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Two Ways Yoga Can Help Benefit Multiple Sclerosis

03/02/2015 04:35 pm ET | Updated May 02, 2015

March has been proclaimed Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month, spotlighting MS awareness, support and resources.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease of the nervous system that affects different parts of the brain and spinal cord.

In honor of Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month, here are two ways that yoga can help benefit people with MS.

Yoga Can Help Improve Mind and Body

People with MS have a wide range of physical and mental symptoms including problems with gait, balance, strength, anxiety and depression. A 2013 study published in the International Journal of Yoga Therapy found yoga can improve strength, balance, mobility and quality of life in individuals with MS.

Researchers at California State University in Sacramento, California investigated the effect of a four-month yoga program on individuals with MS. Twenty-four MS patients were assigned to a four month Ananda yoga program, including 17 weeks home practice.

Ananda yoga is based on the teachings of yoga master Paramahansa Yogananda, a form of Kriya yoga including yoga postures, breathing and inner awareness.

The participants' physical and mental abilities were assessed including strength, balance, mobility and quality of life.

The researchers found there significant improvements in strength, balance, mobility, mental well being and quality of life

"The results of this exploratory study suggest that yoga can have a positive impact on physical functioning and quality of life for persons with mild to moderate MS," the study authors conclude.

Yoga Can Help MS Fatigue

People with multiple sclerosis (MS) often suffer from extreme fatigue. A study published in Neurology reports yoga can boost energy and improve MS fatigue.

Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, Oregon examined
the effect of yoga and aerobic exercise on fatigue, mood, cognitive function and quality of life in MS patients. They randomly assigned 69 MS patients to three groups including a weekly Iyengar yoga class along with home practice, a weekly exercise class using a stationary bicycle along with home exercise, or a waiting-list control group, for six months.

Iyengar yoga is based on the teachings of yoga master Yogacharya B.K.S.Iyengar, a form of hatha yoga focusing in structural alignment in yoga postures.

The participants' levels of attention, physiologic alertness, mood, anxiety, fatigue, and health-related quality of life were assessed by a battery of cognitive tests, at the beginning and end of the study.

The researchers found that the yoga and stationary bicycle groups had significantly improved fatigue and energy, compared to the control group. However, there were no significant changes in mood or cognitive function in any of the groups. The participants did not experience adverse effects related to yoga or bicycle exercise during the study period.

"Subjects with MS participating in either a six-month yoga class or exercise class showed significant improvement in measures of fatigue compared to a waiting-list control group," the study authors conclude.

To learn more about yoga practices to relieve stress and fatigue as well as restore balance and strength, download a free sample from Elaine Gavalas' book, "THE YOGA MINIBOOK SERIES BALANCE SET: The Yoga Minibook for Stress Relief and The Yoga Minibook for Energy and Strength."
You can buy Elaine Gavalas' books here.

Elaine Gavalas is co-founder of Simply Centered and an exercise physiologist, nutritionist, yoga therapist, weight management specialist, and healthy recipe developer. Visit SimplyCentered.com for more of Elaine's articles, recipes and videos.

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