I have been working with a student who has recently discovered he has Multiple Sclerosis, still in the early stages. Multiple Sclerosis is a degenerative disease with symptoms of lesions on the brain and in the cervical spine, that causes the individual to experience loss of feeling - a tingling and numbing sensation, in the arms, legs, torso and eventually the face and head. It can affect balance, even walking and cycling skills can become increasingly difficult.
How can people with MS help themselves and put these symptoms into remission, through yoga?
Lyenger yoga is one of the most beneficial types of yoga for people with MS, because it involves lots of props and pose adaptions, making seemingly inaccessible yoga poses accessible. I used the theory and understanding behind lyenger yoga and wove it into a gentle, restorative Vinyasa flow, to create my class plan.
Here are 5 yoga poses and series that I taught, that have been extremely successful and beneficial to my student with helping to empower, support, build strength and increase balance:
1) Bridge arm flows
Gentle back bends are crucial for people who suffer with MS, since the spine is the area negatively affected and needs to be nourished daily in order to keep it as healthy as possible. Gently warm up the spine by raising the hips from the floor, while extending the arms behind the head. Repeat 5-10 times, feeling for a light stretch in the lumbar and thoracic spine.
2) Shoulder Stand (Salamba Sarvangasana)
Inversions are extremely important for the health of the brain and to balance the immune system, provided there are no contraindications. If a shoulder stand is too much for your student, use a chair as a prop. Have the chair facing you, hold on to the chair legs and lean your hips on to the chair seat. Let your legs lie up the back of the chair, above your head. Hold for up to a minute.
3) Legs up the Wall
Don't underestimate this simple but incredibly effective yoga pose! This is great for relieving pain, aches, numbness and stiffness in the legs. Raise the legs above the head against a wall, lie back on a pillow and let the arms open out to the sides. Rest here for 5-10 minutes, watching the breath.
4) Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Shvanasana)
This pose nourishes the spinal cord and the brain, while relieving tightness, pain and stiffness in the legs. If your student finds this pose too challenging to balance in or strength-wise, use your props! A wall is a great prop, so place the hands on the wall and take a large step back, press the hands into the wall and send the hips to the back of the room. Breathe deeply into the upper back, and look towards the floor. Let your neck, face and eyes relax.
5) Reclining Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)
This pose is really restorative and a great way to open the upper back and tight outer hips and calm down symptoms of MS that have accumulated throughout the day. Lower your back torso toward the floor, and with your hands grip the top of your thighs and rotate your inner thighs externally, pressing your outer thighs away from the sides of your torso. Let your arms relax out to the sides, and hands face palm up.