Pilates is a very popular method of exercise that began in the early 1900s by its founder, Joseph Pilates. It offers great benefits to individuals with Multiple Sclerosis, since it focuses on controlled breathing, core strengthening, and smooth flowing movements.
Pilates utilizes the muscles in the center of the body that create stability and balance. Anyone with MS knows that these are two problem areas for their bodies, whatever the level of their disease. Pilates teaches the client to be aware of their body, how to build strength in even the smallest muscles, encourages good posture, and helps to improve joint mobility. You are able to work in a reclined position, which is beneficial if you are not steady on your feet. Since you can work at your own pace in the private sessions, there is a reduced risk of overheating and exhaustion. Pilates is designed for economy of movement and is safe and well-paced if you have a good teacher. Consider trying out several teachers, as the levels of expertise vary greatly, especially with some of the quick certifications that are available nowadays. If you do not enjoy a teacher, try another one.
Take time to explore whether or not you feel best with mat Pilates (done on the floor on a mat) or equipment Pilates (done on specific pieces of equipment that Joe originally designed). Both forms are based on exactly the same fundamentals of movement. In fact, a good teacher will incorporate some of the mat fundamental movements into either type of session. Don’t be afraid to ask the teacher if they have been trained to work with MS clients. There are specific modifications for the choreography that an experienced teacher will know how to do.
If you try a group class, you must tell the instructor beforehand of your condition. Know that in most group classes you will not receive any individual instruction, however a good teacher will benefit from being aware of your body and may be able to throw out a few specific suggestions as the class progresses. For example, you may need to be told to watch certain postures in order to avoid flaring up your Llermittes ( the spinal buzzing that can occur if you flex you neck/head too far forward). Tell the teacher if you need to be in the least heated part of the room, so your body does not overheat. Or away from the bright lights or not next to the music speakers. Know your energy levels…perhaps it would be best to go in the mornings. And please check with your doctor to be sure you have permission to try Pilates.
There are a number of DVDs available online if you’d prefer to try Pilates at home. And if you learn proper form in a class or private session, you can understand more clearly how to do your home sessions. Whether you do classes, privates, or try it out at home, Pilates can help to relieve your stress and spasticity, give you more strength, and help you be a better friend to your body as your mind-body connection is strengthened through practicing the detailed movements.
In my health coaching practice, I have found an amazing book for all MS and autoimmune patients. It is a MUST READ if you want to get better!!!!! Written by Dr. Terry Wahls M.D. it is called The Wahls Protocol: How I Beat Progressive MS Using Paleo Principles and Functional Medicine. Published by Avery/Penguin, New York. I was amazed how similar it is in principal to the Nutritional Balancing Program that I teach to my clients! Feel free to contact me if you want to know more about the Nutritional Balancing program. Coming in June you can check out my website: VHHealth.com and learn all about how to get your health back and be well! In the mean time, read Dr. Wahls book if you have MS!