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Getting the Most out of Yoga for MS
If you suffer from MS, signing up for a yoga class may seem like a daunting proposition.
But if you have some degree of motion available to you, even if you are confined to a wheel chair, using yoga as therapy for MS can and often does help.
When looking for a yoga class it is important to keep a few things in mind. To begin with, it always helps to find an instructor who is familiar with teaching people with MS. Some yoga studios offer yoga therapy classes for MS, call your local Multiple Sclerosis Society chapter at 1-800-344-4867 to find out about classes or referrals. If you look to work with an individual yoga teacher or yoga therapist, always make sure to ask about the instructor's experience, particularly with teaching yoga as therapy for MS.
MS sufferers whose symptoms are mild and who are able to walk without assistance, may find it useful to try a regular class. Look for a gentle yoga class or yoga class emphasizing restorative yoga. Introduce yourself to the teacher and clarify your needs and limitations up front. If you need a cane or walker, a yoga class for seniors or for those with arthritis/other special needs can be a good substitute for a class specializing in yoga for MS. But again, be sure to explain your situation to the teacher.
Most instructors are happy to help those with MS, and will adapt poses with props to make your experience more comfortable. Many poses can be practiced sitting, or even lying down using chairs and the wall. If the instructor doesn't seem willing to accommodate your needs, move on.
Fatigue and heat intolerance appear to be the most limiting factors to MS students. The practice of yoga over time will improve these issues, but it is important to not bite off too much too soon. Start slowly, and keep your body just shy of sweating. Remember that while yoga for MS sufferers has been shown to produce numerous benefits those, too much heat, stress, and tension can cause temporary worsening of MS symptoms.
It is also of utmost importance to remain self-referral. If the teacher suggests a pose that feels uncomfortable, respect your boundaries and don't push too far. It is better to stop before you feel pain; better safe than sorry.
Always consult with your doctor before starting yoga for MS or, of course, any other exercise program.