Archives for March 2013

Yoga & MS

Why yoga?

Yoga has many benefits that can help improve health. It is something positive we can do for ourselves allowing us to maximise healing and move towards wellness.

Exercise can be very tiring for many people with MS whereas yoga normally increases energy and helps us deal with symptoms.  It calms the mind and emotions, relieves stress and restores the natural breathing process essential for good health.  It also maintains or increases strength and flexibility, improves bladder and bowel function and keeps the body moving whatever the level of disability.  More information can be found on the Yoga for Health and Education Trust website, under ‘Remedial/Therapeutic Yoga’.

Why is a remedial/therapeutic yoga class recommended?

People with MS often find a general yoga class too tiring and therefore counter-productive.  In remedial classes postures can be adjusted to suit individual needs for all kinds of problems and chronic fatigue ensuring that we get maximum benefit from our yoga practice to help improve our condition and well-being.

Remedial/therapeutic Yoga Teachers

Suzan is trained as a remedial/therapeutic yoga teacher with the Yoga for Health Foundation now the Yoga for Health and Education Trust

Is yoga helpful for people with MS?

Yoga is recognised as being valuable in the management of MS by the MS Society.

More than 5,000 people with MS took part in yoga courses specifically designed for them at the Yoga for Health Foundation in Bedfordshire, many of them returning repeatedly as they found it so valuable.  Unfortunately, after 28 years, the Foundation closed in March 2006 when the lease expired and the property was sold.  The Yoga for Health and Education Trust is continuing and developing this valuable work and hopes one day to have a centre.  Visit for more information.

Taken from Multiple Sclerosis Q / A  June A Skeggs updated Oct. 2011

Click here for full article

Other articles on MS



Nutritional Support

MS Resources

Websites  MS Society  MS Trust   MS Therapy Centres   MS Resource Centre (MSRC )

Magazine with positive contributions from people with MS. Previous magazines can be read on their website                   Information on Vitamin B12 deficiency         Information on the Swank diet The Yoga for Health and Education Trust Yoga for People with MS

Facebook :



The China Study,   T Colin Campbell, Benbella

Reversing Heart Disease,  Dr Dean Ornish,  Ivy Books,

Optimum Nutrition, Patrick Holford, Piatkus

Molecules of Emotion,  Dr Candace B Pert Ph.D.,  Pocket Books

MS – the Facts,  Bryan Matthews, Oxford University Press

MS – self-help guide, Judy Graham, Thorsons

Optimum Nutrition Bible, Patrick Holford,  Piatkus

Vitamin D3 and Solar Power for Optimal Health,  Marc Sorenson

Multiple Sclerosis Diet Book,  Roy Laver Swank & Barbara Brewer Dougan

The MS Society                         Free information booklets

MSRC Pathways Magazine                  Nov/Dec 2002 page10 – Hughes Syndrome

Yoga is recognised as being valuable in the management of MS by the MS Society.

‘Yoga for MS’ CD, containing two 30 minute sessions, is available from experienced remedial yoga teacher, Joy Frame who was the senior yoga teacher at YFHF for many years.  Cost £5 including postage & packing.  Email [email protected].

Taken from Multiple Sclerosis Q / A  June A Skeggs updated Oct. 2011

Click here for full article

MS & Nutritional Support

Are Omega 6 & Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids (E.F.A) Important?

E.F.A’s are essential and present in every cell in the body. The body cannot make them so they come from the food we eat. Research has shown that white matter in the brains of people with MS are deficient in E.F.A’s. Other studies show E.F.A.’s are low in the myelin sheath around the nerves, red and white blood cells, platelets and blood plasma.

E.F.A’s go through several stages of conversion before they can be utilized by different parts of the body. It is believed that for people with MS something has gone wrong in this process at the stage where linoleic acid converts to gamma-linoleic acid. Research at the Nuffield Laboratories in London showed that gamma-linoleic acid given as evening primrose oil capsules was capable of altering abnormal cell membranes, including those in myelin returning them to normal.

