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Indianapolis, Indiana

Therapeutic Adaptive Yoga for MS


with Karen O'Donnell Clarke

A Workshop for Yoga Teachers and Health Care Professionals
September 19 - 21, 2014

Course Description:

Yoga is the World’s oldest holistic system of self-development, integrating body, mind, and spirit. The science of Yoga began its development in India over 5,000 years ago and has evolved into a contemporary mind / body health and wellness system with practices ranging from purely physical fitness to a holistic lifestyle grounded in spiritual principles that expand consciousness and cultivate compassion.

Yoga encompasses a diversity of teachings and techniques, yet all schools of Yoga commit to cultivating health, fostering personal growth and supporting spiritual transformation. Yoga is highly adaptable which makes it a perfect practice for people who have multiple sclerosis.  And many people who have MS are interested in yoga as a mild form of exercise, for its focus on breathing and meditation, and for its spiritual benefits.

Therapeutic Adaptive Yoga for People with Multiple Sclerosis is an experiential workshop designed to give experienced yoga teachers and health care professionals training in adaptive yoga techniques for individual students or students in group settings who have multiple sclerosis and other neurological health conditions.

Founded on the Integrative Yoga Therapy model of whole person wellness, this program includes practical information for yoga teachers as well as a model for integrating yoga philosophy into practices for body, mind and spirit.

While the focus is on multiple sclerosis, this skills based workshop is applicable to other student populations who need an adaptive approach.  Teachers who participate in this training will take away additional knowledge, skills and confidence to assist their students and to creatively address the many different stressors and limitations that can result from having MS.

Training Curriculum:

  • What is MS?
    • This will be presented by an MS Specialist with extensive knowledge of MS and the importance of regular exercise including: current research, the effects of stress on the immune system, the anti-inflammatory benefits of exercise, etc.
  • Disabilities Awareness:  
    • Language and exercise.  This may include a film clip and trying on symptoms.  Yoga teachers receive their training experientially.  This is a great way to feel in the body some of the sensations that people who have MS may experience.
  • Health Questionnaire:
    • A look at various ways to learn more about your student and how to use that information to create a safe, meaningful experience:  symptoms, mobility, goals and expectations.  
  • Roles and Goals:
    • This segment addresses the role of the yoga teacher as yoga educator, an adjunct to traditional and complementary medicine.
  • Adaptive Asana:
    • Mainstream yoga classes often present too many obstacles for students who have limitations, impairments and even disabilities.  Adaptive yoga addresses accessibility, appropriate class levels and the use of props to create safety and a meaningful experience.  
  • Chair Yoga:
    • Many postures that are done sitting on the floor can also be done sitting in a chair with better alignment, less pain and discomfort.  Chair Yoga also uses chairs for standing.  Using a chair for standing poses offers increased stability and often results in better alignment for students who have joint and muscle stiffness, spasticity, muscle weakness and more.
  • Props for Safety and Alignment:
    • As a practical matter, extensive use of props may work well in a studio environment but not necessarily for community based teachers who travel to multi-use spaces or private homes to teach students.  This workshop offers creative ways to use items at hand to assist the student in achieving a particular posture or benefit.
  • When and How to Assist:
    • It’s an art and a skill to know when and how to assist a student, especially students who have some of the mobility challenges common in multiple sclerosis.  Through discussion and practice, teachers will explore ways of asking permission and skillful ways to assist safely for both student and teacher.
  • Hands On Practice:
    • This very important part of the training includes a two hour community education program where members from the community who have MS are invited to participate.  Teachers say this is the most meaningful part of the training because they interacted with real people rather than role playing.  This is also very challenging for some teachers who have never interacted with someone who has disabilities. 
  • Teaching Considerations:
    • The practicalities of teaching group classes or private lessons such as accessible facilities, time of day, length of class, safety issues, learning styles, symptom awareness, etc.
  • Class Design for Students with Limitations:
    • This segment addresses using the essence of the pose to choose the appropriate variation for the student as well as sequencing to achieve maximum benefit and minimal transitions for energy management.
  • Relaxation and Meditation:
    • Yoga Nidra, Yoga Mudras and Pranayama are among the practices that distinguish yoga from simply an exercise program.  These practices may in fact be more important for individual students than the physical practices of adaptive asana.  These topics are covered briefly and experientially, modified for chair users.
  • Karen O’Donnell Clarke, ERYT 500 certified Kripalu Yoga and Integrative Yoga Therapy, teaches traditional and specialty yoga classes for students of all levels of ability ranging in age from 5 to 95.  A frequent presenter on the topic of adaptive yoga for yoga studios and National Multiple Sclerosis Society chapters throughout the country, including the Kripalu Yoga Teachers Conference and Yogaville Ashram in Virginia, Karen has presented Teaching Adaptive Yoga for Multiple Sclerosis nationally since 2003.  www.yogahealsus.com
Training Schedule:
  • Friday, September 19, 2014
    • 6:00 - 9:00 p.m.  Program
  • Saturday, September 20, 2014
    • 8:30 a.m – 12:30 p.m.  Program
    • 12:30 – 1:15 p.m. Lunch
    • 1:15 – 4:30 p.m.  Program
  • Sunday, September 21, 2014
    • 8:30 a.m – 10:00 a.m.  Program
    • 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.  Community Workshop / Practicum
    • 12:30 – 1:15 p.m. Lunch
    • 1:15 – 4:30 p.m.  Program
  • $349 includes manual, early bird $299 (due in full one month prior to workshop)
  • This workshop meets the Yoga Alliance standard for up to 18 CEUs.
  • Request CEUs at registration.
  • Mail Check or Money Order (USD) payable to:
    • Yoga Heals Us LLC, 32 Borodell Avenue, Mystic, CT  06355
  • Pay online:
    • Payment Options
Refund policy:
  • Refund requests made more than 14 days prior to the first day of the training:
    • Payments made will be refunded in full (less a $35 processing fee).
  • Refund requests made between 13 days and 1 day in advance of the first day of the training:
    • 75% of payments will be refunded (less a $35 processing fee).
  • No refund is available if you cancel less than 24 hours in advance or on the first day of the training, if you don't show up, or if you leave the training early for any reason.
  • We strive to keep the costs down.  A very limited number of partial scholarships may be available depending on the number of fully paid participants.
  • Criteria:  Annual income of less than $20,500 for individuals and $25,500 for couples.
  • Recipients must agree to provide a free community workshop within 6 months and provide a written summary of the experience to Yoga Heals Us LLC.
  • Recipients must pay their portion in full 10 days prior to the workshop.
  • 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training Certification
  • PTs,OTs, LSPs, LMTs, nurses & other licensed health care professionals who work with clients who have MS may also participate.
    • Must have a minimum one year direct yoga experience in an ongoing class with a certified yoga teacher.
  • Please plan to bring your lunch.
  • A list of local hotels will be made available.
Feedback from other very well trained yoga teachers who have taken this program:
  • Karen Clarke's training is an excellent program and resource for teachers for working with people with MS. It provides both western and eastern perspectives, a well-rounded perspective--both personal and big picture AND an opportunity to work with some from folks with MS during the program. I highly recommend it!  (Susanne, Albany training)
  • I took Karen Clarke's training, and it was invaluable. Karen is an IYT grad, and offers sequences for each of the symptoms. She uses our kosha model and is very comprehensive. Movements are offered for standing, chair, and wheelchair.  The MS Society works with her, and presents an excellent understanding of how the disease works and manifests, and brings in students for us to practice with.  (Bev, Sioux Falls training)