An experiment led by the French Federation of Kundalini Yoga
Imagine if your immune system was unable to recognize the layer of myelin around your nerves, and started to attack it, disrupting the transmission of nerve impulses to the brain and causing a variety of very disabling effects :
- fatigue, muscular weakness, difficulty moving, muscular rigidity and spasms, involontary contractions, pain, tingling sensations, trembling, difficulties with balance, partial or complete paralysis, … on the physical level,
- anxiety, depression, impaired vision, difficulties with speech, memory problems, sleep disorders, … on the mental level.
These are the symptoms experienced by people who have multiple sclerosis (MS), a debilitating auto-immune disease that primarily affects young adults (20 to 45 years old), especially women. During MS Awareness Week in France, the French Federation of Kundalini Yoga (FFKY) was asked to organize and lead "Yoga and MS" workshops simultaneously in 9 major French cities on May 25th and 26th, 2011. In each of these cities, the workshops took place within « MS House », a yearly gathering of MS patients, their families and their caregivers, along with healthcare providers, in order to learn and share about this disease. The goal of the workshops was to demonstrate how a yoga practice can improve the lives of people dealing with MS.
A small team of teachers who already had some experience with MS through their professions -- doctor, physiotherapist and nurse specializing in psychomotor functions-- devised an approach based on the handicaps of MS patients, and put together a set of guidelines, a « yoga toolbox », for the ten teachers who would facilitate the workshops.
At each step of the process, the team chose specific practices, from gentle to moderate, short in duration and for the most part simple and that can be done from a chair or wheelchair. The team's approach was also based on recommendations from the Guru Ram Das Center for Medecine and Humanology (www.grdcenter.org), based in Espanola, New Mexico and created by Yogi Bhajan in order to bring the techniques of Kundalini Yoga into the healthcare field.
Here are the guidelines developed by the team :
First, welcome the person by offering them some Yogi Tea, listening to them and looking at them; by becoming sensitive to their emotional tonality; by tuning in with them with the opening mantra.
Suggest one of the following practices, to soothe and help release stress :
- Breathing through the left nostril (Aquarian Teacher, page 385)
- "Sitali Pranayama" (Aquarian Teacher, page 405)
- "Gudtkaa Kriya" meditation (Infinity and Me, page 68)
- "Magic mantra to reverse negativity" (Yogi Bhajan teaching dated July 19, 1982)
- "9 minutes to relieve stress" meditation (Self Experience, pages 39-40)
- "Meditation to overcome depression" (Survival Manual, page 27)
- "Meditation to cleanse emotions from the past" (Physical Wisdom, page 49)
Suggest one of the following practices to reconnect with the life force :
- Breathing through the right nostril to clear the mind (Aquarian Teacher, page 385)
- Meditation to open to new possibilities (A Year With the Master : 2000, page 19)
- Meditation to set a creative goal (The Mind, page 174)
- Series of exercises for the nervous system and to balance the glandular system (Kundalini Yoga for Youth and Joy, page 34)
- Basic Spinal Energy Series (Aquarian Teacher, page 339)
Suggest one of the following practices to reconnect with the heart and the soul :
- Kriya for creativity (Physical Wisdom, pages 12-13)
- Exercises to strengthen the nervous system and open the heart (Survival Manual, pages 54-55)
Conclude the workshop by closing the space; by giving the participants a short brochure on Kundalini Yoga and MS; by taking down their addresses in order to send them the exercises that they are interested in practicing.
As for the teachers who led the workshops, they found the experience very enriching for their own work as teachers. They also felt that getting to know people with MS was enriching for them on a human level. Most of them expressed the desire to continue to work with the handicapped and plan to get in touch with MS organizations in order to do so.
For its part, the FFKY will be sending out information to its members to educate them about how to open their classes to people with MS and how to conduct classes specifically for them. We will also continue to work with patient organizations and healthcare worker groups in order to further develop the relationships that were established during this week of workshops.
Thank you to Yogi Bhajan, his teachers, and all those who helped make these workshops such a success. It was a beautiful opportunity to improve the lives of people with MS and also bring greater awareness of the tools of Kundalini Yoga to the general public in France.
For more information, contact :
Seva Kaur, President of the FFKY, who managed the team that put together the teacher guidelines: [email protected] or 33 (0)2 40 96 94 51.
Dominique Puvilland, Secretary of the FFKY, who organized the workshops: [email protected] or 33 (0)9 77 00 73 11.