Yoga supports the joints, muscles, structure, and function of the body and provides mental health benefits through relaxation and mindfulness. It may be beneficial for people with MS.
Some people describe yoga as “moving meditation.”
Yoga is popular among people with multiple sclerosis (MS), and doctors generally consider it a safe activity for people with MS.
People can modify yoga poses to suit their ability level and ensure they practice safely, allowing them to get the maximum benefits.
The benefits of yoga for people with MS include improving mobility and reducing fatigue and spasticity.
Below, we dive into what the research says about yoga for MS.
Exercise can help improve mood, mobility, and muscle strength. Yoga is a specific form of movement that stretches and strengthens the body. It also offers benefits for the mind, including relaxation and mindfulness.
Yoga supports the body’s joints, muscles, structure, and function.
People with MS can modify poses depending on what feels good for their body on a particular day.
Some scientific research supports using yoga for MS.
What research shows
A systematic review and meta-analysis from
Another small study from
Additionally, a study from
The researchers found statistically significant improvements in social function and health status after the 3-month intervention. They also noted improved pain and sleep quality scores, but these results were not statistically significant.
People with MS may experience a range of benefits through practicing yoga.
It can help with mobility difficulties by improving the following:
- balance, helping with standing and walking
- strength and body alignment, helping with standing upright, sitting in a chair, or using the toilet
- core stability, helping with all functional movements
Yoga can also help with specific MS symptoms.
It may help manage fatigue, one of the most common symptoms of MS. Improving strength, fitness, and mood can help the body work more efficiently, so it uses less energy and experiences less strain.
Yoga can also help with spasticity through gentle stretching. Improving flexibility may also help to reduce muscle stiffness.
Aside from the physical benefits, relaxation benefits may help people with MS manage their mental health and cope with symptom flare-ups.
Before a person with MS begins practicing yoga, they should speak with a health professional.
People can start by doing easy poses and gradually work up to more challenging ones. Most yoga poses are adjustable, and people can modify their routines based on how they feel on a particular day.
People may perform poses standing up, while others might need to sit in a chair or lie down.
It may also help to find a yoga teacher who is used to working with people with MS.
The breath should be steady during all yoga poses, with equal-length inhales and exhales. This type of breathing can help relax the mind and body.
A person can try the following poses:
Cat-Cow Pose (Marjari Bitilasana)
- Breathing normally, on the exhale, tuck the chin in toward the chest as the back arches up toward the ceiling, as a cat arches its back.
- On the inhale, the chin and tailbone lift as the belly stretches toward the floor, as a cow might.
People can perform this pose on their hands and knees or in a chair. This pose helps with spinal mobility.
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
- From all fours, bring the big toes to touch and the knees wide with the shins flat on the floor.
- Breathe in.
- With the out-breath, walk the hands forward and rest the torso between the knees.
Some people may find having a block or cushion as a headrest helpful.
This calming pose stretches and relieves tension in the spine, hips, ankles, shoulders, and thighs.
Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
- Begin on all fours.
- Press the hands wide into the floor with the in-breath, and lift the knees, then the hips.
- Make an upside-down triangle shape. Pull the shoulder blades down the back, away from the ears.
- Stretch the heels toward the floor, noting that they may not reach all the way.
- If needed, bend the knees to help the back stay straight.
- Gaze toward the navel or between the feet.
A person can also perform this pose by holding onto the seat of a chair that is leaning against a wall.
This pose stretches and strengthens the spine, arms, legs, and Achilles tendon.
A person with MS should speak with a doctor before starting any new exercise or alternative therapy program.
Questions they may want to ask include:
- Is it safe for me to practice yoga?
- Will yoga trigger my MS symptoms?
- Can you recommend any specialist MS yoga teachers?
- Can I practice safely at home?
Yoga aims to support the body’s joints, muscles, structure, and function while calming the mind at the same time. The benefits of yoga for a person with MS include helping alleviate fatigue, reduce spasticity, and cope during flare-ups.
A person with MS should talk with a doctor before trying yoga to ensure it is safe. They may find it helpful to find a yoga teacher who understands the unique challenges of their condition.