Yoga for Multiple Sclerosis

Vicki Health Guide
  • Today I am going to talk about stretching, especially in yoga. Everyone benefits from stretching, including animals. Watch a newly awakened cat go through his stretching ritual. Single postures, or a group of postures performed in a flowing movement, give us the same benefits the cat's stretch gives him.

    I am still not a yoga expert, but I have felt the benefit from yoga stretching for a long time. One posture may stretch legs, sometimes one side at a time. Then another posture stretches the arms. Feet can be stretched flat, straight out or even with curled toes. Hands can be straight or with fingers spread. It is important to stretch and flex each finger. Also stretched are the back and neck. Hardly any part of the body misses the chance to be stretched.

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    If you cannot do it today, try it again tomorrow. Each time, try to stretch an extra distance, even just a little. You should feel the stretch and the benefits.

    Learning to stretch through yoga, along with yoga breathing, helps increase flexibility, regain strength and aerobic capacity.

    When I sought out a yoga teacher recently, I thought it was important to find a teacher who knows, not only yoga, but yoga for MS; a teacher with that knowledge can help with particular problems while also ensuring no new difficulties.

    Stretching without Postures
    When MS is added, some stretching postures may no longer be possible. Stretching is still beneficial, however. There are times when MS has progressed beyond the ability to stand or sit. Performing the postures either one at a time or in a flowing routine may not be possible. It may also be only temporary because of a relapse or attack. One of the benefits of yoga is that breathing and stretches can be practiced even without postures.

    As always, do not strain. This is not the time to follow that old mantra "no pain - no gain." When we stretch, we release tensions, and we feel better. Stretching on a regular basis allows us to be aware of our bodies. Stretching and exercising muscles also helps keep them from atrophy.

    Steve Ross and Maha Yoga

    I remember a few years ago when I watched
    a daily yoga program on TV called Inhale. Now that was 5 AM at my house, and I was not yet up and about, but I did enjoy and take advantage of the program. I was sorry when that program went off the air because it added regular timing to my routine.

    Steve Ross, the host, was at one time a rock-and-roll guitarist. He says those were the days of his long hair. Unlike some other yoga shows, the music involved in Inhale had a bit more of a beat to it. As a result, many of the students added the feeling of dance to their postures. Many people did not like that, but I did.

    In the thousands of years yoga was being developed, there have been many different schools. Steve Ross taught Maha Yoga. As I listened to the music and Steve's comforting voice, I practiced stretches that actually had nothing to do with his postures. It was a very nice way to start the day. Often I went back to sleep until it was a reasonable waking time.

    Namaste. This is often the beginning and ending of a yoga session, acknowledging one soul from another. It generally means "bow to you." So now I say, "Namaste."

    NOTE: This is part of a series by Vicki Bridges on Yoga and MS.  For the other parts of the series, please check out Sit and Stay Fit with Yoga and Yoga and Breathing for MS.

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    Yoga Heals Us

    Steve Ross

Published On: April 21, 2010