The recommended dose is 6x 500mg capsules per day either 2 three times a day or 3 twice a day.  

Why is Vitamin D considered important?

Vitamin D helps prevent cells from becoming diseased. Incidences of MS are higher in countries with increasing latitude where there is less sunlight.  The sun’s ultraviolet rays on the skin make Vitamin D – a few hours exposure a week is sufficient.  This is stored in our liver and body fat for 20 days or more.  When needed it is converted into ‘supercharged Vitamin D’ (1,25D).  This is 1,000 times more active than stored Vitamin D and lasts for only 6-8 hours, hence the need for continual replacement.  Limited exposure to sunlight means that Vitamin D blood levels could be low. ‘Supercharged vitamin D’ levels are reduced by animal protein that increases blood acidity interfering with the production of 1,25D.  Animal protein and too much calcium reduce blood levels of 1,25D.

Vitamin D is also available in some foods, e.g. oily fish, and often as an additive in breakfast cereals and fortified milk. Some supplements contain Vitamin D but it is not absorbed so well. Supercharged Vitamin D is too powerful and too dangerous to make as a supplement.  Dr Campbell advises that if Vitamin D is needed the lowest possible dose should be taken.

It is worth having your Vitamin D levels checked.  The best test is a blood test called 25(OH)D.  Marc Sorenson and Dr William Grant consider a level of 33-100 ng/ml sufficient. Practitioners at ‘The Sanctuary’ in Blackburn, England have found that a minimum of 100ng/ml is required for people with MS.

Why could Vitamin B12 be important?

B12 is needed for the formation of haemoglobin that carries oxygen through the body.  It is important in energy production, healthy cell metabolism and is essential for the brain and nervous system.  It is mostly found in animal products and in micro-organisms in the soil.  Deficiency may be due to a vegetarian/vegan diet or an inability to absorb it properly which can be hereditary.  Sterile soil and over-clean vegetables do not help.

Some Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms resemble those of MS e.g. fatigue, dizziness, tingling and numbness.  It is worth getting your B12 levels checked as some people with MS have had considerable improvement in energy and a variety of symptoms, including walking, when having regular B12 injections.

Taken from Multiple Sclerosis Q / A  June A Skeggs updated Oct. 2011

Click here for full article

Causes/Risk Factors in MS

What causes MS?

Despite having been identified over 100 years ago and with considerable research since, the cause/s of MS are still unknown.  Orthodox medicine currently highlights genetics, viruses and environmental factors as playing a part.


There is a strong relationship between our genes and our susceptibility to diseases like MS.  Genes alone cannot be solely responsible for MS as the increase has been far too rapid.  There is convincing evidence that gene expression and activation, influenced by our environment, is more important than the actual genes themselves.  If we provide our body with the optimum environment e.g. through correct nutrition, freedom from stress and adequate Vitamin D we have a much better chance of expressing the right genes.  Not all genes are active and they can be switched on and off by changing the environment.  In cancer research, for example, Dr T. Colin Campbell found that bad genes could be switched off by reducing the amount of animal protein ingested.


Genes give us our susceptibility to certain illnesses.  In homeopathy that susceptibility with other factors activates the collection of symptoms that orthodox medicine labels MS.  It also determines which miasm/s are activated (we all have them). Miasm is a homeopathic term that describes a “predisposition towards chronic disease underlying the acute manifestations of illness,” transmittable from one generation to another

(Dr George Vitoulkas2). It/they can be treated with the corresponding homeopathic nosode prepared from pathological tissue.

Although we do not inherit MS directly the fact that family members share their genes, susceptibility and environment means their chances of getting MS are increased though incidences of familial cases of MS are very low.


Various viruses have been suggested by orthodox medicine as being responsible for MS but nothing has been proven.  It has been suggested that they could be the trigger that initiates MS.  Chronic diseases like MS do not just appear and have been building up for a long time before symptoms are felt.

