Yoga therapy in neurosupportive care: Providing person-centered support

By Nathalie de Meyenburg

As a yoga therapist, I have been with clients through good times, difficult and bewildering times, and yes, the process of dying. This profoundly moving work has meant watching someone with early-onset Parkinson’s change from a well-spoken, outgoing person to a shuffling, mute, and distant person; seeing someone with MS who is active, raising a family, and engaged in their profession eventually apply for disability, stop working, and divorce due to the strain on their marriage; and guiding someone with ALS to breathe more easily through the last few weeks of their life. Through these resilient people, my outlook on supporting fellow human beings through hardship has not become one of negativity—instead, it is one of hope and optimism in knowing that the human-centered and compassionate practices of yoga can be a source of support and solace.

A simple equation for quality of life

Ensuring that there are nonphysical sources of support—bringing joy, life satisfaction, and comfort—is central to overall well-being and quality of life. Through yoga therapy, a person becomes more than a sum of their parts; instead, they are supported as a whole—as a living being.

Modern medicine isn’t always set up to prioritize patient/client interaction and communication. Including yoga therapy in neurosupportive care carves out specific space for a person-centered approach: This holds remarkable potential for long-term support of neurological conditions

As a yoga therapist working with those with neurological conditions and neuromuscular disorders, I provide one-to-one therapy with clients in their homes—sometimes for many years. As a result, they receive long-term, practical support from a therapist who knows them from a multidimensional perspective. Through applying what they learn over time, clients have expressed both surprise and pleasure at the changes they experience, both physically and in their outlook on life and living. Some of these changes are more subtle, whereas others are quite substantial. Together, these form a simple equation for improving quality of life:

Compassion: Recognizing that we all live in the human state and have the shared experience of suffering—regardless of illness. 

Common sense: Considering the everyday practicalities of self-care, which are often overlooked as a foundational source of health and well-being.

Well-being: Having meaning in life, purpose, and sense of well-being supersedes “perfect” health goals. Living well and dying well are part of life’s continuum.

Providing support for individuals living with multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, or ALS differs from working with those healing from an injury: Short-term, intensive therapy does not support an individual for a lifetime. Yoga therapy’s whole-person approach to health and well-being, adaptability, and long-term outlook on self-care and quality of life provide a sustainable form of therapy for the complex range of symptoms, shifting emotional states, and anxiety associated with the unpredictability of living with a neurological condition or movement disorder. 

Nathalie de Meyenburg, LMT, CHN, C-IAYT, specializes in neurological and neuromuscular conditions, chronic pain management, and disability. She is the founder of Second Nature Yoga Therapy & NeuroSupport, providing neurosupportive therapy and comprehensive therapy programs.