Beginners' Yoga Sequences

5 Yoga Poses for People with Multiple Sclerosis (+ Easy-to-Hard Variations)

If you have MS, try these five yoga poses and variations to improve balance, walking and coordination, according to a new study.

A recent Rutgers University study found that women with moderate symptoms of multiple sclerosis experienced improvements in balance, walking, coordination, and quality of life after eight weeks of practicing yoga. If you have MS, these five poses from the research team are a great way to start a home practice or contact the National Multiple Sclerosis Society to find a class, teacher, or video based on your location and symptoms.

Consult your doctor before starting a yoga practice, and begin with the easiest version of a pose before working toward the more challenging options. Seated versions can be done in a wheelchair or firm chair with a solid back, such as a folding chair, placed near a wall, on a yoga mat. If it is a metal or unpadded chair, you might want a firm folded blanket over the seat and through the back of the chair so it doesn’t slide. If at any time you are not able to physically perform a posture, you can picture yourself doing it, or if someone is available, have them help move you through it safely.

Mountain Pose with overhead stretch

Tadasana, variation 1

Easiest
Seated in a chair, root into your sit bones and feet. Extend up through your spine. Feel your spine lifting from your waist, heart lifted and open, shoulders soft, wide and released down from ears, and crown of head lifting with neck long. Place hands on thighs or on seat sides to support spinal lift if needed. Pause, breathe, and observe. With an inhale, gently, slowly, with awareness, raise your left arm overhead, or as high as you are able, reaching through your fingertips. Use your right arm to support your left arm if needed. Maintain your left arm up while exhaling and extend upward while inhaling. Lower your arm slowly with an exhale. Repeat the sequence, raising the right arm. Repeat, raising both arms. Pause, breathe and observe. Repeat if desired.

See also8 Steps to Master and Refine Tree Pose

Mountain Pose with overhead stretch

Tadasana, variation 2

More challenging
Stand behind a chair with your back near or against the wall, hands resting on or holding onto the back of the chair. Root into your feet, rise up through your center. Feel your spine lifting from your waist, heart lifted and open, shoulders soft, wide and released from ears, and crown of head lifting with neck long. Pause, breathe, and observe. With an inhale, gently, slowly, with awareness, raise your left arm overhead, or as high as you are able, reaching through the fingertips. Hold onto or rest the right hand on the back of the chair. Maintain your left arm up while exhaling and extend upward while inhaling. Lower your arm gently with an exhale. Repeat the sequence, raising your right arm. Repeat, raising both arms if comfortable. Alternatively, if it feels comfortable and safe, face the wall and walk your hands up the wall to obtain the stretch. Breathe at the top of the stretch, and walk your hands back down while exhaling. Before you start, turn the chair so the seat is facing the wall and is directly behind you, in case you want to sit. Pause, breathe and observe. Repeat if desired.

See also3 Ways to Safely Modify Tree Pose

Mountain Pose with overhead stretch

Tadasana, variation 3

Most challenging
Stand between the wall and the chair, facing the back of the chair. Root into your feet, rise up through your center. Feel your spine lifting out of your waist, heart lifted and open, shoulders soft, wide and released from ears, crown of head lifting with neck long. Rest your arms at the sides of your body. Pause, breathe, and observe. With an inhale, gently, slowly, with awareness, raise your left arm overhead, or as high as you are able, reaching through the fingertips. Maintain your left arm up while exhaling and extend upward while inhaling. Lower arm gently with exhale. Repeat the sequence, raising the right arm. Repeat raising both arms if comfortable. Pause, breathe and observe. Repeat if desired.

See alsoSpring Forward Flow: Two Fit Moms’ Tree + Sun Salutations

Forward Bend to waist height

Uttanasana, variation 1

Easiest
From seated Tadasana, hands holding onto the sides of a chair, take a deep inhale and extend your spine upward. As you slowly exhale, bend forward toward your thighs, extending from the hips with a long spine. Stay here and inhale extending and exhale relaxing. On an inhale, with spine straight, return to sitting up, using your arms to help if needed. If comfortable, bring both arms overhead on an inhale and bend forward on the exhale, bringing your hands onto your knees, a chair seat, or to a wall in front of you. Inhaling with your arms raised, come back to sitting up straight. Lower your arms slowly with awareness, while exhaling. Pause, breathe, and observe. Repeat if desired.

See also5 Steps to Master Standing Forward Bend

Forward Bend to waist height

Uttanasana, variation 2

More challenging
Stand behind a chair in Tadasana with your back near a wall, hands resting on or holding onto the back of the chair. Take a deep inhale and extend your spine upward. As you slowly exhale, take small steps backward so that you can bend your torso forward, keeping your head and shoulders at hip height or higher. Inhaling, stretch gently from your hands to your hips. If it feels appropriate and helpful, you can have your hips and heels against the wall. Inhaling, walk forward up to standing. Pause, breathe and observe. Repeat if desired.

See alsoVIDEO: Standing Forward Bend

Forward Bend to waist height

Uttanasana, variation 3

Most challenging
Stand between a wall and a chair, facing the back of the chair. Root into your feet. With a deep diaphragmatic inhale, extend upward through your spine and raise both arms slowly with awareness. Exhaling slowly, with arms alongside your head, bend forward, extending from the hips with a long spine. Bring hands to the back of the chair. Inhaling, stretch gently from your hands to your hips and exhale relaxing into the stretch. On an inhale, with spine straight, and arms alongside your head, return to standing up. Exhale, lower arms to your sides. Pause, breathe and observe. Repeat if desired.

