Yoga and Multiple Sclerosis

Álvaro Pedrana (Sannyasi Antardhyana), Uruguay

It is always very stimulating to see the progress of people who practise this noble discipline of yoga. Most of them come of their own initiative and others because of a medical prescription.

In some people, there is a combination of the two options, they suffer from some illness and have the option to practise yoga as a way to face a new style of life. This is the case for those diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The possibility of associating with persons who have multiple sclerosis gives them the opportunity to know what yoga is and how it can help.

This association is called EMUR (Esclerosis Multiple Uruguay) and is functioning on the 7th floor of ’Torre de los Profesionales’ (Tower of Professionals). In that place, there is a professional support group for those diagnosed with MS. In the ‘Hospital de Clínicas’ (Hospital of Clinics) is a special area dedicated to research and treatment of this illness. MS is a neurological illness whose cause is not known yet. It is inflammatory, delineating, neurodegenerative of chronic development, and probably degenerative affecting the nervous system. The effects and symptoms are different in each person. The most frequent ones are: optical neuritis, double and blurred vision, sensory motor disorders, loss of balance, loss of coordination and concentration, difficulties in controlling sphincter muscles, and fatigue. Those symptoms come in the form of thrusts or bouts, and remissions. In relation to yoga, the group I am teaching is regular and constant in their practices. They have a special tenacity and interest to know more and they practise every day what they have learned. We can see their enthusiasm by the questions they ask, we can see that they practise during the week, something that is essential. Therefore, I ask them to tell me how yoga contributes to their daily lives. Here are some of the concepts they share.

Testimonies

Everybody, with no exception, mentioned in the first place the benefits of pranayama to face situations such as: physical pain, a medical test like a tomography, an exam at university, changes in blood pressure, overcoming distress, and resting properly. No doubt, to know how to breathe and how to apply that knowledge when it is needed, is one of the keys for one’s welfare and good management of situations.

The physical exercises, even if they seem simple and boring, are very important because, combined with the appropriate breathing, give you a good relaxation. They lead you to find inner peace and from there you advance to self-knowledge. It leads you in a subtle and sustained way to change the vision of how to live your life. You start to respect yourself.

You recognize the needs, not only physical or material. The best is that you start doing what you have to do. The combination of practices can have many benefits, even the possibility to glimpse situations anticipating certain events. Although, at first that can be disconcerting, or totally new, it is possible to learn how to overcome difficult situations, taking some precautions and correcting behaviours.

Through meditation you see the bond strengthen with yourself and with others, a new relationship with yourself and with others arises. The practice of the suggested mantras or the participation in havan, help you to get calmer and give you a certain internal openness. A state of ’peace and happiness’ arises, without knowing why.

Even if you live with significant limitations, and you must practise in a wheelchair, you can make great achievements with simple practices. You come to understand that life is not limited to this vehicle, the physical body, which sometimes reaches its limits. Complete healing may not always be possible but you can heal the inner aspects linked to the psychic, the emotional and the spiritual. Arriving at that healing, we can understand and overcome hard and even traumatic experiences.

Discovering the multidimensional being

Among those questioned there was no lack of people who highlighted the importance of recognizing their feelings, accept them and from there achieve greater tranquillity to see life with a new perspective and with a different connection between mind and body.

One person told me his experience about the claim of his labour rights, something that, if he had not developed his inner strength he would not have achieved. As his petition didn’t have any reply, nor support, he decided to let it go. Some days later, he had an interview for a new job. It was highly positive. One of the very positive points in his favour, that he highlighted, was his practice of yoga. Only those who take their practice seriously and commit themselves can move ahead and achieve unexpected changes.

Maybe this is the greatest achievement for a yoga practitioner: to understand that we are spiritual beings living a human and material experience. This interior being, not always known, is the key for our understanding, even if we are afraid to face what we have inside.

Yoga suggests that you develop a new awareness of life and recognize yourself as being a multidimensional person, subtle, strong and powerful, with great spiritual values that you need to know and awaken.

I thank those who have contributed to this article and continue to encourage me.