Outline of a woman in a yoga pose in front of a cloudy sky
November 15, 2012 | Resources | Living with MS

Benefits of yoga for multiple sclerosis

Yoga can provide people with multiple sclerosis (MS) with a boost to their physical and mental well-being, according to a new study presented at the 2012 ECTRIMS meeting (European Committee for Treatment and Research in MS).

Researchers in France assessed people’s quality of life after they’d participated in yoga sessions once a week for 15 weeks (Truschel and colleagues. ECTRIMS 2012; abstract P1049). The 29 participants had some level of disability but didn’t need any mobility devices (e.g. a cane or wheelchair). Everyone completed the program. Overall, people said they felt better physically and mentally, and that yoga improved their vitality and social functioning. A further benefit was less pain, and better physical functioning.

Two previous studies also reported the yoga could be beneficial in people with MS. A U.S. study compared weekly yoga classes (Iyengar) with weekly exercise classes on a stationary bicycle or no regular exercise classes (Oken and colleagues. Neurology 2004;62:2058-2064). People in the two exercise groups said their fatigue improved and they felt they had more energy. However, there didn’t appear to be any benefit with respect to feeling more alert or focused.

A second study compared yoga with sports climbing over 1 10-week period (Velikonja and colleagues. Clin Neurol Neurosurg 2010;112:597-601). Yoga had a modest impact on muscle stiffness and weakness, and some effect on people’s ability to focus. There was no effect on MS fatigue. Sports climbing was most effective in reducing fatigue.

While some people with MS may feel that physical activity will worsen their fatigue or is no longer possible because of mobility problems, these studies indicate that maintaining some form of activity can provide a needed boost. The key to regular activity is to find something you enjoy doing. The idea is to keep moving – not burn yourself out. Even a 20-minute walk once a day can help you maintain muscle strength and keep you mentally and physically tuned up.

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