days," Russell said. "There's so much that's involved with an MS diagnosis, the stress, the anxiety, the unknowns, the depression so if you can just be in the room with other people who understand exactly what you're going through and start to release some of that ... it just makes a world of difference," she said.

"We have friends who aren't as nimble, or as fast as we are. We all just absorb that for each other. It's great," Wilson said as she fought back tears.

"I'm more than a survivor," Seitlin proudly says. "I'm thriving."

Russell and Wiegel recently spoke at Tallahassee's M.S. luncheon.

Since then folks here have been trying to find studio space and volunteer instructors to start a similar yoga class here.