32 msfocusmagazine.org Chair Yoga is for Everyone! By Stacie Dooreck Have you heard yourself or others say, “I can’t do yoga until I have more energy, or am in less pain?” This is understandable. But while it may appear that pain, fatigue, or other symptoms will prevent you, you will see that you can always practice yoga and receive its numerous benefits. In fact, a study from Rutgers University in 2014 found that “women with moderate symptoms of multiple sclerosis experienced improvements in balance, walking, coordination, and qual- ity of life after eight weeks of practicing yoga.” One of the more frustrating experiences that can occur for those with MS and chronic illness is feeling too tired or in too much pain to exercise or practice yoga. After learning that yoga is helpful for increasing energy and improving quality of life, not being able to practice it may feel defeating, and depressing. The good news is that if you are unable to get up out of a chair, wheelchair, or out of bed, you can practice from wherever you are. When sometimes merely walking across a room or getting to a yoga class feels impossible, chair yoga offers short and simple practices that you can adapt to meet your current needs. For example, much of my late twenties and thirties, I was managing chronic Lyme disease. I had to stop my prior yoga practice, because the postures and exercises I tried made my symptoms (fatigue, dizziness, exhaustion, muscle weakness, and joint pain) worsen. The first time I tried chair yoga for 10 minutes, however, I felt some of the healing energy I used to feel during a full yoga practice before I got sick. I started to learn that some yoga is better for me than no yoga. A few minutes of practice began to have lasting results that improved my daily functioning. The duration, intensity, and type of practice can vary, not only for each practitioner, but also from day to day, or even minute to minute. When practicing yoga in a safe and supported way, it promotes healing and creates a tool in life that doesn’t require anything external. Often our idea of yoga is that it requires you to do certain yoga poses that can be quite challenging, where you need a certain amount of flexibility, strength, or balance. The truth is that everyone can practice yoga. You will most likely gain those qualities from your practice, but do not have to be in any certain physical condition to begin. I have been teaching yoga and chair yoga for more than 23 years and watch students, who start at all ages and conditions, experience greater freedom in both their body and mind – including first timers who are more than 95 years old! Health & Wellness