Living with MS and how Yoga saved my life.

Since 2006 I’ve found Yoga or I should say Yoga found me and that day changed my life. I was diagnosed with MS in 2002 and for the first four years, like many, I allowed the diagnosis of MS to define me and then one day I searched out a yoga class.
I had no idea what it was, or what it would bring to me, all I knew is that I had this friend who was remarkably calm and she did yoga.
What was it about this practice that kept her so centered?  I’d ask myself.  I found a yoga studio where it was small and simple; it had this amazing energy about it and wasn’t “selling” anything but peacefulness.
I had no idea that yoga would bring me so much more than strength and balance (which is what I thought I was looking for).  It took me and still continues to take me on an unbelievable journey of self discovery, stillness, inner peace and balance of mind, body and spirit.
I took on a yoga practice where most begin, at the beginning and eventually built up a strong practice, however this didn’t mean that I could throw myself into a handstand or many inversions that come so easily to many.  It means that I found this space on my mat that was quiet, balanced and peaceful.  I was not judgmental and I was okay with wherever I was each day and I continue to practice yoga and life just that way.
I was content with me and the MS, it was quiet now sitting in the background and no longer standing front and center, and no longer did it define me. Eventually this yoga practice became a way of life.  It’s not just the asana’s (the poses) but it’s the way I live, by the principles of self love, love of others, non-violence in my words and actions and how I treat myself and others.
I literally, without knowing it, took my yoga off the mat and into my personal world and then out to the world where MS meets Yoga and beyond.
In 2010, yoga teacher and then friend offered me to take part in her yoga teacher training, if not to teach (which I had no intention of doing) but to truly understand why I was doing what I was doing and also to deepen my practice.  I accepted her invitation and in June of 2010 after 6 month training I graduated and became a 200 hour certified yoga teacher.
I decided that teaching the general public was not my purpose or my passion but sharing what I had learned and who I was, the person living with MS discovered that yoga can save the life of someone living with MS as well as significantly change that same life in such a positive way.
I have been actively involved in public service by being a team captain for the National MS Society’s Long Island Chapter’s MS Walk and for the past 12 years have raised over $80,000 collectively.  I also ran a 3rd party fundraiser from 2008 through 2012 called Healing and Moving for a Cure, where all monies raised went to a program that I started to provide home health aide assistance to those living with MS. 
Then I chose to start a program that offered free yoga classes to those, like me, who live on limited income and have MS to have yoga in their lives. This program is offered free to our local MS Society on Long Island in collaboration with 2 other yoga studios in my area who have also offered their time and selfless service and for that I’m so grateful.  We run the program for 8 weeks twice a year and during this time anyone who has MS, their friends and/or support partners are offered the opportunity to take classes with yoga teachers that I’ve worked with to find out what they can do rather than what they can’t do.  I also teach one of these free yoga for MS classes during these 8 week sessions twice a year.  I am, like them, a body living with MS but I am also an example of how we can learn to live well with MS.  Yoga helped me find my way, my peace, and my balance.
My hope and prayer is that this program that I began here on Long Island could reach across the country and that every yoga studio would offer such a program from the perspective of someone living with MS.  Unfortunately, I can’t be everywhere but I’m hoping one day I can teach other teachers to teach from the perspective of someone living with a chronic illness like MS so that it might open the door for any ‘body’ to enter the yoga studio, knowing that it is a safe place for them to help guide them to that place that is really within themselves but has only yet to be discovered.
Teaching yoga to someone living with a chronic illness can be challenging. There is a ‘knowing’, a gift that comes from having this disease that allows one to offer out the gift that yoga has brought and to be able to offer that out to others.
Yoga is balance.  It is a moving, living meditation. It’s a way to go inside and quiet the mind. For those moments we are on our mat, the MS or the illness or trouble that one is living with can be quieted as well, if only for a moment and hopefully longer.  It takes practice, life is practice…yoga is practice…yoga is where I find my peace, my center and my balance.
Lisa Bachrach-Zeankowski
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Celebrating My Life with Grace and Gratitude

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11 years ago today, the mystery of all of the symptoms that I was having for the previous 6 years was solved, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. 17 years ago was my onset of this disease. 17 years later I am so completely grateful and blessed, I have learned so much in all of these years as well as I’m grateful for the gifts MS has brought to me. I have met and befriended so many amazing people, I found out that I am so much stronger than I ever thought I was, and not just physically, but mentally. I have discovered that our inner strength is everything and we are not our bodies nor are we the disease or challenges we face. I found out that I have more love and compassion than I ever thought possible and my awareness to the needs of my body as well as the needs of others has heightened tremendously.

MS has taught me self love and self respect, it’s taught me that we need to really listen to our bodies as well as become the very best advocate for ourselves and yes, for others…MS has taught me to live vicariously, fully and totally in the moment and to appreciate every moment, the present is all that we really have and nothing past matters and the future is always uncertain so why worry about it? It has taught me how to handle situations with grace and that we really are not in control, but we are in control of how we prepare and how we react to situations.

