Yoga classes help those diagnosed with MS

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FRANKLIN (WITI) -- Multiple sclerosis, or MS is an inflammatory disease for which there is no cure. The cause is not clear, but the disease results in a wide range of symptoms -- particularly neurological symptoms, and those with MS can experience physical and mental difficulties. It is more common in women and the onset typically occurs in young adults. A new program is allowing those with MS to work out every week with others who are going through the same thing.

The ancient discipline of yoga is being used to help those with MS.

At Wheaton Franciscan's Franklin Hospital, a weekly yoga class moves through movements chosen to relieve the physical and mental burdens of multiple sclerosis. Nearly everyone in the class is in some stage of the disease.

Lisa Meyer has lived with MS for 14 years.

"I always was kind of an athletic kind of person previously, but MS has kinda taken that away from me," Meyer said.

Meyer does yoga every day to fight the stiffness MS forces into her body.

"It's something that affects me as far as my walking very obviously, but other things like fatigue," Meyer said.

Meyer, a 41-year-old history teacher says to an outsider, the benefits of her yoga routine may not be obvious.

"I can move a little bit better. There's more fluidity to my motion. Kind of calm my mind a little bit, because MS can be an emotional thing, too," Meyer said.

Doctor Bhupendra Khatri says exercise is the best way to fight the escalating symptoms of MS.

"Your immune system stabilizes. You get endurance. Your fatigue gets better. Your balance improves. Your strength improves," Dr. Khatri said.

Dr. Khatri says for unknown reasons, MS is six to nine times more common in the Midwest than in the South.

Many of those patients visit him at Wheaton-Franciscan's Center for Neurological Disorders.

"MS is a life-long disease. We don`t have a cure. It strikes the patients when they are in the prime of age, like the second or third decade -- when they`re just starting out with their life," Dr. Khatri said.

MS affects the brain and spinal cord -- the key connection to all bodily functions.

"You can get blindness. You can get balance issues. You can get weakness. You can get spasticity. You can get bowel, bladder issues, memory issues," Dr. Khatri said.

Even those with advanced MS can do yoga. Their class is modified to accommodate a sitting position.

"If you`re in a wheelchair, you can still do yoga. If you`re bedridden, you can still do yoga," Dr. Khatri said.

The yoga classes connect the mind and the body, and give control and independence for those whose disease has taken so much.

"Yoga is a way for me to actually, not just have to, you know, take extra pills or to talk to the doctors to help me with this, but it`s a way that`s kind of empowering to help me to do something myself," Meyer said.

The yoga program is very successful, with people coming from across southeastern Wisconsin, and sometimes further. As far as Wheaton-Franciscan knows, this is the only program of its kind in the state.

For more information about yoga classes for people with MS, please call WheatonDirect at (1-888-994-3286).