Yoga improves the quality of life of patients who suffer from multiple sclerosis, as recently concluded during a study of its benefits in increasing mental health, concentration, bladder control, walking, balance, motor coordination and vision, as well as in decreasing pain and fatigue. Researchers from Rutgers’ School of Health Related Professions studied the effects of a specialized yoga program for MS patients, incorporating mind, body, and spirit on the quotidian life scale of 14 women with moderate disability due to the disease.
Although it was already known that patients with multiple sclerosis could benefit from practicing yoga, the safety and efficacy of the discipline hasn’t been much studied empirically. The lack of research compelled Susan Gould Fogerite, director of research for the Institute for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the School of Health Related Professions, to design a pilot trial for a yoga program and assess MS patients’ physical improvements as well as mental well-being and overall quality of life.
The research, which was performed in collaboration with Evan Cohen and David Kietrys, both physical therapists and associate professors in the School of Health Related Professions at Stratford, enrolled 14 women between the ages of 34 and 64 who were suffering from moderate disability caused by MS. During eight weeks, the women were monitored while they practiced techniques and exercises to improve the posture, increase the stamina, and teach how to relax and focus twice a week for 90 minutes.
At the end of the trial, the patients revealed better capacities for walking short distances and for longer periods of time, improved balance while reaching backwards, improved motor coordination, and improvements in being able to stand up. The researchers also noted improvements in mental health, concentration, bladder control, and vision, while less pain and fatigue were reported.
“This study, I hope, is one of many that will give us the clinical information we need,” said Fogerite. “Yoga is not currently being widely prescribed for people with MS, although it might turn out to be a very helpful treatment.” However she emphasized that it would be necessary to conduct a larger randomized controlled trial to confirm if yoga can be prescribed to treat moderate disability caused by MS.
“Yoga is not just exercise, it is a whole system of living,” said Fogerite, to Robin Lally from Rutgers Today. “The panel of experts who advised us on the trial wanted to make sure that we provided a fully integrated program that included philosophy, breathing practices, postures, relaxation and meditation.”
The results of the study will be presented by Fogerite and Kietrys on September 26th at the Symposium on Yoga Research at the Kripalu Institute in Massachusetts. The clinical trial took place at Still Point Yoga Center in Laurel Springs, a southern New Jersey town near Philadelphia.