Electro-acupuncture (EAP) is a German diagnostic non-invasive test that checks the body for pathogens (viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasites) and miasms.  Treatment with vibrational homeopathy clears pathogens and renders miasm/s (more than one may be active) dormant.  The condition for many people with MS has improved or stabilized with this treatment but unfortunately there are very few practitioners in this country.

Is prolonged emotional stress a risk?

Stress causes and is intimately linked to many diseases.  It is not the event or situation itself that creates stress but our subsequent thought processes and accompanying emotions.  In response to strong emotions like fear our body initiates its emergency ‘fight or flight response’ which is designed to cope with short-term stress only.  When stress is prolonged (chronic) the many changes this induces are harmful and cause a further deterioration in health or illness.

Our thought processes also affect the immune system which fights infection.  Immune cells are thinking cells that communicate with the other systems in our body e.g. respiratory, digestive and nervous systems (Dr Candace Pert).  Thinking healthy, positive thoughts in a calm, relaxed body stimulates the body’s healing system.  Negative thinking and stress weaken the immune system, stop the free flow of energy necessary for wellness and prevent maximum absorption of energy from food.  These leave us more vulnerable to illness.

Does environment increase risk?

When people move from a low to a high incidence environment they have the same genes but their risk of getting MS increases or decreases to the same level as the rest of the population e.g. if they eat the same diet or live in areas with the same amount of sun.  Changing the environment before adolescence changes that risk markedly.  Environment can change both gene chemistry as well as DNA

Do certain foods increase the risk and progression of MS?

Dr Roy Swank followed people with MS and their diets for 34 years and concluded that the progression of MS, even in more severe cases, was markedly reduced with a diet low in saturated fats especially those from animal based foods 1.  His studies have been confirmed and extended by many scientists in many countries.

Dr Campbell has done in-depth studies of diets and illnesses throughout the world and found that the western diet of meat, fish and dairy products is related to the increasing number of cancers, heart disease, diabetes and autoimmune diseases of which MS is one.  Ingestion of cows’ milk with its protein and calcium is strongly associated with MS.  We are told that we need milk for calcium but we get more than enough in a balanced diet.

Dr Campbell claims that the plant based diet that prevents diseases like MS can also reverse, slow or stop them.  Therefore, eliminating dairy products, meat, fish and foods high in saturated fats in exchange for a plant based diet can have a very positive effect on MS progression and prevention.  Food choices affect all areas of our ‘being’ including energy levels and metabolism.

Taken from Multiple Sclerosis Q / A  June A Skeggs updated Oct. 2011

Click here for full article

1 The China Study page 196, T Colin Campbell, Benbella

2 The Science of Homeopathy, George Vithoulkas, B Jain Publishers (P) Ltd.   page 130

About MS – Multiple Sclerosis

What is MS?                                                  

MS is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system that affects around 100,000 people in the UK.  MS causes the immune system that normally fights infection to think that the myelin sheath around nerve fibres and axons is foreign and to attack it.  This interrupts messages to and from the brain, via the spinal cord and the complex system of nerves that connect to muscles and other body parts.  Messages become distorted, slow down, fail to get through completely or short-circuit causing problems with a variety of movements, sensory perception, emotions, thinking and the function of body parts.  The myelin sheath can partially or completely heal if the inflammation reduces.  If not, scarring (plaques) can occur and the damage becomes more permanent.


It is not easy to diagnose MS as there is no single test and symptoms can be similar to other diseases.  A ‘clinical diagnosis’ is made from an examination, medical history, results of a number of tests, often an MRI scan and the elimination of other conditions.

Types of MS

  • One episode of illness – some people may only ever experience one ‘attack’ of MS
  • Benign MS – this label is given to people with very little or no disability who have not deteriorated after 10-20 years. They may still have relapses and some problems.
  • Relapsing Remitting MS – the majority of people are initially diagnosed with  ‘relapsing remitting MS’ where attacks are followed by remissions. Symptoms may improve and sometimes disappear.  Invariably they fail to recover to the level they were at before the exacerbation.
  • Secondary Progressive – some people’s diagnosis will change to ‘secondary progressive MS’ when they have continued to deteriorate for 6 months. 
  • Primary Progressive – only a small number, usually diagnosed when they are older, have ‘primary progressive MS’ where they experience increasing disability and a steady worsening of symptoms.  Their MS is progressive from the beginning with no remissions or relapses.

