Tag Archives: MS

Yoga Diary – Why you should include “core” work in your practice

13 Sep

In 2010, an article in the Times entitled “The Core Stability Myth” gave rise to some discussions about the important of strengthening the core muscles. However, the controversy arose mainly because the author was referring to the Transverse Abdominals (the six pack muscle) rather than all the core muscles.

It is indeed important to see the core as a group of muscles including the Transverse Abdominals but also the Obliques, the Multifidus and the Pelvic Floor Muscles.

Why are these muscles important?
First because they protect the lower back by stabilising it and help keep a good posture.
Second because they help massage the internal organs, improving digestion and elimination.
Third, because strong core muscles will help you in about all the yoga asanas. Whether standing, balancing poses or twists, they all require strong core muscles and stability.
Fourth, core strength is magical. It makes everything easier: sitting, lifting, standing, bending, playing tennis, reaching overhead… you name it. Personally, it makes me feel stronger, not just physically but mentally too.

How to strengthen the core?
Students often believe that the only core strengthening yoga pose is Navasana/ the Boat pose but there are many many more. And not just asanas! Practising Kaphalabati breath everyday for a few minutes will undoubtedly strengthen your core! Pelvic tilts too, Balancing Table, Lower Planks… There are core strengthening practises for every mood, every level!
Hmm I guess a short Core Strengthening Video is required. Coming soon.


Yoga Diary – MS Hug (How Yoga helps)

12 Sep

Over the last few days, I occasionally felt tightness around my ribcage, very mildly and briefly. However last night, it became quite intense. No doubt, it was the so- called MS hug, which is basically due to spasms of the muscles between the ribs. It can last a few minutes or hours.

I had just finished reading a great article (Sam Harris’s Vanishing Self by Gary Gutting) when the pain started. My ribcage was caught in a vice. My breath got shorter and shallower. So I got up, walked around trying to stand up and then lied down breathing as deeply as I could. But it didn’t stop.

I then decided to go on my yoga mat – I am lucky to have a ‘yoga room’ where my mat is always waiting for me, with bolsters and blocks. Without any hesitation, I went into Supta Badda Konasana, the Bound Angle Pose.
I demonstrated this pose in a video for ekhartyoga: Watch the video

I did this pose without the belt though and stayed for about ten minutes, listening to some relaxing music. Peter had brought my iPad in the room and lit the candles to help me relax – i think he was a bit worried as he had never seen me with the MS hug before!
I then moved into Savasana, the Corpse Pose, and played a ‘Chanting Om’ album. I listened to Om being continuously chanted, anchoring my breath on each long slow Om. I did this for about twenty minutes, focusing on keeping with the breath, and then I felt better. Later on, I also meditated briefly, had a nice cup of tea and a hot shower. The crisis was over.

Yoga doesn’t take away the pain of the MS Hug – it is hard to reach the muscles being in spasm with the MS hug- but it helps.
For me, it is like having a toothache. On the one hand there is the tooth pain itself, the ‘core pain’. But on the other, there is also the discomfort, and sometimes even pain, due to us being nervous, irritated, etc., the ‘secondary pain’. Yoga may not reduce the core pain itself but it certainly helps reduce the secondary pain. And it makes the whole experience much easier to cope with. I do not wish anybody to experience the MS Hug, but if it happens, try this and see if it helps. Namaste

Taming the Walrus: An Integrative Approach

20 Jul


I haven’t written any blog entry for such a long time…. But I was very busy! Together with my partner, we worked on the Taming the Walrus Approach: an integrative approach to living with MS, including Yoga, Mindfulness and Diet.
We are finalising our website – which will take over the name tamingthewalrus.com – and this blog will be linked to it.
It is so exciting! I feel that everything is coming together.I will of course share the link as soon as it is life!
I’m looking forward to your feedback. But i a m also looking forward to our first Taming the Walrus retreat, which will take place in Ericeira, Portugal, from 11th to 18th of October. We are delighted to organise it in Omassim guesthouse, which is owned by good friends of ours. It is a “small” guest house, which is perfect since we want to keep the number of participants low. Here is the schedule:

