Yoga - National Multiple Sclerosis Society

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Welcome to the Yoga Jungle

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In this article

Overview

Yoga can be beneficial to people with MS as long as they find the appropriate class, teacher or video. More and more MS experts note that yoga, with its emphasis on relaxation, breathing, stretching and deliberate movements, is a good choice of exercise. How can someone with MS find the right type of yoga, the right class, and the inspiration to try it?

Different yoga styles

Some programs emphasize detail of alignment by holding poses (such as Iyengar); others run positions together in sequences (Flow and Ashtanga for examples). Some are meant to be aerobic; others stress meditation. A teacher of one mode may not say that there are other kinds of yoga that might be more suited to your needs.

You'll have to learn to ask questions.

All styles have qualities in common

  • They use poses and breathing techniques to focus the mind on the body (“union”)
  • They are individualized, non-competitive and adaptable
  • They emphasize alignment, which benefits posture and balance
  • They educate about where muscles are and how to strengthen and stretch them
  • They release tension so the body feels more energized
  • They teach relaxation techniques to reduce stress

Yoga for MS? Yes, give it a try! But, as with any exercise program, check with your physician first.

To get the most out of a yoga class

  • Look for an instructor who has experience teaching people with MS. Contact an MS Navigator® about classes or referrals (1-800-344-4867).
  • Ask about an instructor's experience. The teacher should have at least 10 years of experience unless the teacher also has a medical or physical therapy background.
  • Before joining a class, explain your condition to your instructor.
  • If you can walk without assistance, try a regular class. Yoga classes are often offered at YMCAs and YWCAs, gyms, and yoga studios. Most instructors are willing to learn about MS and will adapt poses to assist balance. 
  • If you use a cane or walker, try a class for seniors or people with special needs. Many yoga stretches and poses can be done sitting down.
  • Pick a class close to home that's convenient. 
  • If no class is close enough, try videos at home. Ask someone to do yoga with you.
  • Although groups are great, beware of peer pressure. If something doesn't feel right, stop. Sometimes your mind may be holding your body back. But your body may also be giving you signals to stop. When in doubt, stop. If you feel pain, stop.
  • Have realistic goals. Yoga won’t cure MS. But it can help you live more comfortably.

Finding a qualified yoga instructor

As there are currently no recognized standards for the use of the term “yoga therapist” we encourage you to do some research before selecting a practitioner. When contacting professionals who describe themselves as yoga therapists, inquire about what they do, including special skills or areas of expertise. Request information on their experience, training and education.

International Association of Yoga Therapists
P.O. Box 12890
Prescott, AZ 86304
Website: iayt.org/site_Vx2/profile/search.aspx
Provides an online search tool to locate yoga therapists throughout the world. Search from over 3,000 listings by location, yoga style or therapist name.

Yoga Alliance
1701 Clarendon Boulevard, Suite 110
Arlington, VA 22209
Website:  yogaalliance.org
Provides an online search tool to locate Registered Yoga Teachers (RYTs) and Experienced Registered Yoga Teachers (E-RYTs). Search from over 32,000 listings by location, yoga style or therapist name. Learn more about the benefits of yoga, the variety of yoga styles and how to select a yoga teacher.

Yoga Finder Worldwide
Website: yogafinder.com/yogasearch.cfm
Provides an online search tool to locate yoga classes throughout the world.

Resources

VIDEOS/DVDs

YOGA for MS: Pathways Exercise Video for People with Limited Mobility
This yoga-based exercise program is suitable for people with full or limited mobility. (But you must be able to get up and down from the floor to a chair.) 48 minutes.

YOGA for Arthritis and Related Conditions
This video has been used widely by thousands of people with MS. It shows five people, one of whom has MS, with varying levels of ability doing poses at different levels. It is also appropriate for those in wheelchairs. 52 minutes.

Both videos are by Shoosh Lettick Crotzer. To order, visit Mobility Limited or call 800-366-6038 for further information.

BOOKS

Yoga and Multiple Sclerosis: A Journey to Health and Healing by Eric Small and Dr. Loren Fishman. This book provides descriptions of adapted poses. To order, visit Demos Health Publishing or call 800-532-8663.

This webpage was written by Shoosh Lettick Crotzer. Ms. Crotzer has been teaching yoga since 1974 and has developed a specialty working with students who have special needs. She has a Masters’ Degree in Diagnostic Education that provides her with the experience of working with people with disabilities that she uses in her teaching. To learn more about Ms. Crotzer, please visit mobilityltd.com.

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