September is National Yoga Month! Yoga is a gentler form of exercise that focuses on stretching and breathing. Many different types of yoga are available including practices designed for people who may have limited mobility, or flexibility. Most traditional poses can be performed sitting on a chair, or Continue reading
As someone who is usually hesitant to try new things I’ve found that if you give something new a try, it could result in some really nice benefits and rewards. A few years ago I wrote about trying yoga classes for the first time, and as it turns out it’s something that has really helped my pain issues when they come on. I attend hot yoga classes, and I know for many with MS this style is not an option if heat sensitivity symptoms are an issue with the disease, but yoga in other formats can be beneficial too. It’s more about the movements and mindset it creates that can be valuable to all. Continue reading
Attempting to try a new exercise routine can feel intimidating, whether it is something you have thought about trying for years, or an impulsive decision. It’s not always easy, but stepping out of your comfort zone can be good for your body and keep your muscles from getting too complacent. One exercise routine that is gaining popularity is yoga.
An estimated 20 million Americans practice some form of yoga for exercise, and more than a third of those people are fairly new to the practice. Yoga is a gentler form of exercise that focuses on stretching and breathing, which can offer a number of benefits including increased flexibility and improved respiration.
There are many different types of yoga available for a range of experience and flexibility levels, as well as yoga practices designed for people who may have limited mobility due to a chronic illness, like multiple sclerosis. Many traditional yoga poses can be adapted to be performed in a seated position on a chair or laying on a bed, rather than sitting or laying on the floor. Yoga can offer specific benefits to individuals with MS by helping:
- Reduce fatigue
- Reduce spasticity
- Improve range of motion
- Improve balance
Yoga may not be for everyone, but if you are looking for something new to try as a way to stretch your muscles and get some exercise, look into yoga as a possibility*. If you are interested in learning more about yoga designed for people who have MS, check out our story from the Winter/Spring 2008 edition of The Motivator, Health and Wellness: Enjoying the Benefits of Yoga.
*As with any form of exercise, be sure to check with your physician before you begin a new workout routine.
Do you often wonder what you can do to improve your physical health? Many of you may have thought about how to become more mobile, flexible, or just happier about the way you look and feel. Physical wellness is more than just exercising all of the time or following a perfect diet. Let’s face it, we are all human; we sometimes indulge when we know we shouldn’t or we don’t keep up on our exercise when life gets busy or we aren’t feeling well.
I am a busy wife and mother of two who works full-time. I don’t always have time to walk or exercise and, to be quite frank, I sometimes have the time but just don’t want to do it. But I try to stay positive and not let one or two setbacks every now and then get in my way.
Did you know that there are a lot of ways to achieve physical wellness such as:
- Staying mentally positive
- Doing breathing exercises
- Trying yoga or tai-chi
These activities can help lower heart disease, improve brain function, lower blood pressure and increase flexibility.
They say “life is about the journey not the destination”, we all need to find the things that work to make our journey easier. Adopting better happiness habits right away can help you feel better. Being open to something new might make you feel happier and healthier too!
By Stacie Prada
Sometimes it seems that advice for better health sounds like we need to do more, be better, and just generally suck it up buttercup. I’m not impressed by stories of people saying, “If I can do it, anyone can do it.” It completely ignores the fact that the other person had a challenge and may not have been able to do it at a different phase of their life. It also may be something that they won’t be able to maintain for the rest of their lives. It basically ignores the individual circumstances of our own physical health, lifestyle and obligations. We all have different demands and limitations, and we should only compare ourselves to where we are now and where we want to be given our interests and preferences. That said, other people’s stories often inspire and motivate me to take the next step on something I’d like to accomplish.
After my MS diagnosis, I read the suggestions to swim and do yoga. I realized that I was very reluctant to do yoga, but I didn’t have a specific reason. I’d tried yoga videos, but they didn’t hook me. Later I realized that my reticence was likely because it seemed like it would be admitting that I was giving up on doing gymnastics. It seemed like accepting defeat. Once I went to a yoga class years later, I loved it so much I couldn’t believe I’d waited so long to try it! To be fair, I was busy. I was active doing other things. Life was full and doing yoga seemed like another thing I “should” do instead of something that I would enjoy.
