By Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

Yoga instructors, who have students with MS, can use a wall, counter top, walker, or parallel bars, to assist with balance, and to give their students a physical reference point. Depending on the level of physical ability, a hands-on assist may be required.

Often, the nervous system does not successfully relay all the necessary information to the body. A physical assist helps with coordination and balance. As students progress with yoga postures, nerves are further stimulated, stress is reduced, and symptoms of MS are lessened.

Yoga breathing (pranayama) exercises will reduce stress and enable relaxation. No matter what level of ability yoga students with MS have, they can benefit from the different methods of pranayama.

Some theories, about how MS attacks the nervous system, state that high stress levels may cause further lesions of the nerve insulation (myelin). By preventing and relieving stress with regular yoga practice, MS sufferers may suspend the progression of the disease.

Other benefits that yoga can provide are flexibility and strength. Damaging lesions to the central nervous system are aggravated by muscle atrophy. If nearby muscle tissue, that is otherwise healthy, becomes weak, the disease progresses at a faster rate. Yoga postures strengthen, and increase, muscle tone throughout the body, resulting in a higher degree of immunity and physical integrity.

By stretching the muscles, and holding the poses, the muscles gain strength and release their tension (lessening spasms). Regular yoga practice also improves circulation and improves oxygen absorption in the brain. This means the brain is getting more of what it needs to perform. Increased circulation directly correlates with improved nerve function, body awareness, and overall well being.

Students with MS should consult with their doctor for advice about which level of exercise is appropriate for their particular situation. Remember that breathing, in and of itself, is a physical exercise. Competent yoga instructors must stay informed, current, and be aware, when teaching students who have disabilities.

Teachers should guide students to focus on symmetry and precision while practicing yoga techniques. Students can build strength by holding postures for 30 seconds to a minute, if possible.

The synchronicity of movement and breath are extremely important. Through regular practice, for 15 to 30 minutes minimum, students with MS will see a great improvement in their range of movement and energy levels. Make certain to encourage your students to practice yoga at home.

If you have been diagnosed with MS, find a competent yoga teacher, who has experience with teaching students who have MS. Start making a daily habit of practicing yoga, right now. You have nothing to lose, and quite possibly, everything to gain.

© Copyright 2008 – Paul Jerard / Aura Publications

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