Can other illnesses mimic MS?

Hughes Syndrome, often referred to as ‘Sticky Blood Syndrome’, mimics MS as many symptoms are the same or similar and has sometimes mistakenly been diagnosed as MS.  A blood test is now available to diagnose Hughes Syndrome. (See article on ‘Hughes Syndrome’ in MSRC New Pathways magazine – Nov/Dec 2002 page 10 – Hughes Syndrome).

Taken from Multiple Sclerosis Q / A  June A Skeggs updated Oct. 2011

Click here for full article

What Symptoms can occur in MS?

Physical Symptoms

These can include numbness, tingling, loss of muscle strength, paralysis, balance problems, walking difficulties, problems with co-ordination and dexterity, spasm, stiffness, and ataxia (involuntary movements and loss of co-ordination).  Pain, weakness, problems with bladder and/or bowel control, speech difficulties, visual problems including optic neuritis and physical and mental tension are also possible.

Breathing provides most of our energy and tends to be poor in disabling diseases like MS. Chronic hypo-ventilation (under-breathing) is very common.

Mental Symptoms

These include difficulty with concentration and memory, too much thinking and stress.

Emotional Disturbances

These include depression, anxiety, mood swings, being brought to tears easily, frustration, anger and fear. They may be temporary, e.g. after diagnosis or an exacerbation, or more long-term.

Is MS fatigue different from tiredness?

MS fatigue is different and far worse than the tiredness that most people experience. It is a major problem for many people with MS and is difficult for others to understand.  It makes mental and/or physical activity difficult and sometimes impossible.

How long do symptoms last?

Symptoms vary in severity and duration. When recovery is incomplete the nerve impulses remain interrupted leaving varying degrees of disability and weakness.  Occasionally movement can return years after the attack.  Most people learn to live with the problems, some continue to work and many have a reasonable quality of life managing their problems confidently and well.

Taken from Multiple Sclerosis Q / A  June A Skeggs updated Oct. 2011

Click here for full article

Yoga and Spirituality

TKV Desikachar was in Narbonne, in the South of France, for a symposium on “Yoga and the XXIst Century” during May 1999. The purpose of the symposium was to consider the role of yoga for the coming century in the three fields of Health, Psychology and Spirituality.

Question: How do you define spirituality from the point of view of yoga? Desikachar: What are we seeking ? Within every intelligent human being there are deep, searching questions – “Who am I? Where do I come from? Why do I sometimes feel so well, and not at other times? Where is the origin of my habits? What is it that will give me permanent happiness?”

Many people are looking for perfection in life situations – to have an ideal wife or an ideal husband and so on. Searching for happiness in external circumstances often leads to disappointment. We all know that wealth will not give us happiness, and we will not find it either in external freedom – doing what we want.

When we come to yoga, we begin to discover how the mind functions, and find that there is a lot of “junk” in it, which we try to remove.

Slowly the mind becomes more and more like a mirror that tells us : “Look here, there is something that I can show you”. This something was already there, but is now revealed to us. There is “something” in us which is beyond the mind – I do not know what we can call it.

When we begin to feel this, it is spirituality. The role of yoga in spirituality is to give us awareness of this feeling.

Question: Do you think that yoga can help a person in his or her religious practices? Desikachar: The moment there is a search, an enquiry, we need some help and start looking for it. Then what happens?

We all have roots – we did not appear spontaneously! We came from our parents, and they came from their parents. We are a part of a society, with a culture. We begin to look at our past, discover aspects we may have ignored, and some of these are religious. One discovery leads naturally to another…

I strongly believe that a serious aspirant of life, who goes into yoga, will find his or her roots, and these roots are often linked to religion.

