Yoga and Multiple Sclerosis: A Practical Guide for People with MS and Yoga Teachers
By providing an overview of key yoga postures and basic breathing techniques, this book demonstrates how people with Multiple Sclerosis can manage symptoms, and create a regular yoga practice in order to enhance physical and mental wellbeing.
The book includes photos to demonstrate the yoga poses, as well as case studies and testimonials that depict the benefits and impact of a regular practice that can be carried out at home with minimal equipment or household objects. There is also advice on safety, diet and nutrition, and meditation practices.
Suitable for beginner and continuing level yoga students, Yoga for Multiple Sclerosis is the perfect guide for those wishing to harness the therapeutic power of yoga, as well as for yoga teachers looking for ways to support their students.
Contact info for multiple copies
If there is interest in ordering multiple copies for your organization, please contact:
Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London
Tel: +44 (0) 7833 2307
Jessica Kingsley Publishers, Philadelphia
Tel: +1 215-922-1161
Published by Singing Dragon, an imprint of Jessica Kingsley Publishers – Academic, Educational and Professional Publisher of the Year, British Book Awards 2020
Interviews about Yoga and Multiple Sclerosis: A Practical Guide for People with MS and Yoga Teachers
To accompany the release of the book, below are a couple of recent interviews about my personal journey:
Garth McLean interview – with Give Back Yoga – Feb 2021
View the full GBYU online talk (air date Feb 6/21), Yoga as an Intervention for MS.
IAYT Yoga Therapy
This post originally appeared on yogatherapy.health, published by the International Association of Yoga Therapists. Used with permission.”
Should you have any questions, starting in mid-December, I am happy to offer online or phone consultations to respond to inquires for guidance on practice, or when working with a student with challenges.
If you want to have a chat, have practice or teaching questions, please schedule a consultation here.
To accommodate your time zone, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can coordinate a convenient time to meet.
IMMUNE FUNCTION SEQUENCE from B.K.S. Iyengar
- Uttanasana (support head) 5 min
- Adho Mukha Svanasana (support head) 5 min
- Prasarita Padottanasana (support head if not on floor) 3 min
- Sirsasana 5 min
- Sirsasana cycle (see Light on Yoga plates #202-218)5 min
- Viparita Dandasana (support head) 5 min
- Sarvangasana 10 min
- Halasana 5 min
- Sarvangasana Cycle 5 min ( Light on Yoga plates #234-271)
- Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (supported) 5 min
- Viparita Karani (at wall) 5 min
- Savasana (w/ Ujjayi or Viloma pranayama) 10 min
- Sirsasana 10 min
- Sarvangasana 10 min
- Halasana 5 min or Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (supported) 10 min
- Savasana (w/ Ujjayi or Viloma pranayama) 10 min
Guidelines for Yoga and Multiple Sclerosis
With my direct personal experience in overcoming some of the most frightening symptoms associated with MS (see below), I can wholeheartedly attest that the practice of Iyengar Yoga offers the practitioner the opportunity to overcome not only the challenges of MS, but also of life.
The practice helps one to face times of fear and uncertainty with poise and presence of mind.
Over the years, many have asked me about my practice for my MS. In the interest of efficiency, until my new book is published, I have assembled a basic Guideline for Yoga and MS based on my practice. The basic Guideline is a starting point and geared to those who are reasonably ambulatory. It is available for purchase as a digital download or as a printed on-demand copy. A translation in Portuguese is also now available!
The basic Guideline is available on MagCloud.
When knowledge and experience can come together, it can synthesise something beautiful. Garth McLean's book is a testament to precisely that. This book is honest, clear and straightforward. It creates channels of hope, courage and confidence for those affected by MS.
— Abhijata Iyengar
In “Yoga and Multiple Sclerosis,” Garth McLean captures the true essence that adopting a yoga practice can have for a practitioner at any level - the potential for transformation of body and mind. Steeped in his own personal experience with MS, Garth shares his journey in a clear, compassionate and accessible way. Others who may struggle with the challenges of MS are offered a pathway to help overcome obstacles of a frightening and unpredictable health challenge. Coupled with his personal experience with Iyengar Yoga, McLean offers an invaluable resource punctuated with illuminative photographs and skillful insight to further aid the practitioner, yoga teachers and other professionals. Underpinned with yogic philosophy, this exciting resource transcends the physical practice, offering any student of yoga hope in times of uncertainty.
— Patricial Walden
Advanced Senior Iyengar Yoga Teacher
This book by Garth McLean is a boon for yoga teachers as well individuals with multiple sclerosis [MS]. Garth's rare experience as a patient of MS, an Iyengar Yoga practitioner as well as teacher is beautifully reflected in this well-balanced, illustrated step-by-step approach in his book. A neurological condition, which expresses in one's youth can be quite stressful and demotivating but the book will provide new hopes and means to lead a happy life.
