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Yoga and MS

“Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured.” - B.K.S. Iyengar

The National MS Society  (http://www.nationalmssociety.org) has pages on their website on the benefits of exercise including yoga. The benefits of yoga are being heralded by many health organizations. We should look at yoga as an ongoing practice and not a quick fix. Yoga teaches us to coordinate our mind, body and breath in coordinated movements. Controlling the breath is essential for a meaningful yoga practice and helps cope with our discomfort.  The benefits include:

  • Increased flexibility.
  • Increased muscle strength and tone.
  • Improved respiration, energy and vitality.
  • Maintaining a balanced metabolism.
  • Weight reduction or maintenance
  • Cardio and circulatory health.
  • Improved athletic performance.
  • Protection from injury.

Before you consider a yoga practice it is important to consult your physician. 

Practicing yoga can help give you the confidence to manage your everyday tasks that include balancing to stand or walk, strengthening and alignment for standing up and sitting down on a chair. Many yoga poses help strengthen your core. A strong core can make simple activities easier.  There is a relaxing benefit of yoga through controlled breathing and meditation which can help with the challenges of any muscular or joint disease; e.g. as lying in an MRI machine for extended periods of time, receiving injections or infusions, etc.

Dr. Allen Bowling, in Optimal Health with Multiple Sclerosis, 2014 summarizes the existing research on yoga and concludes:
 
“Yoga is relatively inexpensive, generally safe, and may potentially improve multiple sclerosis symptoms. One rigorous MS clinical trial found that yoga decreased fatigue. Other studies in MS and various other medical conditions have reported improvement in anxiety, depression, fatigue, bladder function, pain, spasticity, weakness and walking. There are anecdotal reports but minimal research on yoga and sexual function. For general health, yoga may improve arthritis pain, reduce blood pressure, and promote weight loss. The effects of yoga on these conditions may secondarily benefit those with MS because these conditions may worsen disability and lower quality of life in those with MS.”

The unintended consequence of practicing yoga at a studio is that you make incredible loving, friends!

The beauty of yoga is that you are not in competition with anyone not even yourself. You do what you can do when you can do it.  Every instructor will tell you "If it hurts do not do it". If you want to modify the pose for your comfort by all means do it. You can practice yoga anywhere: in bed, on the couch, in a chair (wheelchair), inside and outside. Yoga can be practiced alone or with a partner. There are great partner workshops offered at yoga studios. 

Consult your physician and find a qualified yoga instructor. Contact your local or National MS Society for recommendations.

Once you have developed your practice you can do yoga on your own at home. There are a number of guided yoga classes on the internet to view from your electronic tablet. The Pad Go Round allows you to set up your tablet in any location to follow the yoga poses. Do not wait! Get started now!