Question: Some religious groups see yoga as being incompatible with their beliefs. Do you think this is simply a question of mis-information? Desikachar: Absolutely. We have to communicate more with them. This was lacking in the past, but things have improved. Many years ago, people thought that doing yoga would make a person crazy!

Earlier, it was also thought that yoga was anti-social, that it isolated people from society. It was perhaps considered potentially dangerous because it came from a different culture. Today, I don’t think this opinion is widespread.

All my friends live normally – they have children, a husband or wife and have responsibilities within the society. They work, have fun, watch football matches…

We, in the field of yoga, have a duty to explain better the true nature of what we are doing and how we live.

On the other side, unfortunately, some religious groups are very rigid. There is also some anxiety in certain religious circles – they feel they are losing their numbers and give mis-information to try to avoid this. Perhaps there is also some ignorance – but this method will not succeed.

There is also a little fanatism in certain religious groups. They provoke basic instincts, unfair to religion as a whole, so that their followers look at everything else negatively. Unfortunately, there can be an element of cult in religion.

So, on our side, we have not given the right information ; on their side, there can be some nervousness.

Question: It would seem that the relationship between the teacher and the student, in the traditional Indian context, is the important factor in change for the student – health-wise, psychologically or spiritually. In the western context, for the coming century, do you see this aspect as feasible or should we be looking to emphasize other aspects? Desikachar: It is not only going to be feasible, it is going to be more and more dominant. We are losing touch with relationship. We have no husband, no wife, no father, no mother, no religion… At the same time we cannot live alone.

A human being likes to be with others. I have heard that there are some “psychological clubs” in France where people meet and share over a cup of coffee, because they have nowhere else to meet and talk. We are becoming lonely, because we wanted a certain freedom, and this is the price we have paid.

Relationships are going to be very important. This means that a teacher has to be very careful, because the moment a student likes a teacher, there is a risk that the teacher will be considered as their husband or wife, or father, or guru, or whatever.

Without a doubt there will be an increasing demand for relationships. Depending on how we handle it this will be for good or for bad… Today, technology has created a big wall between human beings. No need to go to the bank to get money, nor to a travel agent to buy a ticket. Everything is done through technology. We are always focusing on machines.

I observe this when I walk in the streets of any big city in the west – people are not looking at each other, they are looking at machines or talking on their telephones. Even when I go to the counter, the lady is not looking at me, she is looking at the computer!

Technology is great, but it can separate human beings. Therefore, we will certainly be looking for relationships in the future.

Question: And where does yoga fit in? Desikachar: Yoga is relationship. The word yoga means to relate.

TKV Desikachar was in Narbonne, in the South of France, for a symposium on “Yoga and the XXIst Century” during May 1999. The purpose of the symposium was to consider the role of yoga for the coming century in the three fields of Health, Psychology and Spirituality.

With thanks to Paul Harvey – see also Relevance of Traditional Teaching, Yoga & Psycology

Download PDF of Interview with TKV Desikachar on Yoga in 

Yoga and Health

Yoga and the 21st Century – Interview with TKV Desikachar May 1999

Question: How far do you think that yoga can contribute to maintaining good health in the coming century? Desikachar: It is now known that health is not just the absence of diseases coming from infections, etc. There are many illnesses for which medicine has no answer or knowledge of their origins.

People are also turning to other health systems which give them hope. Anything that can offer some solace is now being tried – there is aromatic therapy, hypnosis, magnetic therapy, etc.

In yoga we have this fundamental idea – anything that disturbs a person, including illness and disease, can be helped if we can act on the mind. What is so special about yoga is that it gives us a way to strengthen our mind. When the mind gets stronger, we can face illness and we feel healthier.

It has already been proved that yoga can help. Yoga is not medicine – it is concerned with the quality of life, attitudes to life, personal disciplines, and various other things which any system of medicine can accept. It will certainly have a role to play in every system of health care for times to come.

