Yoga and MS

Yoga and MS

My name is Derek McCambley, and I was diagnosed with relapsing remitting MS in 2005.

I’d never really given yoga much thought before – to me it was done largely by earnest ladies of a certain age who wore green leotards and who liked to contort themselves. Boy, how wrong I was.

My first inkling that yoga could be fun was through a chance encounter in Belfast during Culture Night in September. My wife and I were wandering the streets of Belfast marvelling at the range of activities and the general good mood of everyone we met when we came across two fit young women getting into interesting positions on a yoga mat.

I wanted to join in immediately but my wife decided that there was a time and a place and that this was neither. Chatting to the two women, I decided that yoga might be beneficial to my general state of health.

Getting started

I started investigating where I could find a suitable yoga class and with great serendipity came across an advert in one of the Society’s mailouts detailing a class that was about to start at the Resource Centre in Belfast.

I duly enrolled and it was then that Hazel Morrissey, Yoga teacher extraordinaire came into my life. I was a wee bit apprehensive as we all gathered for the first class and really didn’t know what to expect. However Hazel put us all at our ease with her trademark good humour and easy teaching style.

I was soon doing things that in my wildest dreams I never imagined possible (even though my dreams are pretty wild) and over the weeks my range of movement became much more fluid.

Our classes involve a combination of sitting, standing and mat-based exercises and relaxation. All of us in the class have MS and we are all limited in some degree as to how effectively we can carry out the exercises. However we have a good deal of banter and egg each other on, and Hazel is very imaginative in adapting the exercises to suit us.

During the first few weeks the relaxation on the mat couldn’t come quickly enough, but it’s amazing how quickly your body’s resilience builds up. I particularly surprised myself by what I could achieve on the mat – my legs and knees had always caused me significant problems.

Ooh er Missus!

We have gone through a whole litany of exercises and it reads like a Nature Dictionary what with the Cobra, the Eagle, the Alligator, the Pigeon and of course my favourite the Downward Dog (ooh er Missus!).

I now incorporate some basic exercises into my daily routine at home and certainly feel the benefit of it. I am terribly stiff first thing in the morning but find that some simple stretching exercises can significantly improve this. Hazel has also taught us the importance of breathing properly and of basic relaxation techniques if things start to get on top of you.

I have found that apart from the amazing amounts of fun and laughter we have in the class (people are usually laughing at me) that my stamina has improve greatly as well as the range of movements I can now undertake without significant discomfort – bending is possible once again. I feel really invigorated and energised when I complete even the most basic of exercises and it’s so easy to incorporate these into your daily routine.

I would encourage anyone to come along and give it a go – I just wish I’d started years ago.

Yoga classes take place in the MS Society Resouce Centre, Belfast on Thursdays from 11am -12.30. For more information or to book contact Lesley Clews-Stevensonon on 028 9080 2818