More MS news articles for Sep 2001

Yoga's healing powers embraced

Exercising the mind and body
Class at St. Gabriel church helps students with chronic illness

Published Sunday, September 23, 2001

They sit in chairs facing the wall, reaching arms overhead - hands against the wall - for a long, slow stretch.

The 10 students in this yoga class aren't just in it for fun and exercise.

They believe in the therapeutic power of this ancient discipline to help them cope with chronic illnesses such as arthritis and multiple sclerosis.

"I sleep better, I'm walking more erect, and I have better balance," said Rick, a psychologist taking his second series of "Gentle Yoga" classes at St. Gabriel Catholic Church in Charlotte.

He has MS and didn't want his full name used for fear of bias against those with this disease of the central nervous system.

"Just like you have a pulse with the blood, the nervous system has a pulse," he said. "What yoga has done is relax the pulse of the nervous system."

The St. Gabriel class is one of five the National Multiple Sclerosis Society is sponsoring in the Charlotte area. Classes are open to anyone with MS or a similar chronic illness.

Phyllis Rollins, who teaches the St. Gabriel group, says she's seen many students with a chronic illness benefit from yoga.

"It helps a person with chronic illness the same way it helps people without an illness," she said. "It helps with stress, helps with strength, balance and flexibility.

"For someone with chronic illness, they get all these things, and they can walk better or they go home and can sleep."

Studies have shown yoga's benefits for patients with everything from heart disease to carpal tunnel syndrome. Rollins says she's trying to get a grant to start a class for children with Down syndrome.

She has studied with Los Angeles yoga guru Eric Small, who has had MS for 51years.

"To look at him, you'd never know he had MS," she says. Doctors told Small he might not live past 40, but he credits yoga with helping him make it to 71.

At the end of the hour-long class at St. Gabriel, student Susie Cooper said she was glad she came, though it was tough for her to get out of bed to make it to class. She has the chronic illnesses fibromyalgia and Crohn's disease and says yoga helps her cope with the anxiety they bring.

"I feel better," said Cooper, 42, a former Charlotte secretary. "It's given me a little more energy to make it through the rest of the day."

Want to Know More?

For more information or to sign up for "Gentle Yoga" classes for those with chronic illness, call (704) 525-2955. Sessions are typically six to eight weeks, and fees vary at the different locations. Scholarships are available for those with MS, based on financial need.