Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is in the spotlight with presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s wife Ann and Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne’s son Jack among its victims. They and others like them face varying degrees of impact on their movement.
Ruth Rowan has been living with multiple sclerosis for 34 years. At this stage of life, she finds yoga is her favorite medicine.
“You do a lot of stretching and it has kept me mobile. I’ve been coming for two years and I feel without coming here I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing today,” says Rowan.
Scientifically, yoga doesn’t alter the disease itself but it does put balance in the lives of people with MS, quite literally. Researchers found yoga reduced stress and fatigue, problems that disable up to 80 percent of patients.
“MS affects everybody differently. The nice thing about yoga is it can be adapted to each level based on however they’re presenting with the MS,” says Tina Johnson, Lee Memorial Health System exercise specialist.
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that attacks the central nervous system, causing numbness in the limbs, tremors, fatigue and dizziness. Most MS patients require modifications in their exercise. Yoga’s flexibility is one of its strengths.
“There’s a lot of seated poses that we do, and there’s some balancing seated poses that we do. Most of the people in the class I can get them down to the floor, so we do a lot of laying exercises and a lot of seated exercises and I’ll use props to help them get into the correct pose,” says Johnson.
It keeps Rowan motivated and coming back for more.
“In the class you have somebody that’s standing there that can tell you ‘you’re doing it correctly, you’re not.’ to show you the right way of doing it. I get more out of yoga coming to the class,” says Rowan.
About a half million people in this country are living with MS. The boost it gives their quality of life has put yoga on the mat.