— Rajvi H Mehta
Editor, Yoga Rahasya, teacher, Iyengar Yogashraya, Mumbai
This is such a well-written, educational, and inspiring book, that I can highly recommend it for students and teachers in any lineage, not just Iyengar. In addition, Garth's honesty and thoroughness about his comprehensive, integrative approach to managing his disease lends to the credibility and value of this book.
— John Kepner
Executive Director, International Association of Yoga Therapists
What an amazingly, good, useful, valuable, and impressive work and service! Garth's life story is exemplary in his chosen path of Iyengar Yoga to help him thrive with MS--an inspiration for everyone! His book is clearly presented for anyone to follow and understand. The black and white photos are clear and clarifying. Above all, it will greatly benefit those with MS to take up a practice that will enhance their lives as well as for yoga teachers to help guide their students who have MS. This book is clearly a classic that will keep on giving.
— Lois Steinberg
Ph.D., CIYT Advanced 2, C-IAYT
“Yoga and Multiple Sclerosis” looks like many other Iyengar-based books: detailed instructions, many photos, adaptations, and of course, props. The magic is McLean's uses of his embodied theater sensibility to bring the reader into the lived experience of MS. What a treasure for students and professionals to glimpse the ups and downs of yoga and MS in a way that breathes life into a powerful guide that's not just for MS, but every yoga practice.
— Matthew J. Taylor
PT, PhD, C-IAYT, director of SmartSafeYoga, past president of IAYT, and international pain and yoga safety expert.
I. Have. Changed.
Because of yoga. Because of Garth McLean. A few years ago, a friend of a sister of an old friend of mine from Jr. High (I love these kinds of connections!) told me about a special yoga class for people with Multiple Sclerosis and other neurological disorders. I signed up for a three class series. The first class was very difficult and I wasn't sure it was for me but I kept coming back. And the classes just got better and better. Garth was able to adapt exercises and poses for me, specifically. He did this for everyone as we all had different abilities and needs. I began to gain strength and confidence. I have become a happier and calmer individual. My blood pressure has lowered. Many of the Yoga poses have a direct and positive impact on my daily life. Hip openers such as "The Coffee Table Pose" make it possible for me to sit down and cross my leg over the other thigh to put on shoes and socks. One of my favorite poses is Utkatsana (squatting at the wall). It strengthens my legs and gluts, helping me to get up from sitting on a chair or the toilet. And Garth has named it "Robin's Microwave Pose" because immediately after I was introduced to this pose, I found I could multi-task while using the microwave. I could hold on to the kitchen counter and get in ten reps while the timer counted down. It is so important to incorporate these exercises into our everyday activities.And then there are the people. I have come to admire and respect every one of the students. It takes an enormous effort just to make it to yoga and each classmate is a warrior in their own special way. The many volunteer teaching assistants are all certified yoga instructors. They freely give of their time and experience. As we students need a great deal of help, this type of class would not be possible without these loving, skillful volunteers. But the most remarkable and giving person is Garth McLean. Having his unique perspective of someone with M.S., he has created this incredibly beneficial and life changing yoga experience. Sometimes, I feel a lift just by walking into the room with Garth, to share his positive energy and sense of humor and vast knowledge of the oldies songs! I almost wouldn't need him to teach a class but I am lucky and appreciative that he does.
— Robin Levy Goetz
Garth McLean gave me hope to heal my broken body and then taught me how to transfer that hope into my mind, body and emotional systems connecting me to universal truth. In 1985 I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. With a lot of hard work I was able to conquer the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis. It took me 3 years of hard work but it brought me 30 years of disease-free living.I remained symptom -free for 30 years. But then my hands went numb and I knew it was time to see my neurologist. He calmly told me that I had Parkinson’s Disease. I was so angry –all I could do was yell, “I’don’t have PARKINSON’S, I have MS? I have MS. I was sure he was wrong, who the heck had both diseases? Well, that would be me! The Parkinson’s hit me by surprise and with fury. I had ALL the Parkinson’s symptoms and I was so discouraged, I didn’t know what to do. One day I needed help getting in and out of my car, then I would lose my balance for a time which made othersgossip about my drinking problem (that I didn’t have)My balance was in and out, my sight was threatening to leave and I had pain, lots of it.This was more than I could handle.How could Garth help me? The answer was in more ways than ever imaginable.I soon found out that the ancient practice of Yoga seemed designed for Garth to use with me. He had me moving like I never thought I could -- even getting my legs up on a balance bar, stretching in amazing ways, and get this, the girl with no balance ,hung up on ropes and did partial, and guided and restorative shoulder stands. As he taught me, I felt free, and confident and brave enough to try new things. My body would give me the answers I sought. Garth taught me.there is a natural healer inside all of us. His enthusiasm makes you feel anything is possible – and perhaps it really is
Now I have the time energy to heal from aging and 5 broken bones. If there’s anyone who can invent the Fountain of Youth, It’s Garth. With some help from Yoga, of course.