MS gave me the gift of being able to stay at home with my kids to raise them and be involved with their school needs as well as their personal needs. MS shares my body with me and we have learned how to co-exist, however MS does NOT define me by any means, if anything it has shown me just how strong I can be and how we (me and this disease) can teach others.

MS is an amazing process and journey, not one to be taken for granted and truly if one chooses to, they can look at their diagnosis as a gift and choose how we are willing to live. I chose to live well and in the best way I know how. I am grateful for the lessons, we have had our ups and downs for sure but in each experience there was a lesson to be learned and one to be shared and taught to others.

I have become an advocate, an activist, a yoga practitioner and a teacher and I have discovered that my true passion is to help others and hopefully bring to as many people as I can the gift that yoga has to offer. I wish to be able to continuously show people through my actions that we are not our bodies but we are spiritual beings living a human experience and that yoga is such a natural way of helping ourselves, mind body and spirit.

My passion is to hopefully inspire as many people as possible to embrace whatever their challenge or obstacle is and open up the opportunity to bring yoga to their lives so that they might experience what I have. Yoga really saves lives as well as shifts how we look at the world and ourselves. Yoga teaches us to live in the moment and to be still and to listen to the amazing silence between our thoughts, as well as it teaches us to listen to the needs of our bodies and yes, yoga has saved my life, in more ways than one and if it weren’t for MS, I’m not sure if I might or might not have found Yoga and all that it has to offer us.

So today I celebrate my 11th year since being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and I celebrate 17 years since my life began to shift and change. Happy Anniversary to us! The journey and the lessons will continue and until the day a cure might be found, we will love each other with the greatest unconditional love we can share.

To quote one of my favorite inspirational teachers, Deepak Chopra, “You can believe the diagnosis but you don’t have to believe the prognosis.”

Today is a celebration of my life and that’s how I am embracing this day that changed my life some 11 years ago and it really did change it for the better Namaste Lisa Bachrach-Zeankowski

Living in Gratitude

Have an attitude of gratitude everyday!  Not just intellectually, but from the heart.

Life is short..live it! Life if precious..appreciate it! Sometimes things aren’t easy, but often times the best things in life need to be worked hard for and earned.

It’s easy to blame, but it’s braver to own it! The ONLY way out is through! There are no mistakes only lessons, and everyone we meet along the way, is a teacher and even if they don’t stay in our lives, they were meant to be in our lives, maybe for a moment, or years but they are meant to be in our life and possibly lead us to our next teacher.

Life is not a destination but a journey LIVE IT, BE PRESENT, LOOK UP appreciate it., inhale, exhale, feel the breath, feel the ground beneath your feet, go hug a tree!!!…

Life is GOOD even when we think it’s not or it’s just too hard, we are blessed, we really are…Be Grateful ….

Namaste Lisa Bachrach

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"When the Ego Sees an Obstacle the Soul Sees an Opportunity”

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So many times we debate whether or not do do something, either by someone else, or more importantly by ourselves. Many times it’s ego that keeps us out of our own way and it’s our soul that allows us to forge ahead.

“When ego sees an obstacle, our soul sees an opportunity” Mel Hermann via Seane Corne.

This quote repeated by a very special yoga teacher while I was on vacation and will ring in my head as I forge ahead facing the many challenges in my life as a reminder as well as a positive mantra for me, I hope it will for you too.

Our soul always knows what is better for us, all we have to do is ‘listen’, close our eyes, go deep within and listen to the whispers of our heart. That is our soul speaking to us. “Opportunity awaits you, go forward, I love you”

How many of you wondered; can I do yoga?  Will I be able to do this? Should I do this?  Before finally coming to that place in your heart that said, yes I can.

How many of us throughout our daily lives are faced with circumstances, otherwise known as challenges, and we are asked to question whether or not we can do it, either by ourselves or by someone else. 

And how many times do we question these things and find out that if we face the challenge head on, how brave we are?

How many of us were told that we have MS and decided AT THAT very moment not to give up and how many of us KNOW someone who was diagnosed with MS and watched as THEY chose to forge ahead bravely and not give up?

I know this past year, and in the past 81/2 years I’ve faced many challenges, not only with MS, but in my personal life, from striving to become a yoga teacher, to trying to overcome my fear of teaching to even getting up in front people to speak….yet each time I’m faced with these challenges, I also ask myself, to make a choice…and each time I choose to be brave and forge ahead, knowing that in the end courage allows MY dreams to come to fruition. 

My dream to bring the gift of yoga to all of you is proof of that.

When we face something others might turn away from THAT is courage.

When we fear it, it takes courage to admit that we fear it and then it takes courage to overcome it. We can’t really have one without the other can we?

Before beginning your practice each time you come to your mat, I ask you to set an intention, whether it’s being grateful for all that you have or for the simple fact that you all have overcome fear by showing courage at one time or another, or maybe your intention is for someone else that you know, who has also done that.

 I’d like to leave you all with this quote by M. Scott Peck…“Courage is not the absence of fear; it is doing something in spite of fear. It is taking the step towards your dreams in spite of the odds against you.” 

Namaste Lisa Bachrach