Yin poses for Multiple Sclerosis

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Yin poses for Multiple Sclerosis

Post by Judith »

Can anyone advise me on what the best Yin poses would be for someone with Multiple Sclerosis?
I have a student with MS who would like a 60 minute practice to increase physical strength, muscle weakness, balance and mood (stress).
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Post by Lisa »

Hi Judith.
Great question!
I also have a student with MS and would love some suggestions on helpful poses and sequences.

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Location: Vancouver

Yoga and multiple sclerosis

Post by Bernie »

Probably the pre-eminent authority on yoga and multiple sclerosis is Eric Small. He wrote a book along with the equally eminent Dr. Loren Fishman in 2007 called Yoga and Multiple Sclerosis: A Journey to Health and Healing. Here are a few quotes of interest:
  • "It is impossible to say whether yoga directly addresses MS's pathogenic factors or the process of the illness. Yet there are many examples and some valid studies demonstrating that yoga can be of salutary benefit in each type of MS. It appears that the practice of yoga sets up an antagonistic process that is often more powerful than the degenerative effects of the disease."
  • "Yoga is valuable to people with MS for three reasons. First, the practice of yoga reduces functional deficits. Second, it increases self-reliance and fosters independence and can be carried out independently. And third, it is one of the principal aims, in fact the principle aim of yoga, to steady and quiet the mind."
The best thing I can do is recommend you visit Eric Small’s own web site and learn from the master! Specifically, check out this article. I know that Eric recommends that students NOT twist their necks while in any posture to avoid potential further damage to the nerves - he recommends keeping the nose pointing in the same direction as the chest. When lying on the floor, make sure the head and spine feel supported. He also suggests avoid any excessive heat in the student or the room: he likes the temperature to be about 67 degrees.

Your question is about Yin Yoga and MS, however - what can we do in our Yin practice to help? Well, first - we are not going to build muscular strength or coordination, but we can enhance the flow of energy. Psychological stress plays a big role in the severity of MS symptoms, thus breath work can be an important tool to use (see my article on Ocean Breathing.) We can also assist our organs in becoming healthier by focusing on the Kidney meridians: the Kidneys are the Royal Seat and from them all organs are nourished. You may want to check out the Kidney flows to see if they help (with suitable modifications and use of props to make sure these postures are available for your student.)

I would reduce the hold times to perhaps a maximum of 3 minutes. Teach your student how to monitor his own progress, sensations and tension - help him learn what works and what doesn't, so he can guide you as much as you are guiding him.

Finally, I assume that you are not a doctor: make sure your student's health care team is onside with your plan and believe it is okay.

Good luck. Please let us know how it goes.
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