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Why I Do Yoga: Hama

Once an avid walker, this Iranian native now turns to yoga as a way to stay healthy while grappling with multiple sclerosis.

By Loraine Despres

Twelve years ago, before Hama was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease in which the body's own defense system attacks the myelin sheaths surrounding the nerves, she walked for an hour every morning with a friend. She says she really misses that. But Hama, who was born in Iran and had to flee with her husband and babies during the revolution, doesn't dwell on what she's lost, or on what she can't do. "Yoga is something I can do. It's not hard on my body, and I can work at my own pace." She now makes yoga part of her daily routine. Although yoga hasn't halted the slow progression of the disease, "I have more patience with my symptoms now. MS makes you feel helpless, so yoga is my mission. I do it to stay healthy—my joints, my organs, and my mind. Especially my mind." She feels connected to her teacher, Eric Small, who has MS himself. "He understands." She met him when he gave a class for the MS Society. "Then I found out he had a non-MS class, and that appealed to me. I'm so blessed that he has this studio open for everyone. Even if I become more disabled, I know he can accommodate me. MS is a constant challenge, but since I have been working with Eric, I'm more at ease and content. I cherish the time I spend with him. It's something to hold on to."

Hama's Practice.

Four Iyengar classes a week plus a weekly pPranayama class. She practices every day at home.

How she got started.

After her first MS attack, which left her very weak and in bed for a month, her son's homework tutor said he knew someone who taught yoga. At that time, Hama didn't even know what yoga was. But when he told her it was a gentle exercise that he'd heard was good for people with her disease, she gave it a try.

Her teachers.

She began with Leslie Bogart, who came to her house after her first attack. Later she took Level One and Easy Does It classes at Yoga Works in Santa Monica, California. For the last two and a half years she's studied exclusively with Eric Small, who teaches Iyengar Yoga in Beverly Hills, California.

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