Yoga and Pilates focus on strength and flexibility to improve physical and mental wellbeing. Many people with MS use yoga and Pilates to help manage MS symptoms and relieve stress. Regular practice can make everyday activities easier by improving balance, core strength and flexibility. Breathing and meditation techniques in yoga can also be tools to help manage the emotional challenges of living with MS.
We took a closer look at yoga and Pilates in Russia, Greece, India and Japan.
Yoga and MS in Russia
For over two years, the Russian MS Society has offered specialised yoga classes to people living with MS in Moscow. These classes are part of the ‘Life Sparkle’ project initiated by Yoga Practika and the Moscow MS Society.
The yoga project is designed specifically to support people living with MS. The classes are led by specially trained coaches in an accessible and friendly environment. Unlike many ordinary gyms, specialist equipment is provided to support people with physical disabilities. Propping devices are available to help people with MS practise the poses. The project also creates training aids for participants to practise yoga exercises at home.
Garth McLean is a renowned yoga teacher. McLean – who has MS himself – is particularly interested in teaching yoga to help people manage their MS symptoms. Garth McLean told us why he thinks ‘Life Sparkle’ is an important project.
‘Wonderful changes have happened so far. Following these two and a half years, both students and teachers “grew up” and learnt to carefully listen to each other. Regular classes help students do things that seemed impossible just a short while ago. This makes one have a subtle miraculous feeling.’
Students at ‘Life Sparkle’ have reported improvements in their body functions and mood. They shared some of their experiences with us.
‘I’ve begun to feel much more confident, cheerful and less anxious. My movements have improved, all this was difficult for me earlier. The programme lets people feel part of the society and get hope for the future.’
Evgenia Israelian, Student
‘After classes, the mood rises many times, there is a feeling of soaring, and I carry home a huge charge of positive energy.’
Elena L, Student
‘After practising yoga I went to a concert hall. When I clapped my hands, I caught myself being able to open my left palm to clap.’
Tatyana Maltseva, Student
Through regular practice yoga poses that seem unattainable become possible. Performing regular asanas (yoga poses) forces the brain to connect to different parts of the body. For many people with MS, this can play an important role in improving quality of life.
The Greek MS Society does Pilates
George Georgiadis, teaches a Pilates session at the Greek MS Society every week. George makes sure that all his classes are accessible by creating adaptable routines that can be practised whilst seated or lying down. We asked George why he thinks people with MS should give yoga and Pilates a go. Here is what he said.
World MS Day Yoga with the MS Society of India
The Hyderabad Chapter of the MS Society of India organised a three-month series of Therapeutic Yoga workshops for people with MS last year. The programme was launched on World MS Day in partnership with Yogavahini, one of India’s leading yoga institutes.
The series included group sessions and individual classes tailored to the needs of people with MS. Group sessions were attended by more than 20 MS persons along with caretakers and all the yoga instructors. The one-to-one yoga therapy helped individuals manage their unique MS symptoms.
Participants reported improved sleep quality, bladder control and a better ability to complete everyday activities.
Watch this video to find out more!
Body gentle yoga in Japan
The Tokyo Branch of the National Multiple Sclerosis Friends’ Association in Japan holds a monthly ‘body gentle yoga’ session. The session has been specifically design for people with MS and neuromyelitis optica (NMO). They can choose to carry out the exercises by sitting or lying down.
The aim of body gentle yoga is to improve circulation and reduce fatigue, through a combined focus on gentle stretching an breathing.
The body gentle yoga session ends with everyone who took part coming together to meet, relax and drink herbal tea.
Are you ready to give Yoga and Pilates a try?