Helping hand

Jennifer Barioni is a yoga instructor at Pilates Studio Lake Tahoe, 31 Highway 50, Stateline. She teaches Vinyassa and Power Yoga as well as a class tailored for people suffering from multiple sclerosis. For more information, visit

Tell me about your MS yoga class.

It’s the MS Yoga Project at the Pilates Studio Lake Tahoe, and it is a free class for people with multiple sclerosis, and people’s families can come with them for support. We work on flexibility, mind engagement, strength. … And it’s once a week on Monday night from 5 to 6 p.m. … The goal of the class is to get all the benefits of yoga without overexerting the body because people with multiple sclerosis, it’s not good when they overexert the body.

How does it differ from traditional yoga?

It’s pretty similar to traditional yoga. It’s linking breaths to movement, linking breaths and getting more flexible, however, we do it all from a chair. My goal in the class is to make sure everybody that has multiple sclerosis that comes can participate whether they’re in a wheelchair full time or they’re walking with a cane or, you know, they have no physical limitations to do this. Everything is done from a chair, and we use props, and I’m able to modify to anybody’s level.

What’s the benefit of yoga for people with MS?

This type of practice helps relieve some of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. This is definitely not a cure, however. But because it’s a central nervous system disorder, your brain tells the body what to do but because of scar tissue on the myelin that covers the nerves, some of it gets lost in translation. Yoga is great because it helps with attention spans, body-mind awareness, and it helps alleviate some of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

Do you have to be specially certified or anything like that?

I have my yoga teacher training. I’m certified with the Yoga Alliance. And then I also got certified with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society so that I am able to teach people with multiple sclerosis.

Why did you decide to do this?

My mom has multiple sclerosis, and she was diagnosed in her early 20s. She was a really physically strong person, worked out all the time, but when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, it completely robbed her of her physical life. It was something that was hard for me to see my mom struggle with, and so now that I’m older and a yoga teacher, this is my way of helping others and giving back.

What has the response been to this class?

We’re getting new members. It’s slowly starting to build. One of the greatest things that I’m seeing is that we’re building a sense of community. Unfortunately, Lake Tahoe doesn’t have a lot of services for people with multiple sclerosis, and there are no support groups here. This is helping bridge that gap and helping people get to know each other. … They’re giving each other pointers on how to deal with certain issues with multiple sclerosis. And that’s one of the best benefits that I didn’t expect.