Nova Scotia

'You can still do things': Chair yoga class in Cape Breton inspires teacher and students

Chair yoga has transformed the life of a woman living with multiple sclerosis in Cape Breton. She has given the gift of mobility to her students.

'I feel like I have a purpose again as opposed to just this lump in a bed feeling sorry for herself'

Jamie Crane teaches chair yoga in Sydney River. Crane, who has multiple sclerosis, said yoga has improved her condition and she no longer needs a cane. (Norma Jean MacPhee/CBC)

Yoga has transformed the life of a woman living with multiple sclerosis in Cape Breton. 

Jamie Crane was diagnosed with MS seven years ago. 

Always an active woman, Crane, 41, said she was angry for several years after her diagnosis. 

"I used to work as a political organizer, was on the go 24/7, rode my horse everyday," said Crane. "So there were some major changes when my mobility and my stamina got reduced."

Then she discovered yoga. 

"Yoga really helped me to see that, OK, maybe you have to do things differently, but you can still do things," Crane said 

Two years into her yoga practice, with improved mobility, she no longer needed her cane. 

Knowing the help it provided her, she decided to try teaching it.

Chair yoga allows participants to improve their strength and mobility, even if they have physical conditions that limit their movement. (Norma Jean MacPhee/CBC)

Crane now instructs chair yoga four times a week. 

She encourages people to do what they can with the poses. She needs to modify the moves for herself as use of her left arm can be is restricted due to her illness. 

That openness and lack of judgement is what appeals to those in the class. 

"Jamie has a great attitude and she's always very positive and it makes you feel better when you leave," said Anne Marie White. 

Carol MacDowell, who has a form of Parkinson's disease, said chair yoga helps with her movement.

"Jamie is terrific," she said. "Especially having MS and her teaching the class, I think it's phenomenal. [It's] encouragement more than anything. If she can do that, then I can do it." 

'You felt good afterwards'

The hour-long class modifies common yoga poses such as the sun salutation, pigeon and cat-cow flow.

Pearl Latour, who has a degenerative cerebellum condition, took her first class with Crane in January. 

"Jamie welcomed everyone and it didn't matter what your limitations were. She made you feel good and you felt good afterwards."

Latour also takes heart in Crane's determination not to be slowed by her illness.

"Having someone with a disability doing something it helps a lot of people come out and say, 'Yes, I can do this, too,'" she said. 

Crane said she couldn't be happier. 

"It's amazing to watch the students and know that I'm in some small way helping them."

She said the benefits go both ways. 

"They're helping me, too, because all of a sudden I feel like I have a purpose again as opposed to just this lump in a bed feeling sorry for herself," said Crane. "I have so much more to give that I'm really glad that I woke up to that."

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