Yoga for Multiple Sclerosis
Written by Dr. Minakshi Welukar.
Yoga is a great complementary treatment for those suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS), a chronic disabling illness that lowers the quality of life. The stretching and breathing effects of yoga can improve the body's ability to manage the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
Understanding Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis is a chronic neurological disease affecting the central nervous system. The disease affects the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves resulting in mild numbness to severe paralysis and loss of vision. Symptoms can vary from person to person or even day to day. Fatigue, loss of coordination, and inability to concentrate are the characteristic features of MS. People can also experience thinking problems, constipation, digestive problems, weakness, numbness, tingling, and loss of balance.
Restorative Yoga for Multiple Sclerosis
Restorative yoga, a form of yoga with a peculiar focus on gentle and restful poses, heals the body and mind as well. Such yoga poses are suitable for MS patients to achieve physical, mental and emotional well-being. Easy to conduct postures bring complete relaxation within the body, eliminating stress and relieving fatigue. Viprita Karani (Leg up the wall pose) and Paschimottansana (Seated forward bend) are good restorative poses recommended for MS.
Benefits of Yoga in Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis has an adverse impact on strength, balance and coordination of the body. A combination of stretches, twists, postures and conscious awareness is a good solution to staying active with MS.
Restorative yoga poses brings complete relaxation within the body and a feeling of freshness. American Yoga Association mentioned that gentle stretching of large muscles of legs, arm and back increases flexibility, reduces the incidence of muscle spasms, and improves circulation. Building of muscular strength increases body stamina. Releasing tension from muscles makes your body feel more energized and tonic.
Enhance Mental Clarity
Meditation techniques of yoga create body awareness, build inner strength, enhance mood, and reduce disease-related stress. On the other hand, breathing exercises help to focus the body on the mind, improve concentration and willpower. Together meditation and breathing help to improve mental clarity, build confidence and enhance the quality of life of MS patients.
Deal with Fatigue
MS-related fatigue is the most common and difficult to control. However, a study conducted at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) proved that six-months of yoga practice significantly reduces MS-related fatigue.
Increased flexibility, muscle strength and mental clarity improve coordination in body movements. Yoga cools down the body and calms the nervous system. An increased range of motion in joints and enhanced muscle tone with emphasis on alignment can benefit posture and balance in MS patients.
Cautions with Yoga Poses
Unpredictable course and variation in symptoms of MS make it important to follow certain precautions with asanas.
- Be sure to speak to your doctor about your yoga program.
- Get training from a trained instructor who has experience teaching people with MS.
- Explain your physical condition to your trainer, so that you can get individualized attention.
- Get clear understanding of yoga poses and how they can help your overall health.
- Your poses must be individualized and adaptable to your body.
- If you don't feel right while performing asanas, stop. Don't exert your body unnecessarily.
- Address your individual need and proceed at your own pace depending on symptom severity.
- Keep in mind that yoga is not ultimate cure for multiple sclerosis but definitely a good solution to improve the quality of life with MS.
- Read more of Dr. Minakshi Welukar.
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