Multiple Sclerosis (MS) & Bikram Yoga
Name – Brendan
Age – 52
Diagnosis – Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Location – Luxembourg
Life Before MS
For most of my life, I have worked in finance, as a derivative swap broker. The job was very stressful and fast paced. I worked hard and played even harder. I suppose, Looking back now, I would have been in most normal people’s eyes functioning alcoholic .
I love my work I’m lived life to the fullest it was like 1 big party for 30 plus years.
Yoga in any form was certainly not on my radar whatsoever. I joined various gyms to try and get back in shape over the years.
Intentions, only to stop after a couple of months.
When I came to Luxembourg in December 1987, I was only 90 kilogrammes 198 pounds at 2.01 metres tall I was so skinny that my nickname was Streaky .
After the years of exercise and partying, my weight ballooned to 168 kilogrammes – 370 pounds. My nickname change to Bubba, or Fatty! It is now 136 kilogrammes which is still too much, but it is still at least heading in the right direction!
For all those years of work and partying, I was never ill. For a really long time, I never even had a sick day from work. I would often go out all night and then straight to work with no problems. Although my weight was an issue, apart from being overweight, my blood pressure and blood work was always fine. I displayed no symptoms before my first MS attack in late 2003.
My symptoms came on overnight.
I woke to find the left side of my face no, and my speech was slurred.
I attributed it to excess partying and sleeping wrong, or the air conditioner in the office or something like that.
My General practitioner initially thought it may have been Bell’s palsy, but when he examined me he immediately referred me to a neurologist whom I saw within the hour.
When I got the results from the neurologist, I sent them to an Ms specialist in Sweden to get a confirmation of diagnosis, so I was officially diagnosed in early 2004.
Once diagnosed, and back at work, life pretty much went on as normal.
However, I did find I suffered more fatigue, and when I got tired a nap would not suffice.
Luckily, my office was very understanding, being one of eight shareholders/owners, I was very fortunate.
I had a second attack within six months and was immediately put on disease modifying drug, Rebif, which is a beta interferon. My life went on pretty much as normal. I partied as usual, so much so that even my work colleagues forgot I was still.
I guess I just managed my recoveries better.
After being diagnosed, I used a cross trainer down at the gym for an hour, three times a week, plus walking on the treadmill, but again this lapsed after a few months. I never tried to adjust my diet to help my symptoms.
Doubts About Bikram Yoga, especially with MS.
My colleague’s daughter went to Bikram yoga teacher training, and we ribbed him constantly.
When she came back from training, she opened a small studio here, and my wife then began practising Bikram yoga with her.
My wife bought 10 classes, went four times, and hated it. But she then went on to finish her remaining classes and fell in love with it.
In the Fall of 2013 she went to Bikram yoga teacher training in Los Angeles.
When she got back, my wife decided to open the first affiliated studio here.
I invested, so I thought I’d better practise what I preach.
I tried Bikram yoga for the first time in 2014.
I was very hesitant.
During my first class, all I could think was “Oh my God, will people pay money to do this, what have I invested in?!!”.
I was concerned about my health and particularly the heat and humidity.
My neurologist was totally against it.
The fact is that a lot of people with MS are known to struggle terribly with heat, humidity, and chronic fatigue.
These conditions can possibly lead to flare ups/ attacks open, relapses, and therefore most neurologists are very wary.
I learned that there are four types of MS. I suffer with relapse and remitting which is the most common form. I am also of the type who isn’t negatively affected so much by heat but by the cold.
Once my neurologist realised this and saw the benefits of my practise, she did a U-turn and is now fully supported of me doing Bikram yoga.
To this day, it is still a struggle to go, but the feeling after each class was always what kept me coming back for more. I’ve experienced improved flexibility, core strength , and mobility.
Mentally, I suppose I feel that if I can do Bikram yoga, I can do anything! I like the consistency and repetitiveness of the practise; I know what’s coming up and can therefore manage my energy levels.
I like the community and the fact that it’s not a competition, and that all different age groups, all different body types, and people from all different walks of life can participate.
In the hot room we are all equal.
I changed my MS medication to tablet form, Tecfiders, in 2015 .
I also stopped taking another drug, Nuerontin,, since reading about long term adverse effects.
I’ve replaced this with CBD oil and have noticed no change in my general health.
Ideally, I practise Bikram yoga three to four times a week.
However, I had a few falls a couple of months ago and wasn’t fit for class for over three months.
I’m now back. I did my first class and will be adding two to three of these classes back into my weekly routine.
Slowly does it.
I practise to improve and keep my flexibility, and for my general health and well being. I haven’t had an attack or full relapse of Ms since I began my Bikram practise in October 2014. We visited Bikram yoga teacher training in Mercia, Spain, in spring 2019.
I finally got the chance to experience taking experience taking classes from Bikram Choudhury himself!
Simply put, it was the best! Bikram was aware of my chronic illness and treated me with compassion.
I was hooked.
I even dabbled with the idea of attending teacher training myself some time, however, I don’t believe I would be physically capable of the rigorous twice daily classes, lectures, and posture clinics.
And I would not wish to be treated differently than other trainees because of my condition.
As of Autumn 2019 I have still had no new MS flare ups or relapses.
I’m fully back to my regular three-times-a-week practise and appreciate everyday how much this truly healing yoga therapy has helped me in so many aspects of my life.
Bibliography – Hope for Autoimmune Disease (by Ann Chrapkiewicz)