|“Along with medicine, lifestyle advice, and physical therapy, yoga is one of the most beneficial tools I give to patients with MS,” she said. “It’s indispensable to living a healthy life.”
Researchers haven’t conclusively shown that yoga is beneficial for MS, but studies have suggested that it’s helpful in reducing fatigue and improving balance, mood, and urinary function. (PLoS One. 2014; 9(11): e112414; J Altern Complement Med. 2015 Nov 1; 21(11): 655–659.
The story of oMS Yoga began about 7 years ago, when Dr. Weigel met a fellow yoga instructor, Cheryl Russell, at a National MS Society luncheon. Ms. Russell has MS, and she feels yoga helped her with her symptoms and her anxiety related to her MS. The two women had a brainstorm: How about a yoga class for people with MS?
They decided to name their approach oMS – that’s the yoga chant “om” plus MS, pronounced ohh-m-S. They also embraced a type of yoga called Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga and found funding to start the program.
Now, their free oMS classes are offered to people with MS in Jacksonville, Fla., where Dr. Weigel is based, and in Philadelphia, where Ms. Russell resides. More classes are slated to start in fall 2018 in Delray Beach and St. Augustine, Fla.
In an interview, Ms. Weigel talked about the power of yoga to relieve isolation, improve health and promote stress-reducing mindfulness.
What are the classes like?Our classes are 60 minutes with 4-12 people. You might look at a class and see one person who doesn’t appear to have MS, another person in a chair, and a person in a wheelchair who can only move their arms. We start with about 25 minutes of yoga practice that’s more powerful and involves a little bit more movement and cardio activity.
Blocks, bolsters and belts help people with MS get the most out of yoga depending on their ability. And we use visual-spatial tricks. A yoga pose may traditionally be done by standing, but if you use your imagination, you can do it against the wall or while lying on the ground. You just have to change the plane of your body.
What happens in the rest of the class after those first 25 minutes?We’re heating up the body. People with MS don’t tolerate heat most of the time, so we like to have them relax and cool things down in the middle of class with 10-15 minutes of meditation. Then we finish the class with relaxation, stretching, and rejuvenation-type work.