08:00-09:30 – General Yoga Class
09:45 – 10:45 Breakfast
11:00 – 12:30 Adaptive yoga (to address specific MS issues) or talks, video and discussions.
13:00 – 14:00 Lunch
14:00 – 17:30 Free time – beach, massage, reading chatting etc.
18:00 – 18:45 Gentle Restorative Yoga (on the beach if you want to!)
18:45 – 19:30 Mindfulness
20:00 – Dinner

From 595 euro a week (Early Bird) including:
– Accommodation in mini dormitory
– 3 Delicious vegetarian meals per day
– Daily yoga classes – suitable for all levels
– Introduction to Mindfulness Sessions
– Retreat Manual

And hopefully there will be plenty more to come!
Have a lovely day!
ps: for more info you can write to us to tamingthewalrus@gmail.com

2013: A Yogic Year in Review

28 Dec


“Change is not something that we should fear.
Rather, it is something that we should welcome.
For without change, nothing in this world would ever grow or blossom,
and no one in this world would ever move forward
to become the person they’re meant to be.” Unknown.

The New Year is approaching. Time for the Year in Review!
As Miss Sophie in “Dinner For One”, I always follow the same procedure, except mine is different 😉 and includes: reviewing – assessing – setting new goals, which are key steps for autonomous life long learning!
Let’s rewind back to December 2012. I had been in Spain for six months, in Seville. Since I was afraid not to have a job, I had two full time jobs (I know I know!!!): as a Learning Designer for a big publisher and as a Chief editor of a magazine. Plus I was also squeezing in yoga classes too! Luckily for me, my partner was even busier, so at least my “reduced availability” wasn’t too much of a problem for our young relationship.
Back to the present, December 2013. I changed from 5th to 2nd gear! I moved from Seville to the middle of the countryside and I spend my day either working for a small publisher or developing yoga therapy for multiple sclerosis. And I even occasionally do NOTHING!
So what is the verdict? How did 2013 go?
On the whole, I would say that it went pretty well although I often miss being in a city and still worry a bit about financial stability. Looking back however, I realise how dramatically things changed for me and how I learned to let go – albeit reluctantly. So it is possible to change after all!
One key event in 2013 was that I graduated in Advanced Yoga Teacher Training with the Paramanand Yoga Research Institute in India and realised how much I want to help people with MS. It is in my guts, in my heart, in my head.
I had taught yoga for MS before, based on my own experience and brilliant book and DVDs, but the Yoga Therapy and Ayurveda training in Paramanand helped me put the pieces together. I learned to view MS from a different perspective, which offers so much more possibilities and makes far more sense!
Yoga Therapy has so much to offer for people with MS to make their life easier. And although it is still at its infancy in Europe, I have no doubt it will flourish here too.
Something else happened in India. Something i still haven’t fully worked out. Maybe it is the magic of India… In any case, I let go of some very deep rooted fears too. Is that why my teacher gave me the name Maa Mukta, which means Liberated?
Thanks to my amazing partner’s ecouragements, I decided to give Yoga Therapy for MS more time and energy. I published an article in a French yoga magazine, I created a website. I recorded a series of yoga videos for ekhartyoga.com, I have a yoga therapy retreat planned for March and a few more projects in the making…
So what about December 2014? Where will I be? What will I do? Will I move away again? Will I help people with MS? Who knows?
What about my new goals? For the first time in years, I don’t really feel like setting goals for the future. I want to focus on NOW but I will try to follow my teacher’s advice, that is to develop yoga therapy for MS to help others and not for my own sake to feel better about myself or for the sake of knowledge. And que sera, sera!
I wish you all a very happy NOW time (forever)!


“Le changement n’est pas à craindre,
mais à accueillir les bras ouverts.
Car sans changement, rien ne pousserait ni ne fleurirait dans ce monde.
Personne n’avancerait pour devenir la personne qu’il ou elle est supposé(e) être.