— Judith H.
I have been working with Garth since 2014. Garth is an excellent yoga teacher. I have had Parkinson’s Disease for over 19 years and have tried different exercise modalities but nothing has been able to improve my flexibility and balance as much as my yoga practice with Garth. From day one Garth has taken the time to learn about Parkinson’s and he has structured my practice to maximize my progress while working with my physical constraints to ensure I have a challenging yet safe experience. With Garth’s guidance, I have improved my practice far beyond my expectations.
— Mike Weinman
It’s just fantastic. What I’ve learned through yoga is when you have Multiple Sclerosis, this makes me feel at home, as though life is just beginning, rather than life has just ended. For instance, I’m trying to make sure that my left foot doesn’t trip over a raised pavement stone, when walking, which can have me on the ground. So what I am delighted about practicing yoga is I am learning that if I want to keep my left foot off the ground, clear of such obstacles, I have to put my weight firmly on my right foot, and then lift my left foot, like we did in tree pose. This sounds really simple and yet it makes all the difference in the world. It makes it so much easier to lift my left foot when it’s normally really hard to lift my left foot! When my nerves have changed and I consciously put my weight on my right foot, it’s the biggest blessing and I’m so thankful. It’s like a reset button in a way. You really couldn’t ask for more if you have Multiple Sclerosis. Moments when things all just feel drained out, it’s my first aid.
— Annie C.
Since doing yoga with Garth, I have been able to lift my legs in the morning! As I must use a wheelchair to get around, this is very helpful to me.
I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from Garth and for the positive results his teachings have brought to my life. He is very generous in giving his students collectively, as well as individually, a wealth of insights and teachings from his own vast experience with yoga to overcome MS symptoms and other movement challenges.
He continues B.K.S. Iyengar’s work to bring the benefits of yoga to those willing to discipline themselves, showing us that no matter what our physical or mental limitations may be, there are ways to make positive steps toward those that may seem, at times, unattainable objectives.
— Emilia H.
There’s no bigger skeptic than me about yoga. I’ve tried everything under the sun and this is one of the very few things that actually has some benefit. I have a constant tingling, clonus, shaking, twitching in my left leg that I’ve had for years and I just deal with it. It is 24/7. Except for when I do yoga. When I finish the yoga session, it is calm and quiet. And it lasts, on average, about a day and a half, but you know it is a day and a half without having fireworks going off in my leg, all day long. That alone is well worth the effort and the cost of doing it. It’s been great.
— Steve McDermott
Iyengar Yoga has given me hope. I know it’s not a cure but it helps me to manage my MS to the best of my ability. The teaching, the stretching and the props combine to help us feel safe and that we can always go that little bit further in our practice.
I am a positive person by nature but Iyengar Yoga seals my bonhomie! After practicing Iyengar Yoga I feel instant benefits: my equilibrium, stability and balance are more in tune and my walking is faster. Generally this particular type of yoga helps me in every facet of my life. I love it and can’t live without it!
— Carole Sachs
Yoga makes me feel so relieved and so full of energy. I really can’t explain how I feel after yoga class, but I am really full of energy and so motivated. Yoga is having a very positive impact on my life.
— Daria Yaneva
I first heard about Garth through my neurologist, more than 15 years ago, who said to check him out because he’d stabilized his MS symptoms through Iyengar yoga. I went to his class a few times and enjoyed it greatly, but life had gotten in the way and my symptoms weren’t bad at the time, so I stopped going. Fast forward to 2018, I heard Garth’s name mentioned at the MS Center and decided it’s time to make it a part of weekly regimen. I’m less mobile now, so his classes have been all the more valuable to me at this point in my life. His teaching is like no other, and there are always volunteer assistants eager to help get us in the right position, and usually one per student. Every single position has a positive effect, stretching and opening up my body. I leave his class feeling refreshed and reset every single time. His class is more than a class. It’s a family, and I’m so thankful for it.
— Heidi Elihu
I write this with much gratitude for Garth McLean and his compassion to those wishing to practice the iyengar yoga method.
Having practiced iyengar yoga for nearly 15 years now and a diagnosis of ms in 2014 I experienced a flare up that left me in a pretty bad way last summer. Before and during this time my mother was terminally ill and within months I ended up loosing both my parents.
My teacher contacted Garth who designed a specific program for me when I began back at classes in London, My vital force was so low as was the general state of my nervous system and emotional state.
