Look first for a yoga program with instructors who have experience teaching people with MS. Call your chapter to find out if they offer any classes, but don’t be discouraged if the answer is “Sorry, no.” They may be able to refer you elsewhere. Yoga classes are likely to be offered at Y’s, health clubs, gyms, weight-loss studios, and, of course, in yoga studios.
There is no official accreditation for yoga instructors—which is the subject of much discussion among yoga teachers lately. There are yoga schools now providing the RYT (Registered Yoga Instructor) training. But credentials on the wall are not the only way to tell if an instructor is worthy of your time and money:
- Ask about an instructor’s experience. The Indian names don’t mean nearly as much as the length of time the person has taught. Look for teachers with some experience with people with physical limitations, or an instructor with a medical or physical therapy background.
- If you can walk without assistance, try a regular class, but ask what will be expected and explain your condition. Most yoga teachers are willing to learn about MS and will adapt poses with props such as pillows, or by using a chair, the wall, or the floor. If the instructor doesn’t really listen, this is the wrong place for you.
- If you use a cane or walker, try a class for seniors — providing the idea won’t get you down. Or try any class offered for people with some special needs, such as arthritis. Many yoga stretches and poses can be done sitting down. Again, take the time to explain your MS to the instructor before taking a class.
- Take a class that is close to home so that it is easy to keep in your schedule.
- If no class is close enough, try using video or audio tapes at home. Consider enlisting at least 1 other person to do yoga with you. It helps with both discipline and energy levels. Or maybe your MS support group would like to end the meeting with a yoga tape?
And please bear in mind:
- Although groups are great, beware of peer pressure during class. If something doesn’t feel right, stick up for yourself, and stop. Your mind may be holding your body back, but your body may also be giving you signals to stop, which your mind wants to ignore! So, when in doubt, stop. If you feel pain, STOP! There’s always another day or another possible variation.
- Have realistic goals. Yoga won’t cure you, but it can help you live more comfortably in your own body, knowing that you are helping yourself.
Adapted from an article by Shoosh Crotzer, Exercise and Yoga Therapist from InsideMS, Winter 2001, Vol. 19, Issue 1 and reposted with permission.
YOGA TAPES AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE
Yoga for MS and Related Conditions is a yoga-based exercise program suitable for people with full or limited mobility. 48 minutes. $29.50 plus shipping and handling from Mobility Limited, P O Box 838, Morro Bay, CA 93443-0838. Tel: 1-800-366-6038 or via web at www.mobilityltd.com.
Yoga with Eric Small provides 4 yoga sequences for people with varied physical ability levels. 100 minutes. Available from the Southern California Chapter of the National MS Society, 2440 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Suite 115, Los Angeles, CA 90064. Tel: 1-310-479-4456 or Fax: 310-479-4436.
Contact the National MS Society-Michigan Chapter at 800-344-4867, option 1 for information on yoga, aquatic and other exercise programs in your area.