Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune inflammatory demyelinating disease of the central nervous system, affecting over 2.3 million people worldwide. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the age of disease onset is typically between 20 and 40 years, with a higher incidence in women.
MS symptoms include fatigue, imbalance, spasticity, chronic pain, cognitive impairment, bladder and bowel dysfunction, visual and speech impairments, depression, sensory disturbance, and impaired mobility.
To date, both the cause of and cure for Multiple Sclerosis remain unknown. In recent years, more individuals with MS have been pursuing alternative treatment methods to manage symptoms of the disease, including mind-body therapies such as yoga, meditation, breathing, and relaxation techniques.
It has been suggested that the practice of yoga may be a safe and effective way of managing symptoms of MS. When dealing with the difficult symptoms of MS, exercise is likely the last thing anyone wants to do, but studies have shown staying active can actually improve symptoms. According to Diana Duda, a physical therapist at Penn State, when you have MS and you regularly exercise, it can improve your fitness, endurance, and strength in your arms and legs. Studies have shown that this can give you better control over your bowel and bladder function and decrease overall fatigue.
Yoga Poses to Practice Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms
Yoga is incredibly adaptive and can be tailored to any physical level. Chair yoga is simply yoga done in a chair or wheelchair, seated or standing, using the chair as a prop for support and stability. The main difference between yoga and chair yoga is that while the traditional yoga postures are done sitting on the floor, lying down, or standing, here we are using the chair or wheelchair as support. Being creative makes yoga accessible for all.
Stand or sit comfortably in a chair or wheelchair. Raise your arms overhead with fingers pointed, extending through the spine and making an effort to keep your shoulders away from your ears. Inhale and exhale here for several breaths.
Cat and Cow Pose
Practice this pose to create space in your spine. You can start on your hands and knees on a yoga mat or pose in a chair. Exhale, and curve your spine upwards towards the sky. On your next inhale, slowly reverse the curve by pulling the shoulder blades together and pushing the tailbone up. Repeat slowly.
You can release tension through the spine, shoulders, and hips with this restorative pose. Place your knees on the floor, then slide your body downwards so your forehead touches the mat. You can modify this by spreading your thighs more expansive, or using a blanket or bolster to support the weight of your head.
Corpse pose (Savasana)
Savasana is a relaxation pose, commonly called the corpse pose, a favorite among members of the MS community. Savasana provides time to relax and rejuvenate the body and mind. It calms the central nervous system, reducing stress and anxiety. Savasana is frequently the final pose in a yoga class.
For a more dynamic flow of poses try a chair yoga sun salute or seated spinal twist.
Note: Do not do any movements or postures that create pain or discomfort. Stop and rest as needed.