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Feeling better with yoga

Feeling better with yoga

Living with MS can drain me physically, mentally, and emotionally. I, like everyone dealing with MS at some point, will be running on empty more times than not. I got to a point in my life where I didn’t want that to be my life. I was at the point where I had now become limited in my capacity to do a lot of the things that I could previously do. I knew, as my age was about to roll over to 40 that I wanted to figure out a way to feel good inside my body.  I wasn’t kidding myself. I knew I wasn’t going to get back to the level that I was at 10 or even 5 years prior to my diagnosis.  Gone were the days of me spending 5 hours in the hot summer sun, playing 18 holes of golf with ease, but I wanted to get to a point where I felt good in my body. I just had no idea what that meant. This was a body I thought I knew well. Yet I now I struggled to understand what my body needed. How far could I push it? What were my limits? How do I reconcile my new body with the old? I couldn’t answer those questions. I was stuck.

I knew I had to do something to satisfy not only my physical needs but also my mental needs. I felt that if I could find out what that was, I could feel better about myself emotionally. What could I do?

I knew I wanted to do something that I enjoyed. Sure, I would do my physiotherapy stretching exercises, but that was done out of necessity and was hardly fun for me. I couldn’t play those 18 holes that I loved doing before. Nor could I go for a jog around the park. Heck, I could hardly walk 20 metres to the lane to take out the garbage. That was the scary thing. In my head I was still that guy who wanted to still play golf, run a marathon, hike a 20 km trail or play football in the park, but my body told me otherwise. I needed to find something new to scratch that itch.

Trying something new

I'd tried yoga in the past and I did really enjoy it, but I wasn’t sure it would give me the challenge and give me the competitiveness that I craved. Furthermore, my body was incredibly stiff from spasticity.  My mobility was highly impaired and my balance had declined to be similar to that of a newborn deer on ice. I couldn’t really see how I could stand in Warrior or Tree pose without falling over and hurting myself. I sought help from loved ones who were avid practitioners of yoga to figure out what I could do. I was told I could modify any pose to align with my physical capacities.  

I decided to give it a try. I rolled out my yoga mat and sat at the end of it with my legs crossed. I could feel a nice stretch in the hips and pelvic region, as I rolled my hips back and forth. It felt really good! I was able to modify the poses I was going to do by just lying or sitting on my mat. I had only four poses in my flow that I thought I could do, but I wanted to start small and not overwhelm my body. I did the first pose, which led into my second, third, and finally the fourth and last pose. During a couple of poses, it brought me to tears. They weren’t tears of sadness. They were tears I had never felt before. I came to understand that it was my body releasing all the tension and emotions that had built up over the years, especially since my diagnosis.  It felt fantastic!

That night, when I went to bed, I felt the best I had in years. I usually was one who struggled with sleep. My legs would ache, spasm, and give me a general uncomfortable feeling that drove me crazy. Those feelings were still present, but the intensity was less. I could actually find a comfortable spot long enough for me to fall asleep. The next morning, I felt like I slept really well and my body felt rested. Once I got out of bed, I did feel a bit stiff, but it was a good stiff. Not the normal MS stiffness I usually felt. It was that stiffness you got after a workout or pushing your muscles. Even though it was hardly lifting weights, my body seemed to react positively to it. It was a feeling I loved and I felt it was important to carry on with yoga to see where I could go with it.

From that day forward, I have been practising yoga at least 4 to 5 times a week. I have increased my flow to around 20 to 30 minutes per session. Yoga hasn’t made me get back on the golf course or run that marathon, but the results have made me feel somewhat like my old self. I’ve come to realize that when I was diagnosed with MS, most people would tell me to take it easy and not push myself, but I see now that the human body wants and can be pushed. The line where that limit is has moved from where it was before, but I find there is nothing wrong with trying to find that new line. I know I just have to be smarter when I get there.

Some days it is tough to know if any of this is actually doing anything, but all I know is where I am now, and I feel better doing it. The most important thing is finding what you love and pushing your body a bit. You have to know your limits, but any little thing you can do to get your body moving in any way will help with your overall health, multiple sclerosis or not. I sometimes felt that MS meant I couldn’t do the things I loved to do. I just needed to find something new to love.  

Yoga was it.

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About the author


40, Canada, Primary Progressive diagnosed 2016.