Exciting News about Yoga and Multiple Sclerosis

yoga and multiple sclerosis

New and previous research shows that yoga for multiple sclerosis provides a number of important benefits that can improve quality of life. Do you know what those advantages are? Are you ready to try yoga for multiple sclerosis?

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Evidence regarding the benefits of yoga for multiple sclerosis is growing, and a new study from Rutgers School of Health Related Professions is the latest one added to the therapy chest. Here’s what you should know about yoga for MS and how it may improve your life.

The new study explored the advantages of yoga in a group of 14 women (ages 34-64) who were living with moderate disability associated with multiple sclerosis. During an eight-week period, the women participated in a pilot yoga program for multiple sclerosis patients and practiced poses that emphasized posture, relaxation, focus, and stamina. Each session lasted 90 minutes and the women did yoga twice a week.

At the end of the study period, the examiners, under direction of Susan Gould Fogerite, director of research for the Institute for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the School of Health Related Professions, noted the following:

  • Improvement in the women’s ability to walk short distances and in the length of time they could walk
  • Better balance when the women reached backwards
  • Improvement in motor coordination
  • Reduction in pain and fatigue
  • Improvement in the ability to stand up
  • Improvements in bladder control, eyesight, mental concentration, and mental health

In a Rutgers Today article, Fogerite explained that “Yoga is not just exercise, it is a whole system of living.” She also noted that while yoga currently is not prescribed very often for multiple sclerosis patients, “it may turn out to be a very helpful treatment.”

One of the study’s participants, Paula Meltzer, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis nearly 20 years ago, commented on what the program did for her, beyond the camaraderie. “It wasn’t just about gaining more mobility and balance in our legs but our arms and necks felt stronger as well.”

Other studies on yoga and multiple sclerosis
Numerous studies have looked at the potential benefits of yoga on MS. Here are brief summaries of just two of them.

One study involved 60 women who were divided into two groups. One group practiced a variety of yoga methods (raja, hatha, pranayama) over a three month period. All of them did yoga for 90 minutes twice a week. Women in the control group did not do yoga.

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Although all three forms of yoga involve gentle poses and incorporate mind, body, and spirit, there are some differences in their focus. Raja yoga emphasizes meditation and awareness of mind while hatha focuses more on physical poses and pranayama is more about breathing.

At the end of one month and at the end of the study, women in the yoga group reported an improvement in quality of life and pain levels while those in the control group showed no improvements. The authors concluded that yoga techniques can relieve physical pain and improve the quality of life of individuals who have multiple sclerosis.

In another study, yoga proved to be helpful for improving bladder control issues. The 21-day trial included 11 individuals who had had MS for an average of 17 years.

The participants practiced a variety of yogic methods, including loosening poses, alternate nostril breathing, rapid nostril breathing, deep relaxation techniques, and moola bandha (anal lock, or contracting the area between the anus and genitals). Each session lasted 2 hours for 21 days in a row.

At the end of the 21 days, ultrasound scanning showed that the participants had improved significantly in post void residual urine volume (62%), micturition frequency (25%), incontinence (33%), and urogenital distress (26%). The authors concluded that yoga appears to be an effective and safe approach for improving bladder symptoms, along with standard care, in people with multiple sclerosis.

Bottom line
These and other studies have indicated that yoga can offer benefits for people who have MS. Have you tried yoga for multiple sclerosis and if you have, what has been your experience? If you haven't tried it, you may want to consider finding a yoga instructor near you who is familiar with MS.

Also read about multiple sclerosis and exercise guidelines

REFERENCES
Doulatabad SN et al. The effects of pranayama, hatha and raja yoga on physical pain and the quality of life of women with multiple sclerosis. African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2012 Oct 1: 10(1): 49-52
Patil NJ et al. Effect of integrated yoga on neurogenic bladder dysfunction in patients with multiple sclerosis. A prospective observational case series. Complementary Therapies in Medicine 2012 Dec; 20(6): 424-30
Rutgers School of Health Related Professions

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