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How Yoga Can Help Manage Symptoms of MS

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, often progressive autoimmune disease that “short circuits” the central nervous system (CNS) by damaging the sheaths of nerve cells in the brain, optic nerves and spinal cord. Symptoms can include numbness, impairment of muscular coordination and severe fatigue from inflammation, and tissue damage.

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WHAT CA– USES MS

MS is a spectrum disease because of the scarring caused by the attacks at multiple sites in the CNS. It varies in its severity and the pace at which it affects the functioning of individuals. However, the underlying mechanism (damage to the myelin sheath) is always the same. The most common age of onset is 20-30 years old and it affects women almost 3 times as often as men. It primarily affects individuals of northern European ancestry, though the reason is unknown. 

WHAT KIND OF SUPPORT EXISTS FOR MS PATIENTS

According to Dr. Barbara Giesser, Clinical Director of UCLA MS Program, more than 1 million people in the United States are diagnosed with MS, and more than twice that many worldwide. Even so, this debilitating disease takes a huge toll on everyone involved.

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WHAT IS THE TREATMENT FOR MS

Treatment for MS typically includes a combination of disease modifying drugs, rehabilitation and lifestyle. Disease modifying therapies are costly and have significant adverse effects. This is why lifestyle and wellness strategies are critical for individuals with MS. Because diet, exercise and healthy habits improve function, patients with MS have been encouraged to practice yoga to promote strength, endurance, flexibility, well-being, and a sense of calm and harmony. The most widely recognized forms of yoga include yoga asana (postures) and breathing exercises. Doing specific yoga postures can help manage symptoms of MS and improve mobility and quality of life.

WHY PRACTICE YOGA IF YOU HAVE MS

According to a pilot study published in the Journal of MS Care, here are five reasons why you should practice yoga asana if you have MS:

  1. Improves Balance and Gait
    • Consistent yoga practice increases the range of movement and eases pressure at the joints. 
    • Long-term benefits include reduced risk of injury or fall, making it easier to walk, balance and move about in daily life.
  2. Improves Strength and Coordination
    • During yoga practice, practitioners are required to hold a single position for an extended period of time. They must use body weight and strength to move fluidly through poses. 
    • The more an MS patient practices yoga, the more their body can tone and strengthen through the movements. Over time, a regular practice can help to increase muscle mass and lean out the body.
  3. Improves Fatigue
    • Yoga emphasizes focus on the breath, which connects the mind and body, and teaches the student to be present, in the moment. 
    • This calming effect on the mind and the body reduces fatigue. The more focused the mind is during yoga practice, the more present the patient becomes.
  4. Improves Overall Health
    • Yoga can be modified to be a high- or low-intensity form of exercise. 
    • Studies have shown that with a regular yoga practice, students become more mindful about food choices and how they fuel their bodies. This, in turn, lead to an improved overall health.
  5. Controls Inflammation
    • Research has found lower levels of inflammation and significantly decreased levels of cortisol when practicing yoga asana and pranayama (breath regulation).

If you or someone you love is suffering from MS, consider adding yoga to your daily routine. It may have profound effects on your quality of life.

For more information on MS, visit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, a non-profit organization that provides support for individuals with MS.

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WRITTEN BY:

Mimi is a lifestyle coach, consultant and yoga instructor who is passionate about intentionally guiding others along the path of increased self-awareness by practicing yogic principles. Mimi trains yoga instructors in the US, Indonesia, Rishikesh, Italy, France and the British Virgin Islands. As a visiting teacher at Rishikesh Yogpeeth, Rishikesh Yog Sansthan, Adhiroha, YogaMea and Co.Inspire, she helped develop and enhance the yoga teacher training curriculum for their 200-, 300-, and 500-hour courses. Her love of yoga is only eclipsed by her love of exploring diverse cultures and of traveling. These attributes inspired her to create destination teacher training courses in 2016, which is when she co-founded Swadhyaya Yoga School (SYS). Mimi is trained in Ayurveda and holds two doctorates in Naturology, a natural healing discipline. They are a D.N. and Ph.D., from the American Institute of Holistic Theology, in Birmingham, in Alabama. She studied various other biological sciences at Yale University, Baylor College of Medicine, and New Mexico State University before rising to her role as a yoga practitioner and teacher. Mimi hosts the podcast “SHIfT HAPPENS on the Path of Yoga.” SYS is a Registered Yoga School with Yoga Alliance, which designates our teacher training programs as one which follows the Yoga Alliance’s standards. Complete a verified training with SYS and become eligible to register with YA as a Registered Yoga Teacher at various levels. SYS has partnered with Well Daily to bring our exclusive courses to Bali, Indonesia, offering non-certified and certified 200-, 300- and 500-hour yoga teacher trainings, Elevate your personal practice and becoming an effective teacher of others. Our robust curriculum provides a strong foundation on the path of yoga, and instruction for developing your yoga brand into a thriving, successful business.

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