FrenchLe Nouvel An approche. C’est l’heure de passer l’année en revue. Comme Miss Sophie dans le « Dinner For One », je suis la même procédure, sauf que la mienne est différente J. Je passe en revue – j’évalue – et je me fixe de nouveaux objectifs, ce qui constitue les étapes clé de l’apprentissage tout au long de la vie !
Retournons à décembre 2012. J’étais alors en Espagne depuis six mois, à Séville. Par peur d’être sans emploi, j’avais deux postes `a plein temps, un comme Learning Designer dans une grande maison d’édition et un comme rédactrice d’un magazine. Et en plus, j’assurais des cours de yoga entre deux ! Heureusement mon partenaire était encore plus occupé et mon manque de disponibilité ne posait pas trop de problèmes dans notre jeune relation.
Retour au présent, décembre 2013. Je suis passée de la 5ème à la 2ème vitesse. J’ai déménagé de Séville et habite en pleine campagne. Je partage mes journées entre un emploi pour une petite maison d’édition et le développement de cours de yoga thérapie pour la SEP. Il m’arrive même de ne RIEN faire !
Alors, quel est le verdict ? Comme s’est passée l’année 2013 ? Dans l’ensemble, je dirais « plutôt bien » même si vivre en ville me manque souvent et même si les questions de stabilité financière me préoccupent toujours. En regardant en arrière, je réalise à quel point les changements de 2013 ont été importants pour moi! Et surtout, j’ai appris – avec réticence certes – à laisser aller. Il est donc possible de changer !
Un facteur clé en 2013 a été la formation niveau avancé de prof de Yoga que j’ai suivie `a l’institut de recherche Paramanand en Inde. Je me suis alors rendue compte à quel point j’ai envie d’aider les personnes qui ont une SEP. Je ressens ce désir dans les tripes, dans le cœur, dans la tête ! J’ai enseigné le yoga pour la SEP avant, en me basant sur ma propre expérience et sur des livres et des DVD formidables mais la formation en yoga thérapie et en Âyurveda à l’Institut Paramanand m’a aidé à finir le puzzle. J’ai appris à appréhender la SEP d’une autre manière, ce qui offre de nombreuses possibilités thérapeutiques. La yoga thérapie a tant à offrir pour rendre la vie des personnes atteintes d’une SEP plus facile ! Bien qu’elle n’en soit qu’à ses débuts en Europe, je suis convaincue que la yoga thérapie est promis à un bel avenir.
Autre chose est arrivé en Inde. Quelque chose que je n’ai pas encore complètement élucidé… mais qui m’a permis de vaincre des peurs très profondément ancrées en moi. Est-ce pour cela que mon professeur de yoga m’a donné comme nom « Maa Mukta » qui signifie « Libérée » ?
Grâce aux encouragements de mon formidable partenaire, j’ai décidé de consacrer plus de temps et d’énergie à la yoga thérapie pour la SEP. J’ai rédigé un article pour un magazine de yoga en France, j’ai créé un site web, j’ai enregistré des vidéos pour le site ekhartyoga.com. J’ai organisé une retraite en Espagne en mars 2014. Et je travaille sur d’autres projets…
Qu’en est-il de décembre 2014 ? Où serai-je ? Aurais-je de nouveau déménagé ? Aiderai-je les personnes atteintes d’une SEP ? Qui sait ? Quels sont mes objectifs ? Pour la première fois depuis des années, je n’ai pas envie de me fixer de nouveaux objectifs. Je veux me concentrer sur le PRÉSENT but je vais essayer de suivre les conseils de mon professeur et développer la yoga thérapie pour la SEP pour les autres, et non pour moi, non pas pour me sentir mieux ou pour l’amour de la connaissance. Et ensuite, que sera, sera !
Je vous souhaite à tous un excellent moment PRÉSENT (toujours) !

Rays of the sun

17 Nov


“Take up one idea.
Make that one idea your life; 
dream of it; think of it; live on that idea. 
Let the brain, the body, muscles, nerves,
every part of your body be full of that idea, 
and just leave every other idea alone.”
Swami Vivekananda

Have you ever met someone and knew, intuitively, that this encounter would make a difference? That’s how I felt when I first met Esther and Bas from Ekhart Yoga. Their generosity and kindness are mighty. And this quote from B.K.S Iyengar comes to my mind: “Healthy plants and trees yield abundant flowers and fruits. Similarly, from a healthy person, smiles and happiness shine forth like the rays of the sun.”