See alsoStanding Forward Bend (Uttanasana) with Yoga Blocks

Warrior Pose II

Virabhadrasana II, variation 1

Easiest
Seated in a chair without sides, hold onto the right side of chair seat with right hand and slide to the left of the chair seat. Hold onto front of chair with your left hand just to the left of your right leg. Inhaling, extend your left leg back with your toes bent forward and grounding through the ball of your foot. Ground through your right foot in front of the chair. Rotate your torso to the left. Switch your left hand to holding the side or back of the chair and right hand to the front of the chair. Inhaling, extend up through your spine. Breathing diaphragmatically, get quiet in the pose. Inhale, rotate your torso front and bring your hands to the sides of the chair. Exhale, bring your left leg back to the front and move to the center of the chair. Pause, breathe, and observe. Repeat on the other side.

See also Watch + Learn: Warrior II Pose

Warrior Pose II

Virabhadrasana II, variation 2

More challenging
Stand behind a chair in Tadasana with your back near the wall, hands resting on or holding onto the back of the chair. On an exhale, step your left leg out to the side toward the wall with your foot at about a 45-degree angle, with your heel into the wall. Leaving your right hand on the chair back, reach back with your left hand and place your palm on the wall with fingers pointing up. Place your forward (right) leg so it’s facing the chair and bend your knee at a 45-90 degree angle. Make sure your knee is over your ankle, not your foot. Tuck your tailbone slightly, let your shoulders be over your hips, and look out over your front arm. Breathing diaphragmatically, get quiet in the pose. Inhaling, straighten your front leg. Exhaling, bring your back leg to center under your torso. Exhaling bring your front leg back under you. Remove the left hand from the wall and bring it to the chair. Return to Tadasana with hands on the chair. Pause, breathe, and observe. Repeat with the right leg back at the wall.

See also Work It: Chair Warrior

Warrior Pose II

Virabhadrasana II, variation 3

Most challenging
Stand between a chair and a wall in Tadasana. On an exhale, step your left leg out to the side toward the wall with your foot at about a 45-degree angle with your heel into the wall. Place your forward (right) leg so it’s facing the chair and bend your knee at a 45-90 degree angle. Make sure your knee is over your ankle, not your foot. Inhaling, raise both arms to horizontal, over your legs, reaching through your fingertips. Tuck your tailbone slightly, let your shoulders be over your hips, and look out over your front arm. Breathing diaphragmatically, get quiet in the pose. Inhaling, straighten your front leg. Exhaling, lower your arms and return to Tadasana. Pause, breathe and observe. Repeat with the right leg back at the wall.

See alsoKathryn Budig’s Dancing Warrior Moving Meditation

Cobra Pose

Bhujangasana, variation 1

Easiest
Seated in a chair with your legs together, reach your arms back to hold your hands or wrists or elbows behind your back, or on sides of chair, or interlace fingers behind your head. Inhaling, lengthen up through your spine, arch from your heart area, pull your shoulder blades together and lengthen your neck. Breathe and get quiet in the posture. Exhaling, return to sitting up straight.

See also Watch + Learn: Cobra Pose

Cobra Pose

Bhujangasana, variation 2

More challenging
Lying on your belly on a yoga mat on the floor, place small folded blanket under your chest across breast line. Place hands palms down on the blanket. Inhaling, gently push the torso up slightly, extending through the spine. Breathe and get quiet in the posture. Exhale and rest on the blanket. Pause, breathe and observe. Repeat.

See alsoPractice Safe Stretch in Cobra

Cobra Pose

Bhujangasana, variation 3

Most challenging
Lying on your belly on a yoga mat on the floor, place hands palms down on the floor next to chest. Legs are together, muscles gently activated. Inhaling, gently push the torso up to the degree that is comfortable, extending through the spine. Breathe and get quiet in the posture. Exhaling, release gently back to floor. Pause, breathe and observe. Repeat.

See also Bend Back Into Your Body: Cobra

Twist

Supta Matsyendrasana, variation 1

Easiest
Seated in a chair, on an inhale, lengthen your spine. On the exhale, gently revolve your torso to one side using the chair seat and back for support with your hands. Breathe and get quiet in the posture. Pause, breathe, and observe. Repeat, turning the opposite way.

See also Ask the Expert: Do Twists Really Wring Out Toxins?

Twist

Supta Matsyendrasana, variation 2

More challenging
Lie on your back with both knees bent and feet on the floor. Place rolled blankets on either side from your hip past knee height. Stretch your arms out to the sides at shoulder height with palms down. Tucking and grounding your shoulder blades, inhaling, lengthen your spine. Exhaling, release knees to the left onto the blanket, look right. Breathe and get quiet in the posture. Inhaling, bring head and knees back to center. Exhaling, drop, knees to the right and look left. Breathe and get quiet in the posture. Pause, breathe, and observe.

See also Try Jason Crandell’s New Twist on Twists

Twist

Supta Matsyendrasana, variation 3

Most challenging
Lie on your back with your left leg straight and your right knee bent. Extend your arms out at shoulder height, palms down, grounding through your shoulder blades. Inhaling, lengthen your spine. Exhaling, release your right knee to the left, look right. Place your left hand on your right thigh. Breathe and get quiet in the posture. Inhaling, bring your head and knee back to the center. Straighten your right leg and bend your left leg. Exhaling, release left knee to the right and look left. Breathe and get quiet in the posture. Pause, breathe, and observe.

See alsoSpinal Tap: Incorporate Yoga Twists for Increased Energy