Tuning in to others

I hate to sound like a broken record, but I can’t emphasize how important yoga has been to me over the past few years. Not only has yoga helped me manage my multiple sclerosis, it has calmed my mind, nurtured my spirit, brought new and wonderful friends into my life, and made me physically stronger and more flexible. It has also made me more empathetic; I am much more tuned in to other people than I was before I started practicing.

Nowadays I teach a couple of yoga classes each week at the small studio a few miles down the road. Before each class I ask my students whether there’s anything going on in their bodies, any injuries, weaknesses, or tight spots I should be aware of.

Turns out everyone has something. An aching lower back, a tight shoulder, a stiff neck, tense hip joints, a touch of arthritis resulting from a long-ago surgery…. As I listen, I think about what stretches or poses we’ll do to address those problems; yoga has much to offer to those with such ailments. But as I listen I also feel a certain kind of tenderness for my students and fellow yogis: They are so human, and even the strongest of them have weaknesses, vulnerabilities, soft spots.

It’s a great feeling to lead a class and hear students say, after everyone rises from the final resting pose we call savasana, “Wow. I feel so much better.” Some will come up to me to report that one particular posture or stretch really made their hip or their shoulder or back feel better, or that the whole practice had eased their tension and loosened their muscles.

Teaching yoga has helped me get out of my own head and recognize that you don’t need to have multiple sclerosis to have aches and pains. MS or no MS, we’re all in this together. When we muster the ability to sympathize with and help others, we also end up strengthening ourselves.
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Jennifer LaRue Huget, Blogger

Jennifer LaRue Huget was diagnosed with MS in 2001. A freelance writer and children's book author, she lives in Connecticut with her husband, two teenage kids, and two brown dogs. Her website is www.jenniferlaruehuget.com.

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  • Heidi Englund   Sep 5, 2013 11:07 AM
    Thank you for sharing! We have a MS Yoga Group here in Reno Nevada. Our teacher leads us through poses for everything, but helps us focus on balance! That has helped me so much; I can't do without yoga! ~^..^~
  • leanne   Sep 5, 2013 11:19 AM
    While I did not take up yoga I did take up strength training and began working with a personal trainer. He has been great at helping me navigate the crazy first year of my MS diagnosis. So the moral of the story is get out there and get active! It works.
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    Bobo  Sep 5, 2013 11:41 AM
    I've settled on a combination of activities: walking, water exercising, free weights, stretch and balance class, and balance work in the Y gym stretching area. If I don't do something physically active to get my day started, I tend to slog around the rest of the day, feeling more achy and tired. I did try adapted yoga but the getting up and down for floor work was too difficult to manage for me. A friend mentioned going to a chair-based yoga class near where I live and I may try yoga again. Keep moving-cheers!
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    Lindsey  Sep 5, 2013 1:43 PM
    Great article! So true - yoga helps us to connect inside ourselves and with others at the same time. I find that a consistent yoga practice helps me be more compassionate and forgiving with myself and with others. I also found that when I was diagnosed with MS I started to realize that everyone has something - an illness, aches and pains, and other issues that plague them - we all have our own battles and that is why it is so important to have compassion!
  • ilai   Sep 5, 2013 2:51 PM
    Yoga has been valuable in my battle against MS. It has helped with both balance and coordination. Pilates has also been a valuable tool, in addition to long walks and physical therapy on a regular basis. A number of years ago one of my physical therapists told me that her MS patients had taught her that MS is largely a disease of disuse. Basically, use it or lose it. So get out there and use it!
  • Heather   Sep 5, 2013 5:14 PM
    I am new to this - had symptoms going back to the 1990's, but no one connected dots until last year, when had too many falls, wobbly walks, and toilet catastrophies, then got fed up with doctor saying it was just old age!! I am a young 62. Thank you, all those people that blog, all so positive in the face of a flipping awful condition, I read everyone, and love you all. Again, thanks for sharing. Love Heather (NZ)
  • Kay   Sep 5, 2013 6:36 PM
    My battle with ms started in 2002. I feel so lonely I wonder why having something like ms makes everyone run the opposite direction.Does anyone else have that problem?I am still walking barely with the use of a walker,but have heard of people who went from walker to not having to us one.any ideas,would love to hear.
  • Yasemin   Sep 5, 2013 10:48 PM
    I have been hearing about how good yoga is for people with MS, for years now.
    I finally listened. I could not agree more! I was diagnosed at the age of 25, and am currently 47. I have been practicing yoga for less than a year. I love it!
  • LNE   Sep 6, 2013 12:56 AM
    Yoga helped me to discover myself! it s that simple!
    I strongly recommend it for MSers or not.It is possible to realise that you have the strength to be healthier than periode before ms!
  • Lyn   Sep 6, 2013 10:11 AM
    I have been diagnosed with MS For 5 years. My mum also had MS and i watched her for thirteen years steadily deteriorate. Sadly she passed away last year and it greatly affected me. I obviously felt extremely sad but I was also angry because I felt "why me" --- " was I going to go through all the things my mum did" I could no longer do any exercises because I felt there was no point. I also lost control of my healthy eating program because again there was no point. Then early this year I was introduce to a yoga teacher by my sister. She came to my house and we had a chat and, I explain my personal condition. She said she didn't know much about MS but would like to help me. She comes to my house once a week for an hour. She is brilliant. She helps me to achieve the poses that I struggle with because of the MS. The breathing exercises have really helped me to tune into my body. The relaxation at the end is wonderful and makes me feel at piece. I feel so much better in my body and mind. I feel I have taken control of my life again and it's all thank to yoga
  • LAURIE ELISE GARVIN   Sep 6, 2013 11:27 AM
    It is good to keep active in anyway to fight this illness. I am going back to school to earn an associate in journalism and writing a book.
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    alameaow  Sep 17, 2013 10:20 AM
    I thought of doing yoga but I can't hold up to exercise.I stat soooo tried....I am sure not flexible , is this something I might could do?
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    yogadeb  Sep 30, 2013 4:56 PM

    There is a type of yoga called Restorative Yoga. That would probably be a good place for you to start. It's done on the floor and the poses are designed to restore your energy. You use blankets and pillows to help support you, so you aren't having to hold the poses. Then, when you have a little more energy, you could try a chair yoga class. There are some great restorative videos on youtube.