Question: In this field do you see the most important contribution from yoga being on a preventive or a curative level in the coming century? Desikachar: I think the most important contribution yoga can make in the field of health is the courage it can give to face illness, the strength we can find to cope with our ailments. The moment we have this strength, we have already been cured in a way.

That, I think, is a very significant contribution. This is at least what we see with the many different people who come to our yoga institution in India. Some of them have not received education, others are very cultivated, but whoever they are, when faced with illness, they generally feel discouraged.

After some time they have the courage to smile again, to take a walk, to climb some steps – which can be a big improvement…  This happens because yoga identifies a power within them, a power which they didn’t think they had. It is not medicine, but it works.

Question: Are dietary restrictions a part of yoga? Desikachar: When we start yoga, we begin to look at ourselves. We notice what creates problems and what relieves these problems. Food can do both. If we notice that good food makes us feel better, we will start taking more care about our diet.

People who begin yoga practice start thinking about many things which they hadn’t considered before. Some even reflect on what colour the carpet on which they do their practice should be!

Obviously what we eat is an important consideration, but it is not something that we as yoga teachers insist on.  Each person takes care of his or her own diet. As time goes by yoga makes us more aware of what we are doing and what we should be doing.

Question: Modern medicine has done wonders to improve many ailments, but the contemporary disease which we call stress seems to be difficult to handle for the medical world. Why is yoga practice effective for this field? Do you think it will remain so in the future? Desikachar: Our future life will be stressfull – there is no doubt about that. With all the comforts and conveniences we have, and all the opportunities which modern life gives us, we have more and more ambitions – this can only increase the stress level.

The question is how to cope with it? No outside force can do this for us – we have to look after it from within ourselves, using our own resources.

Yoga cannot prevent stress, but as I said earlier, yoga gives us access to our ressources, which are linked to the mind. In strengthening the mind, yoga enables us to develop a sort of cushion, an increased ability to withstand stress. This is the best way to cope with it. It’s like having a good shock absorber when driving a car on a bumpy road.

Through an understanding of what is at stake, linked to the practice of yoga, the force of our mental ressources are developed and we can handle stress better.

TKV Desikachar was in Narbonne, in the South of France, for a symposium on “Yoga and the XXIst Century” during May 1999. The purpose of the symposium was to consider the role of yoga for the coming century in the three fields of Health, Psychology and Spirituality.

With thanks to Paul Harvey – see also Relevance of Traditional Teaching, Yoga & Psycology

The relevance of Traditional Teaching

Yoga and the 21st Century – Interview with TKV Desikachar May 1999

Question: Do you think that the teaching you received from your father is still relevant today, particularly in the West? Desikachar: It looks like it because, wherever I speak, more and more people come, and from all sorts of different backgrounds. It is relevant, and it is going to be.

Question: You studied the Yoga Sūtra of Patañjali many times with your father. Could you say a few words about this text, and since it is about 2,000 years old, do you think its message is still valid today and for the future? Desikachar: This text is very old, and it deals with the mind. Anything we do, or intend to do, involves this instrument, and all pains and pleasures are rooted here.

Patañjali was very prophetic, because he spoke not only of yesterday’s mind, but also of tomorrow’s. His message concerns clarity, and it will become more and more pertinent as time goes by, because people are now questioning much more than before.

Earlier there was belief, and so people did not have to question, or even to think. Now, we all want to have more responsibility in what happens to us. Therefore, we need to have a clearer mind, and this is why the yoga sûtra is still valid and will remain so.

I believe that, unless a new religious order comes to the world in which case belief will take over, this text will have a wider and wider impact in times to come.

TKV Desikachar was in Narbonne, in the South of France, for a symposium on “Yoga and the XXIst Century” during May 1999. The purpose of the symposium was to consider the role of yoga for the coming century in the three fields of Health, Psychology and Spirituality.

With thanks to Paul Harvey – see also Yoga & Health, Yoga & Psycology