MS YOGA: Is it stretching the Truth?

When you hear someone refer to themselves as a “Yogi” or say they practice yoga, a certain somebody comes to mind. Yoga is a lifestyle for many, as many people practice for different reasons. When you hear of a disabled person doing yoga, one may say wait…what?

Disabilities don’t define what we cannot do; it heightens the senses to what needs to be done to reach the best of our ability. When we know what we may not be adjust going to routine therapy sessions. There are many different types of yoga, we are curious to see what “MS Yoga” is all about.

Multiple Sclerosis is a progressive disease that takes place when your immune system attacks the protective myelin sheath that covers and protects your nerves. When the myelin sheath is eaten away by the body’s immune system it interrupts communication between the brain, spinal cord, and various other parts of the body.

The symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis can be mild to severe, as they vary from person to person. Although Multiple Sclerosis has no cure yet, there are ways to manage symptoms and manage the progression of the disease. Yoga is one of those activities that some would argue have helped them with their symptoms.

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Alexander Dera has been living with MS for 31 years. Alex swears by the practice stating that it “Aides in the relaxation of my mind and body, giving ease to my tired system.” The immune system is weakened by stress, causing more frequent “attacks” of the disease. Alex claims breathing and stretching are responsible for his high functioning lifestyle despite his prognosis. “For 18 years, I had given myself a death sentence. I know we all die, but when you live your life day to day, not knowing if you’re going to be able to function tomorrow…I decided I would try anything, yoga being my last choice as I am a guy that likes football, basketball and other manly sports. Boy was I wrong! Real men do yoga.”

The benefits of yoga may vary from person to person based on their symptoms, but the overall benefits are worth a try.

The physical benefits of yoga include:

  • Improved muscle tone
  • Improved balance
  • Reduced muscle spasms
  • Improves respiration, energy and vitality
  • Helps maintain metabolism
  • Promotes cardio and circulatory health
  • Relieves pain

Mental Benefits of Yoga:

  • Builds awareness of your body, feelings, and state of your MS
  • Helps relax and handle stressful situations more clearly
  • Teaches how to quiet the mind so you can focus energy where you want it to go
  • Encourages positive thoughts and self acceptance

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The Spiritual Benefits of Yoga:

  • Builds compassion and understanding of the world around you
  • Enhances the awareness of the needs of others
  • Teaches you to look at how you manage your illness with self awareness, self-compassion, and non attachment.

Some of the symptoms of MS are numbness of the arms and legs, muscle spasms, and loss of coordination. Because, practicing yoga emphasizes the stretching of the muscle and breathing, the muscles lengthen which can release tension, improve circulation, and improve body awareness. Yoga also increases balance and flexibility. Many of the different yoga poses increase the range of motion in joints, work muscles and improve tone.

Along with the many health benefits that are possible with yoga, we don’t want to forget the friendships. Yoga class, especially those that focus on a certain population is a place to go where you can “let go”. All of the energy in the room is focusing on healing, inside and out. Yoga is good for breathing through the thoughts, fears, and anxiety of tomorrow while stretching, pushing, and holding onto the strength that is within. Yoga is for everyone, even those of us with a disability.

Namaste (Namameans bow, as means I, and te means you. Therefore, namaste literally means “bow me you” or “I bow to you.”)

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Kristin E. Smith
About Kristin E. Smith 1 Article

Kristin E. Smith is Co-Founder and Creative Director at Disabled Magazine. Kristin started the magazine with her partner in order to provide a safe forum for individuals living with unique life challenges. Kristin currently lives in Morrison, IL where she studies Occupational Therapy. Kristin will begin practicing as an Occupational Therapy Assistant in September, 2014.