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When I was first diagnosed with MS, four years ago, one of the red flags I experienced was weakness on my left arm and leg, which created a balance and coordination issue. I noticed I couldn’t close my eyes while standing or I couldn’t stand up too fast or else I would lose my balance. My clinic would put together yoga workshops, they recommended yoga for all MS patients. I tried it once with the group, was not too comfortable due to the fact I was not stable and couldn’t hold a simple one leg stand. I promised myself to work on my balance and one day return with more strength and confidence.
I started to practice yoga eight months ago, with youtube videos and a goal, to be able to balance my body and my thoughts. The main goal was to improve my posture, coordination, and focus. It wasn’t all for the cool poses (although I get super excited when I can nail them), it was more because I felt lost and confused as to why my body was not cooperating with me anymore. I started with five simple yoga poses that helped me have a solid foundation of balance and breathing.
I practiced these simple poses over and over again, until I felt confident enough to move on and learn something new. My suggestion is to always start as a beginner and take your time breathing in and out of every pose. You will find yourself thinking of everything and anything. Try to release those thoughts and focus on your breathing count.
5 Yoga poses to help improve balance
In this pose you have to place your feet pararlle, your big toes touching and your heels slightly apart. Place your shoulder blades into your back, do not push your ribs forward, just widen your shoulders release and breathe. Hang your arms on each side and stay in this position for at least 30 seconds to a minute. Although this pose is not physically challenging it helps emotionally re-wiring your mind, and reminding you to honor the present moment.
It is an easy transition from the mountain pose to the chair pose. When I first started practicing this pose, I used a chair. I am now able to do the chair pose without the actual chair. In this pose you place your knees together and even with your arms long as you gaze up. Don’t forget to engage your core, breathe and place weight onto your heels. Try your best to hold it for 30 seconds.
This was the first pose I was determined to achieve. Balancing my weight all on one leg was not as easy as it looked. You start with your mountain pose and lift one foot placing it against inner thigh, NOT on the knee joint. As a beginner, if you are not able to lift your foot above the knee, you can always place your foot on the side of your calf. Gaze at eye level, you can put your arms above your head or on hips. The tree pose has many variations, meaning it can never get boring, you can try it and see what works for you.
Warrior II Pose
Above I provided an image on how I use to practice my warrior II pose. I used the chair to help me balance, I was then able to remove the chair after a week. Didn’t take long, but it felt amazing once it was accomplished. In the warrior II pose you place one leg and keep the back arm lifted and the outer edge of the back foot grounded. This pose requires stability and flexibility in the hips and upper body. The challenge for me came when I closed my eyes, but I would repeat my mantra and it helped me focus. I would whisper ” I am the warrior, there is no war inside me, I am my own strength”. You can create your own mantra, believe it and become one with it.
This pose has so many benefits wrapped in one. It helps stretch the thighs hips, upper back, and shoulders. It helps with focus, balance, flexibility and best of all it is a stress reducer. To get into the eagle pose you must gently bend one knee and wrap your other leg around. Make sure both knees are stacked over each other. Once you have the bottom part of your body stable, raise your arms shoulders height wrap around. Your elbows should also stacked. Breath and hold 15 to 30 seconds. Always remember to practice with an empty stomach, which is why it is recommended to practice first thing in the morning.
Beginners tip: if you are not able to wrap your foot around just try to press the big too against your calf.
So are you ready to start your yoga journey? Yoga has to be done with an open mind, you will have a constant flow of energy through your mind and body. Once you have these poses mastered, and your breathing controlled you will gain the confidence to continue to learn more poses. By no means am I a professional, I am still a beginner yogi, but I am enjoying every part of this journey. I want you will learn your way to control your thoughts and focus on the present moment. Even with MS I have been able to push through the obstacles mentally and physically. You have to start somewhere, and yoga and balance was my choice.