Woman in yoga pose with a sun behind her

Let’s Do It – Chill, Relax, and Yoga or Tai Chi With MS!

Oh yeah, sure, yoga and Tai Chi my MS away. How about taking part in a triathlon to reset my immune system to its original manufacturer settings?! Well, it doesn’t quite work that way although making a few lifestyle changes can improve how you feel.

In past articles, we have looked at several lifestyle changes including exercise, nutrition, and planning and prioritizing your tasks. Small changes can help reduce fatigue and stress to improve how you feel. Let’s take a look at two techniques we haven’t covered that have been gaining popularity, yoga and Tai Chi!

What’s the advantage of yoga and Tai Chi for those with MS?

Believe it or not, these two techniques have several benefits for us folks with MS. The first one that jumped out to me was the mention of meditation. Hey, we all can use a bit of calmness in our MS-challenged days. This technique can also help us to focus, clear our minds, and plan better.1

Meditation can also help to reduce pain and improve our quality of life. One study indicated participants did show improvements in these areas. Dr. Allen Bowling, a renowned international known MS expert, also agreed that meditation is beneficial. Areas of improvement highlighted breathing, relieving stress, anxiety, depression, fatigue, insomnia, pain, as well as cognitive problems.1

What else can we improve?

Yoga consists of several poses while sitting and standing, while Tai Chi uses low-intensity movements like dance and martial arts. These very structured poses are designed to support, strengthen, and improve your body’s joints, muscles, and function. Poses can be modified to fit your needs and accommodate your mobility and any devices that you use.1

The advantage for those of us with mobility challenges is that it allows us to keep active, yet reduce the stress on our bodies. Both are gentle, slow-paced, and low to moderate intensity.1,3

Where and when did yoga and Tai Chi originate?

These two techniques have unique stories and have been around for thousands of years.

Yoga

Yoga dates back 5,000 years and began as an Indian philosophy to connect with spirits. It was meant to help those improve meditation and concentration. The main goal was to help deal with the burden of being human.3 I know, my thought as well. I can deal with just being human, although a little help along the way isn’t a bad thing!

Yoga began to expand in the 1920s and 1930s here in the US, mostly due to the increase in Indian immigrants. Today, there are over one hundred thousand teachers and well over 36 million citizens who participate in yoga.2,4

Tai Chi

Tai Chi back dates to 1600. It was developed in China and came to the US in 1950. The main focuses are mental and physical practices. There are three variations of Tai Chi - Chen which is considered the original style, Yang, and Sun a variation.3,5

However, the root of Tai Chi is based on martial arts. Movements are still slow and genital, yet in a self-defense manner. However, most Tai Chi is still focused on creating balance and harmony within your mind. There are 2.5 million people who practice Tai Chi in the US.3,5

How do you decide which is best for you?

Both yoga and Tai Chi will improve your muscle strength and help with better balance and mobility. The difference lies in the efforts within the movement.

Yoga uses more possess for a longer period and can improve flexibility, help with weight loss, and reduce body mass. Yoga also offers a more rigorous style known as vinyasa or power yoga. If you are interested in better overall health, more active movement, and body awareness, Tai Chi may fit better. Movement, again, is more jumps, kicks, and more active or explosive.3,5

Both are excellent for improving your focus, mental calmness, and clarity. If you are having trouble deciding, I would suggest visiting with instructors of both to learn more.

Let’s finish with a little 'what?!'

As you now know, yoga is full of poses used to improve joint movement and flexibility. During one class, the instructor was showing how to perform the Bird of Paradise pose. Yes, you’ll have to see it to believe it, and it's much like the movements ballet dancers use.

While the instructor was demonstrating the move, she heard a student yell out “Oh he%$ no!” which surprised the entire class. The instructor did convince her to try and two weeks later she had mastered the move. Yep folks, mind over matter as they say.

Thanks again for spending your valuable time reading my article. I look forward to hearing your thoughts about both yoga and Tai Chi. If you have tried them, please let us know how it went. Until the next time, wishing you and your family the very best. I challenge you to spread a little kindness to help make our world a better place.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MultipleSclerosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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