One of the biggest issues faced by Multiple Sclerosis sufferers is limited mobility, which, in turn, raises the question: how does one exercise with limited mobility? Balance, endurance, strength and overheating have long plagued MS patients, restricting the ability to maintain the physical fitness strived for in a healthy lifestyle. How can an MS patient get the physical activity needed to stay in shape while still respecting the limitations of the disease? The answer, according to some, is yoga.
Yoga is a "mind-body practice in complementary and alternative medicine with origins in ancient Indian philosophy," according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine . "Yoga is used for a variety of conditions and to achieve fitness and relaxation."
The MyMS Yoga program was developed by yoga teacher Baron Baptiste and Dr. Elliot Frohman, a leading MS expert, in order to "make the many benefits of yoga available to people with MS," said Baptiste. "Yoga is designed to be accessible to almost anyone," Baptiste said. "Especially for patients with MS with varying levels of yoga experience and day-to-day challenges." Baptiste also noted that the poses in the MyMS Yoga DVD were specifically designed to offer both "intellectual and physical exercise" for MS patients.
A 2004 study published by the American Academy of Neurology confirmed these thoughts, concluding that subjects with MS participating in yoga or exercise class "showed significant improvement in measures of fatigue." However, the study also reported that "there was no relative improvement of cognitive function."
Kendall Freeman, an MS patient who appears on the MyMS Yoga Instructional DVD, said that the yoga program helps MS sufferers find ways to manipulate a standard yoga program to gain the same benefits. "It helps you with the core workout that you otherwise may not get," she said. Freeman added that this yoga program has helped her with "leg strength, arm strength and balance." Dr. Vince Macaluso, a neurologist and MS patient himself, saw similar results. "Yoga helps you find your ‘center' and become more aware of every part of your body - you start to find out where your toes are and what they're doing," he said. Macaluso and Freeman both noted help with walking, balance, postural control and transferring weight in order to avoid falling. Baptiste added that "patients can refine their skills using yoga."
Baptiste, in leading the yoga seminars featured on the DVD, stressed that each individual can take things at his or her own pace, with respect to limitations. "Patients are able to start where they feel comfortable," he said. The MyMS Yoga program primarily focuses on assisting patients with the actual movements of yoga through the use of aids, albeit a belt, a chair, a rope, or a stack of towels. Freeman, specifically, said that she has issues with vertigo, wherein she used the assistance of a chair to help with some poses. She also said that, unlike many other forms of exercise, yoga does not cause her to overheat the way other aerobic exercises may, a problem for many with MS.
As Baptiste, Freeman and Macaluso all noted, the program gave them an opportunity to feel empowered; as Macaluso said, "I gained so much insight into inner peace and quiet, and it allowed me to release all of the tensions that can build up - it added to my well-being." He continued, "Using something like yoga helps to alleviate some of the negativity, and possibly restore some of your energy and liberate the mind from something you may not want to focus on."
It should be stated, though, that yoga itself is not a cure for MS; rather it is a "complement" to treating MS. Macaluso, for example, said that he takes Tysabri to treat his MS where yoga comes into play to treat the "body and mind interface." Freeman, also a Tysabri user, said yoga was her means of controlling her MS and not letting her MS control her.
Baron Baptiste will be teaching MyMS Yoga classes in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Chicago and Boston this spring. Patients can go to MyMSYoga.com to get more information on the program and sign up for a class. Users can also order a free DVD and practice MyMS Yoga at home via the MyMSYoga.com website.
Full Disclosure: MyMS Yoga provided HealthCentral with a copy of the upcoming DVD for review.
Published On: March 11, 2010