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.

relaxing child pose

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.

Increase Flexibility

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.

Improve Coordination

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.

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