Campus accountant named MS Walk ‘ambassador’
Yoga advocate catalyzes new approach to the illness

By Cathy Cockrell, Public Affairs


martha patt

Martha Patt demonstrates the seated twist, a yoga pose that relieves stiffness and tension in the spine.
Dan Krauss photo

17 April 2001 | For campus staffer Martha Patt, there’s a beauty in the numbers that fill her spreadsheets and her days in the extramural funds accounting office. “One and one is always two,” as she puts it. “You look at the numbers and the numbers tell you.”

That’s a welcome dose of predictability for someone who lives, as Patt does, with multiple sclerosis, a degenerative neurological disorder characterized by unpredictable waves of disabling symptoms.

In the 18 years since her diagnosis, Patt has weathered many such bouts — involving chronic pain, and loss of vision, hand function, and ability to walk, to name a few.

She manages the fluctuating tide of MS symptoms through her commitment to yoga, an ancient form of meditative exercise that she eventually wanted to share with the greater MS community.

According to Terence Keane of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Northern California chapter, the new year has seen “a real blossoming,” of wellness programs for people with MS. “Martha was a big part of that, a catalyst. She helped organize our first local class on yoga (which has) become a huge part of what we do.”

Inspired by Eric Small, a 70-year old yogi who has had MS for five decades, and by yoga teacher B.K.S. Iyengar, who once had tuberculosis, Patt has honed her mental concentration and her mastery of yogic poses, or asanas.

Like her mentors before her, she now brings inspiration and empowerment to others, along with her gentle instruction in headstands, forward bends and ways for people of varying abilities to adapt the poses using props.

Margie Pacheco, a financial aid counselor in Undergraduate Affairs, was one of Patt’s early students.

“Yoga has helped me a lot, and Martha has been quite an inspiration,” she says. “A lot of times with MS, things have become minimally mobile, at most. Yoga allows you to move and to feel your body as your whole body, something that works.”

“It’s a gentle passing on of experiential information,” Keane says of the “yoga persona” Patt embodies. “She’s not a kind of teacher who pushes you to do something, but (instead) guides you to do things that your body finds works. All of that in a way that feels very giving.”

It is for these volunteer efforts that the society’s Northern California chapter has named Patt its ambassador for the MS walk scheduled to take place this weekend at 20 northern California locations and across the country.

Look for her at the Tiburon site, where she’ll deliver words of inspiration — and demonstrate the downward dog (or other favorite asanas).

See for information on the MS Walk.


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