Esther and Bas offered me the opportunity to shoot yoga therapy videos for people with MS and post them on their website, which is fantastic! I always believed that online videos are brilliant for people with MS who have no access to special yoga classes or are too tired to attend one. In the comfort of their home, they can watch and practice at their own rhythm. I hope that the sequences I designed will be helpful. I am so happy and thankful for Esther and Bas’ support and encouragement!

But seeing Esther’s with her students was also a beautiful reminder of what teaching yoga is about. A friend recently told me about what she calls “mirror teachers”: yoga teachers who stand in front of their students to demonstrate how great they can perform the various postures. For them, the class is like a mirror. They expect students to imitate them. Then there are the others, the ones who wish to guide their students on the yogic path. The ones who truly follow the yamas and niyamas. Esther is definitely one of these dedicated teachers. She cares for every single one of her students and it shows. It shows in her smily face and shiny eyes when she talks about her students. She lives Yoga and she is a great source of inspiration!


10 Nov

Over the past three weeks, i suffered from severe neck, shoulder and arm pains. I found out it was not MS related at all. I have two trapped nerves in the cervicals, plus the first signs of cervical arthrosis (a bit early!!!) as well as an inversion in the cervicals most likely due to a 15 years old trauma!

Although i am now fine with it and see it as another opportunity to learn more about yoga therapy, my first reaction was quite negative. I just wanted to cry “Why me???? Why do i have to fight again? Why can’t i just have one thing to deal with?”  In this moment,  i just needed someone to give me a hug and tell me how wonderful i am etc etc.

What i needed was what Germans call “Mitgefühl”, to be with someone who “feels with” me. Not someone who makes me feel inadequate by saying “Come on that’s nothing, everybody has problems…” But no pity neither,  no “oh poor you”. Just someone putting himself or herself in my shoes. I needed to share my burden.

Of course MS is not the end of the world and all the persons with MS i have met are beautiful strong persons. But when other stressful events come on top of it, facing them may first seem impossible.

I am very lucky to have amazing friends who know exactly when i need their “Mitgefühl” but i wished they were a bit closer now… To my beautiful friends in Ireland and my wonderful cousins: i miss you.

To those of you who also have MS and sometimes feel like the challenges are just too much, don’t stay on your own, join MS support groups, get in touch…

Jumping or not jumping?

25 Oct


Have you ever wondered what your life purpose is? Have you ever looked at the mirror and asked yourself: “Why are you here? What are you meant to do?”

For many years, I thought that our main purpose in life is to keep it going: have children, develop our potentials, always do the best we can without hurting anybody etc. I guess this general all-encompassing aim was good enough. Having MS pushed me to slowly re-assess this vision.  Would I be ready to have children knowing I might not be able to look after them or that they might also get MS? Is doing one’s best always good? What about security?

My parents never cared whether you got an A or a C at school as long as you did your best.  But if you got a A and they thought you could have got an A+, they were disappointed. I started to enjoy going as far as I could.  People sometimes think I am competitive but the truth is I just want to find out how far I can go.

I was told that, to live well with MS, I need to spend only 70 or 80% of my energy and to keep the rest for recuperating.  Gosh, this has been the hardest part of having MS so far and I still fall into the trap. In the first phase after diagnosis,  I still wanted to do my best but my leitmotiv was “security”. I searched for job / financial security because I thought that was the best way to ensure independence. At least, if you have financial security you can have an apartment that is fully equipped no matter what disability you suffer from. You can have a special car. You can afford whatever is available to make living with a disability easier.

I nearly made it.  I finished my PhD, got a permanent job with an educational publisher… for a few months and then it went bankrupt.  I became self-employed. Back to insecurity!

Anyway, isn’t “security” just an illusion? Nobody can ever be secure. Nothing is secure. Do I sound like I am trying to console myself? Maybe I am but I am also trying to motivate myself to take a jump, leave the publishing world behind and fully immerse into yoga therapy. If nothing is secure, why not dedicate my entire time to something I believe in and that make sense? And do my best, unconditionally, whole-heartedly. Nothing more, nothing less.

PS: I am now working on a website: http://www.yogatherapy4ms.com.
The logo was designed by my friend Blanca. Isn’t it great? I know the photo of my dog doesn’t belong there but she’s so cute…

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