The Yoga Groove


My long time yoga teacher, Sharon Byrnes, just started two new classes for people with MS and Parkinson’s at her studio, The Yoga Groove. Today I was lucky enough to have a one-on-one with her, so I got to call all the shots.

My body has given me a pretty long to-do list. I’ve been wanting to take a class on how to fall since learning that I have severe osteoporosis. (I was so eager, in fact, that I showed up one month early to  “Free from Falls,” a class which will be offered by the MS Society starting March 6.)

I requested we work on fall prevention. Sharon started me working on transitioning through various yoga poses from against the wall, instead of from in the middle of the room, so that I could use the data from the wall to keep my shoulders, back and hips in alignment while moving from two feet to one foot and back down again. She gave me blocks, so I could safely extend my body and achieve more from each pose.


foot drop

You will notice, in the second picture, that my foot droops down. Ideally, my foot and leg should be parallel to the floor. Ha. Ha. I know this is the Internet, but I’m still going to show it like it is. What you’re looking at is called foot drop. It’s an MS thing. When I’m tired, like I was this morning after treadmill and weights, I have to use extra effort to lift my right foot off the floor as I walk (or do yoga.) Foot drop has been a big culprit in limiting my walking. Until I got hand controls,  it even limited my driving.

I asked Sharon about foot drop. I’d seen what looked like a helpful video on YouTube…but I wanted to verify that the advice it gave was any good. Sharon watched me demonstrate what I’d remembered of the video, which entailed sitting in a chair, raising the foot, swiveling it in one direction over seven seconds, and then back in the other direction seven seconds…to be repeated over three minutes. She immediately made three suggestions: 1. to keep my ankles in line under my knees (I should know that by now!)  2. to use a resistance band (I tend to be lazy about adding props.) 3. to work out both ankles, not just the one that gives me trouble,  working right/left/right instead of working the right ankle exclusively.  Her suggestions affirmed what I have learned throughout the years: YouTube is no replacement for first hand experience from an experienced instructor.

She then got out a timer and had me tap my foot. I produced 28 taps in a minute, which was less than her 48, but not as far from the 32 taps per minute I should have for a goal.

After our session, I immediately texted my friend Monica, who is off having a grand time in New Orleans this week and couldn’t attend class. She wanted to know all about how to prevent foot drop. As Sharon remarked on my way out, students learn a lot from their teacher, but learn even more from each other. My one-on-one with Sharon was amazing, but I can’t wait for next week, when my peers will be there, too.

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6 thoughts on “The Yoga Groove

  1. Foot drop is a bitch for sure. My Physical therapist suggested that I do all the exercises that you have listed to help with recovery of my broken foot and ankle, I didn’t even put two and two together that they would help with foot drop too…silly me…I’ve only “toyed” with yoga, but felt very uncomfortable and unable to keep up with people in a class, sounds like I should look into that more

    1. You have to be careful with what kind of yoga class you join. Some are biased toward attracting and retaining the young, the hip the photogenic. You don’t want that kind of class. When you look for a yoga class, look for the word “gentle.” All too often, “beginner” classes rush from pose to pose without much explanation of crucial factors, like alignment and breathing. That is at best a waste of time and energy for all involved, and at worst, an invitation to all kinds of injury. If I were you, I would call any potential yoga teacher before you begin. Give them the honest scoop on your limitations: foot drop, crappy balance…certainly tell them if your symptoms get worse when you overheat. See what they say. Just about every yoga teacher is going to invite you to try the class. Check in with your feelings. If you suspect they have no idea what the f— you are going through, pick up the phone and call another yoga teacher. When you find a class that doesn’t appear to be too terrifying, show up in super comfortable clothes. Warning: it’s a real class, you will be expected to be barefoot. So if you are the kind of person who can’t stand to have anyone see a messed up manicure, fix the manicure first. That would be for your sake, not for the sake of others. In yoga, NO BODY CARES WHAT YOU LOOK LIKE. NO ONE IS WATCHING YOU. (Except, I hope, your instructor.) Everyone is very busy focusing on their own breath and their own pose. I promise you. That’s why they are there. To be one hundred percent in their own body. That’s why you should be there, too.

      1. Wow! Ty for ALL of the information!!! I won’t even be looking into it until april ( wedding, break up, funeral, out of town…and regular everyday drama have me booked until then) Ty again

      2. When you do try, I hope you find your yoga unshackles you from everyday drama…and you leave feeling an inch or two taller. Thank you for reading!

  2. What an interesting post! I had lots of thoughts while reading it. First, I love yoga on the wall. Wish one of my teachers would do it more than once a year. Your half moon looks beautiful (foot drop and all.) So when I was going to the podiatrist, she recommended that I exercise my ankles by “writing” every letter of the alphabet with my foot (while seated). Gets it moving in every possible direction. You’re so right about having a good teacher vs a YouTube video. It makes all the difference in the world. Good for you to keep exercising! Love you, Mom


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