I was very saddened to hear that Andy Bailey, the founder of CommentLuv was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). If you don’t know who Andy Bailey is then here’s a brief synopsis. He happens to be the brains behind CommentLuv, a premium WordPress plugin used by thousands of WordPress blogs in various niches including mine. The idea of CommentLuv is simple yet very powerful which is to reward your commentator with a back link. Comments as we all know increases engagement and hence increasing interaction between the readers.
Coming back to Multiple Sclerosis! Andy was diagnosed with MS in December 2012 and he decided to share his story by emailing everyone on his subscribers list and writing about it on his blog which I think is very brave of him to do so. It’s not easy to talk about certain things with the rest of the world.
I decided to look at what MS was all about. In fact, I know nothing about MS so I decided to phone a doctor friend and she explained what it was. In her own words she said, that it was an inflammatory autoimmune disorder. It causes myelin sheaths that surround the axons of the brain and spinal cord to get damaged which affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord from talking to each other.
Andy Bailey telling everyone about his condition in a video:
Being a great fan of yoga specially the famous Yoga Guru Baba Ramdev, I decided to take a look if Indian yoga could help patients with MS. Rather than doing a blind search on the net; I decided to look at actual publications with proper clinical investigation.
Some of my findings on articles related with Multpile Sclerosis and yoga
In a review article written by Mishra et al (2012), they literature reviewed the benefits of yoga as Complementary Alternative Medicine (CAM) compared to conventional medicine and use of yoga as a science as well as an art of healthy living. They go on to explain what exactly yoga is and the types of yoga. They have cited several studies that show various health-promoting and disease-preventing effects of yoga including improvements in cardiovascular reactivity using using a “Kriya” yoga program and Pranayama (yogic breathing exercises). They also cite some clinical studies of the therapeutic value of yoga in treating MS.
In an article by Velikonja et al (2010), the team from University of Ljubljana (Slovenia) carried out a trial in 20 patients to see if non-medicinal treatment approaches such as sports climbing and yoga can reduce MS symptoms particularly on spasticity, cognitive impairment, mood change and fatigue in MS patients. They found that there was 17% increase in selective attention performance after yoga and no changes in mood. They conclude that yoga could improve some MS symptoms and should be considered as possible complementary treatments.
According to an article published by the journal Neurology and mentioned by the Oregon Health and Science University, 6 months of yoga can significantly reduces fatigue in people with multiple sclerosis. The study was the first randomized, controlled trial of yoga in people with MS using 69 subjects. The study concluded that 6 month yoga-class showed significant improvement in measures of fatigue compared to a waiting-list control group.
Patil et al (2012) investigated that yoga can be beneficial to those suffering from neurogenic bladder dysfunction (NBD) a common distressful symptom in MS. They investigated the role of Nadishuddi pranayama (alternate nostril breathing), moola bandha (anal lock), kapalbhati (rapid nostril breathing) and deep relaxation technique in 11 patients who practised these yoga techniques for 2 hours per day for continuous 21 days. They showed that there was improvement in bladder symptoms in MS patients with neurogenic bladder dysfunction.
Yoga in India
Yoga has been a part of India for centuries; it forms the central ethos in the daily lives of millions of the Indian people. It is India that gave birth to yoga. Yoga has also become popular in the West; more and more travellers are coming to the land where it was born. Anyone can do yoga from a DVD including me. But if one is serious about something and if they want to be taught yoga by the grand masters of yoga then here are some of the best of the best Indian yoga centres.
India’s Top Five Yoga Centres
Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute, Pune
Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute, Mysore
Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, Chennai
Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Dhanwantari Ashram, Trivandrum
Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh
Some Ayurvedic centres and yoga retreats in India
Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Centre in Dharamkot, Dharamsala and in Arambol, Goa: They run 5 day courses for beginners and intensive courses for advanced yoga practitioners.
Purple Valley Ashtanga Yoga Retreat in Goa: This centre is a residential retreat ranging from 1 to 2 weeks that includes accommodation, meals and use of the retreat facilities.
ANHC Ayurvedic Natural Health Centre in Goa: This Ayurvedic Natural Heath centre is run by doctors and is approved by the tourism department of the State of Goa.
Back to the original question; can Indian yoga help MS patients?
The answer from some the research publications indicate “yes” but more research with larger numbers of subjects taking part would be required. Subjects from the studies mentioned above showed some improvements but it could just be a placebo effect. I personally see yoga as a stress relieving activity centred on breathing, meditation and postures.
My conclusion of Multiple Sclerosis and yoga, if yoga has any benefits for MS patients or not is “yes” just in the same way regular exercise or any other physical activity would help but whether it has any neurological benefits, I don’t know. Obviously doctors and yoga practitioners would be appropriate to ask. However, most doctors are reluctant to offer any advice on alternative medicine.
Do you know anyone with MS and if they practice yoga, I would like hear from you.