You've probably heard health experts and celebrities alike extol the virtues of yoga, but did you know it's a good form of exercise for people with MS too?
Living with MS often means living with fatigue, muscle weakness, and lack of coordination. But exercise can combat these things, as well as reduce stress and depression.
Yoga is a type of exercise that combines movement into specific "postures" or positions with deep abdominal breathing. There are numerous types of yoga, which may involve holding postures for a period of time or using fluid movements to transition from posture to posture. The level of difficulty varies depending on which type of yoga you try, but a trained yoga instructor can help you find one that best suits your abilities. You may, however, want to skip the "hot" yoga or Bikram yoga, which is done in a very warm studio, as extreme heat can cause muscle weakness and the worsening of some MS symptoms.
While everyone who does yoga stands to benefit from its ability to increase flexibility and promote strength and relaxation, these gains are particularly important if you have MS. As well, the deep, rhythmic breathing that is a hallmark of yoga is beneficial if you have MS because it aids circulation and respiratory function – something you may not be able to achieve through more vigorous exercise if you have limited movement or mobility.
Aside from all these benefits, yoga is a good choice because it's relaxing and non-competitive, but still challenging. While your ability to hold poses or to manage more challenging postures should improve with practice, benefits can be seen from holding positions for as short a duration as five seconds. Even if you have limited movement and mobility, you can do yoga using props such as a folded towel, cushion or chair. And if you can't make it to a class, you can do yoga at home.
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