What is Yoga for MS?

Yoga is a path of self-enquiry and in Yoga for MS, we use yoga as a therapy for people living with MS. In our classes, we focus on healing and bringing balance to the body and mind through an experiential understanding.

What it is based on?

Yoga for MS at Taming the Walrus is based on the idea that health equals balance and disease equals unbalance. We want to bring back some balance to feel better. This vision is based on Ayurveda, which is one of the oldest medical systems in the world.

Read more about Ayurveda & MS

Ayurveda is very complex and very detailed. But basically, according to this traditional vision of the world, everything in Nature can be described according to its various properties – light, cold, dry, subtle, rapid, slow etc and thus everything can be categorised. So for instance there are three primary life forces (called doshas), namely vata, pitta and kapha. They can vaguely be translated as Air and Ether, Fire and Earth/Water. These three life forces are also present in our body. If these three forces are balanced, there is health. If there is a strong imbalance between these forces, there is disease. But external factors also are characterised by their primary life force, the elements etc. So our body is influenced by its “natural” characteristics but also by lots of factors such as the food we eat, the season, the time of the day etc. But what about MS? What is really interesting for us in Yoga 4 MS is that diseases also can be categorised according to their nature! And MS is vata! As an anecdote, you might have seen some tests online to determine your dosha. I did a lot of these and always concluded that I am Vata, which is air, movement, light, dry etc. When I went to do my advanced teacher training in India, we learned to check the pulse and my Ayurveda teacher checked mine and told me I am not Vata, I am Pitta, which is Fire but the MS is Vata and it is “taking over” some of my own characteristics. MS indeed creates an excess of vata in the body, and this weakens the nervous system. Vata excess can also lead to joint pains, dry skin, memory loss, insomnia, grief and fear etc. So many other diseases are vata diseases. But the good news is that each yoga posture can also be described according to its impact of the doshas.

Does it matter what postures we do?

All yogic tools, that is postures, breathing techniques, or hand gestures have an impact on our health. The key for us is to use yogic tools in such a way as to reduce symptoms and increase energy and well being. Postures as well as sequences are thus important.

Do I need to be flexible?

Yoga is for any body in two words. It doesn’t matter where you are at, as long as you practise mindfully, without trying to “reach” a certain posture. Yoga is not about reaching, it is about feeling comfortable, at ease in a posture. Even if there are some postures you cannot do, you can maybe do a modification, with props or practise an alternative posture which would have the similar effect. This is really really important. Each person needs to find what feels right for her.

Channel purification

Sit nice and tall. Take some time to feel balanced and still. According to Swami Sivananda, if you practise with your spine bent, it’s like bombarding your spine with a hydraulic jackhammer! So let’s try to avoid that! Place the right hand on your abdomen and your left hand on your chest. Inhale slowly through your nose and feel your abdomen move out against your right hand. The left hand, the one on your chest, should remain as still as possible. As you exhale, the abdomen sinks in. The left hand remains as still as possible. Allow your breath to become deep and smooth and focus your attention on the breath touching the nostrils. Feel the warm touch of exhalation and the cool touch of inhalation. Maintain your posture and keep breathing fully through the belly and release your left hand on your left thigh. Make the Vishnu mudra with your right hand. So the index and middle fingers are curled and touch the base of the thumb. If you practise in the evening, bring the ring finger to close the left nostril. Don’t press too hard! Take three breaths, out and in, through the right nostril. Now bring your right thumb to close the right nostril, and release the ring finger. Take three breaths, out and in through the left nostril; release your right hand on your thigh then take three breaths out and in through both nostrils. These nine breaths complete one round of channel purification. Keep the breaths silent, smooth, and equal in length. Do not hold the breath. If you practise in the morning, start breathing...

Everybody can do yoga

“I’m not flexible enough to do yoga”. This is one of the most common answers I get when asking people if they practise yoga. Indeed, many still believe that to reap the benefits of a yoga practice you need to be able to sit in lotus or with both legs behind your head. That couldn’t be further from the truth!

The Do’s and Don’ts

So you’ve decided to start Yoga to feel better and healthier. Congratulations! That’s the first step and it is in the right direction. In this blog entry, I would like to point out some “Do and Don’ts” to help you stay on the right track.