More recently I started swimming, and it took me a while between knowing it was a good idea and actually going to the pool. My reluctance to swim was more based on proximity, convenience and feeling slightly intimidated about all of the associated unknowns. While talking with a friend about swimming, I shared that I was starting to think about my exercise schedule as a two week or monthly schedule instead of weekly. With this approach, I could aim for doing certain activities once every two weeks or once a month. That goal made it suddenly desirable and motivating for both of us to go to the pool. By reducing the idea of success, it removed the barrier of over-committing or setting myself up for feeling like I’d failed if I didn’t continue. Once we got to the pool and swam a few laps, we were a bit giddy about how good we felt, what an excellent workout it was, and how well we each slept that night. Again, why did I wait so long to start swimming?
I’m not going to dwell on the past, but I do want to learn from these experiences. If something interests me, next time it might be good to think about the following:
- Can I try it once without committing to a regular schedule? It’s not all or nothing, and it won’t be failure if I decide not to continue.
- Do I know someone who does it and will give tips about what to expect? This can help reduce feelings of intimidation or nervousness about new surroundings, people or experiences.
- Did I used to do it and enjoy it? If so, why wouldn’t I now?
- Do I have a friend willing to go with me? This makes for great bonding and mutual encouragement for healthy habits.
- Do I need special clothing or equipment? Try goodwill or other second hand shops for inexpensive gear so that I’m not out much money if I decide not to continue it.
MSAA advises people with MS to consider swimming and yoga for good reasons. They’re easily adaptable to different skill levels and physical abilities. They both are a bit meditative for me, and I’m relaxed even after intense workouts. They work lots of little muscles in my body in a gentle yet strengthening way. Plus, I always sleep better on days I’ve done them. I love when I incorporate good habits into maintaining my health even when it takes me a while. I hope to be able to keep yoga and swimming as part of my ongoing activities even if they’re only a few times a month. That’s still success.
*Stacie Prada was diagnosed with RRMS in 2008 at the age of 38. Her blog, “Keep Doing What You’re Doing” is a compilation of inspiration, exploration, and practical tips for living with Multiple Sclerosis while living a full, productive, and healthy life with a positive perspective. It includes musings on things that help her adapt, cope and rejoice in this adventure on earth. Please visit her at http://stacieprada.blogspot.com/
During the holidays I received a gift certificate to try yoga classes at an exercise studio in my area. I was always interested in trying this type of class and this was my opportunity to finally do so. I have to admit that I was a little nervous going to that first class. With feelings similar to the first day of school I didn’t know what to expect – what the teacher would be like, if I would be doing the exercises “right,” and if I wanted to come back. I don’t think I was alone in these feelings as I’m sure others have similar thoughts when trying something new for the first time, but I was worried about how it would affect my performance. I didn’t want to be the odd man out and have it be completely transparent that I had no idea what I was doing.
To my surprise, on the first day of class I wasn’t the only new student! I was relieved to see that there were several other new students joining the class and trying this yoga for the first time! This gave me comfort knowing that I at least wouldn’t be the only new face in the crowd of others more experienced and that perhaps these other folks shared in my own initial fears about trying something new.
The class turned out to be great – the teacher was encouraging and the exercises were dynamic and fun. It was a challenge on the mind and body in an uplifting and positive way, and something I felt so proud of myself for trying. I have continued attending the class and look forward to it each time I attend.
No matter the task, exercise, venture or opportunity that comes your way, the point is that you’re not alone in the initial fears or concerns or questions that you have about it. At some point everyone encounters something new, so it comes down to the question of if and how you’ll approach it, and if this something new has potential benefits for you. You won’t know until you try it, right?
What new venture will you try?
*Please remember to consult with your physician before starting a new exercise routine
“Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body; it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.”
– John F. Kennedy
Exercise. Honestly, we know that not everyone likes to do it. The idea of exercising can make some of us cringe at times, but it plays such a crucial part in our health. We hear it constantly from all sources; the media and our doctors. We know exercise can be good for us, yet sometimes we resent it and try to avoid it at all costs.
So how can we warm up to the idea of making exercise a part of our regular routine? Here are some ideas to make exercise a little more bearable…and maybe even fun!
*Please remember to consult with your physician before taking on a new exercise routine*
- Exercise during the part of the day when you feel you have the most energy
- One key word: moderation. Don’t overexert yourself; exercise at your own pace
- Exercise with a friend or relative; this can make the time more enjoyable and fun
- Listening to music while you exercise can be relaxing and entertaining
- Pick an exercise that you enjoy; take a walk around your neighborhood, do water aerobics, take a dance class, practice yoga…
What are some ideas that you have to make exercise enjoyable?