All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for May 2003

Yoga for MS

May 13, 2003
Dawn Mercer

Eric Small knows his body pretty well. At 73, he's been doing yoga for nearly 40 years as a student and as a respected instructor, "It's a complete rejuvenation system, and it's non-stressful, and it's self-motivating."

But, it wasn't just fitness that attracted Eric to yoga back in his 20s. It was diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, "The yoga is the medicine. My drug of choice is the Hatha yoga practice." Eric wasn't content simply treating his own ailment. His enthusiasm prompted him to start yoga classes at UCLA and across the country for other MS patients.

Eric's form of the disease, and possibly his years of yoga, have allowed him to remain relatively healthy, but many of his students aren't so lucky. Some need help just to move in their wheelchairs. Still, Carmen Bell, who has MS, says she sees the value of the exercises, "How we need to sit, how we need to eat, how we need to work things out, how we need to stretch. He always encourages you, but he never pushes you."

UCLA doctors like neurologist Dr. Barbara Giesser agree, but warn yoga is not a cure, "We don't have any information that yoga arrests disease progression. What yoga does is it helps people feel and function better."

Eric believes his outcome would have been different without yoga, "I wouldn't be here."

To date Eric has started yoga classes for Multiple Sclerosis patients in 16 locations in southern California. He has also trained instructors to run similar classes in several different cities including Ashland, North Carolina.

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