Mindy Robert took an interest in yoga after several knee injuries and surgeries that somewhat precluded her from doing things like running half marathons and trail running.
Years later, the Ogden-based nurse is hoping an adaptive yoga pilot program she’s created can help neurological patients live better lives, specifically those with multiple sclerosis (MS).
Robert received the International Organization of Multiple Sclerosis Nurses (IOMSN) Nightingale Award, which provides a grant of $5,000 to nurses of the organization’s choosing, money that will help Robert launch the pilot program.
Robert, who’s worked as a nurse practitioner at Ogden Clinic Neurology and Sleep since 2015, touts the benefits of yoga so much that, “I would prescribe yoga for everybody if I could,” she said.
Robert is pursuing a Doctorate of Nursing Practice at Weber State and the eight-week, community-based adaptive yoga program is serving as a project for her doctoral program.
There are adaptive yoga programs in Salt Lake County, but there wasn’t one in Ogden or Weber County, so she saw a need for one.
“For MS patients, there are disease modifying therapies that can hopefully delay the progression of some of the symptoms…the yoga program was more of a complimentary program,” Robert said.
As MS progresses in patients, the physical and mental limitations add up.
Robert hopes that her program can be a comfortable space for those patients — with any limitations, not just MS — who may be self-conscious about going to a regular gym.
“Anybody with MS, or with these conditions, could go to a regular yoga class, but having one that’s dedicated to people who have the same conditions, it really helps with confidence levels, comfort levels, so that you don’t feel out of place or stigmatized or anything,” she said.
Instead of traditional yoga where people contort their bodies into a particular pose or shape, adaptive yoga is a form of yoga that’s adapted to meet the needs of people with a range of challenges, including neurological diseases, arthritis, joint replacements and spinal surgeries according to the Burke Rehabilitation Center in New York.
Medical experts and yoga experts have supported yoga as a beneficial activity for mental and physical health.
A 2006 clinical trial examined the effects of yoga on cognitive function, fatigue, mood and quality of life in 135 random seniors aged 65-85 who participated in six months of Hatha yoga class, walking exercise class or wait-list control.
The results, which were published in the journal Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, in part, found that yoga produced improvements in physical measures such as timed 1-legged standing and forward flexibility, as well as a number of quality-of-life measures related to sense of well-being and energy and fatigue compared to control subjects.
“Practicing yoga can give you tools to help manage everyday tasks that include balancing to stand or walk, strengthening and alignment for standing up and sitting down on a chair, toilet or bed, and core strength for everything you do. The relaxing benefits of yoga may also help manage the unique challenges of MS, such as lying in an MRI machine for extended periods of time, receiving injections or infusions, staying calm during an exacerbation and focusing when meeting with your health care professionals,” according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Robert’s adaptive yoga program was supposed to start in September, but like almost everything else, it’s on hold due to effects from the COVID-19 pandemic.
She got the idea for the program by going to a multi-day training in Michigan put on by Mindy Eisenberg.
Eisenberg, a hospital administrator and certified yoga therapist, founded of a nonprofit called Yoga Moves MS, which (in a pre-COVID environment) provides small group adaptive yoga classes to approximately 70 MS patients per week in the Detroit metro area.
“I would just love it to expand, not to one facility, I’d like to see several classes per week and then maybe other yoga studios will be able to support adaptive yoga classes,” Robert said.
Robert’s program hasn’t been officially approved yet, but eventually more information will become available for those interested in signing up or wanting more information.