Through a variation of inversions including handstand and arm balances to name a few, I literally came back to life, the change in my body physiology began to shift and I am literally obsessed with getting my handstands in at least 3 times a week. My self confidence has grown from his instructions to bring about a sense of strength and stamina and this only assists me in moving forward. The asanas literally do transform!!!
My practice has become ever more a refuge and I will continue to develop and carry out one of my life goals of holding Sirsasana (headstand) in the middle of an open landscape on my own. Seeing Garth in person and witnessing his vast knowledge only inspires you to keep practicing and if he can do what he does then so can I and others!
— Justine Josephs
I’ve been diagnosed with MS for 11 years but only started having issues with mobility one year ago. My issues started with a limp and quickly progressed to my needing a cane for balance and stability. It was devastating. I did not know where to turn until a friend sent me a link for Garth McLean’s class, Yoga to Address MS and Other Movement Challenges. I have had such positive results by being part of this class. It has been challenging at times but also absolutely exhilarating. We do a combination of restorative poses and physically active poses. It has helped with my strength and balance; I have more energy and am pushing my boundaries. Being taught this beautiful form of Iyengar yoga by Garth has been a gift. I am so grateful for his time and the wonderful assistants that donate their time to help my classmates and I. The hour and a half spent in this class every Saturday is my happy place.
— Teresa Leyland
I was recently diagnosed with MS in December 2018. Started to experience balance issues, pins and needles in my fingers (typing is affected), lost my taste. It was horrible learning about the diagnosis, and I was and still very fearful of this disease. No one in my family has MS. So, it was challenging to find someone to talk to about MS and their respective experiences. I've been practicing Yoga for many years and I am a member at Yogaworks Westwood. I learned about Garth McLean from Amy Lafond, who teaches at Yogaworks Westwood. I found Garth spring 2018 from Googling his name and his location in Los Angeles at the Iyengar Institute. Garth inspires me, learning about his personal battle with MS; and now he is in fabulous health and able to use all his abilities. I will continue to work with Garth at his MS workshops in Los Angeles. Plus, I met other MS inflicted people and working to build my body back the way I remember. It’s a journey and a total life change, difficult lots of times. Garth's teachings will forever be built in my mind when I need to relax, build strength and stretch.
Thank you, Garth McLean. I hope one day I can be less inflicted with the disease and get the things that I lost due to MS.
— Amy Schneider
I’ve had multiple sclerosis for 15 years. Recently, I have discovered how Iyengar yoga can provide an important element to my self-care.
I have always been active, and through regular exercise and cycling I have been trying to ward off the creeping disability from this disease. Two years ago, I suffered a setback — a bone spur was growing into my spinal cord, causing debilitating pain. l was fortunate to have an amazing outpatient surgery that removed the spur and immediately relieved the pain. However, a few months later — perhaps in a post-traumatic reaction connected to my MS — I found my body going into a gradual decline. I seemed to be getting weaker and more fatigued by the day. I went to a physical therapist who got me back on track by showing me exercises and giving me lots of pep talks to work toward restoring the strength and energy I’d lost ever since my back problems began. As I began to feel myself on the rebound, I enrolled in a special Iyengar class for people with M.S., from which I have experienced noticeable improvements.
The first revelation came from a variation on the Warrior Pose II (Virabhadrasana II), which seemed to awaken nerves and muscles tied to the drop foot and hyperextended knee that have given me a noticeable limp the last few years. When I do the pose regularly, I can feel muscles firing that didn’t seem to be working much before. I don’t seem to be catching my toe and stumbling as much as I was before (I don’t use any walking assistance), and I feel like I’m walking smoother and faster. Other poses have enabled me to focus on reviving other functions. One day, for example, as I had my feet up the wall (Urdhva Prasarita Padasana), I focused on straightening my right foot, which tends to roll to the side. I felt the muscle kick in and move my foot back to a near-normal position — at least for a short time until the muscle fatigued. But that was progress! And inspiration to continue!
Generally, yoga allows me to isolate and strengthen certain muscles that have gotten weak, and to concentrate on restoring communication — reactivating the nerve function — between my brain and limbs that MS has reduced or greatly limited.
Like others with MS, I also have physical symptoms that tend to mimic the symptoms a person might get from serious anxiety. I have noticed that the calming, meditative aspects of yoga help reduce the physical feelings of nervousness and anxiousness I sometimes experience.
— Richard Core
My name is Catharine and I love going to Garth’s yoga workshops. I need to come back to the workshops to give me a booster. To urge me on to continue with my yoga practice to keep myself healthy and well in spite of the problems that I have.
— Catharine O’Neill
Since I am taking Yoga, it has improved my posture greatly. I sleep better after taking class. Generally, I have difficulty sleeping. It also relieves my back pain! I look forward to my Yoga class !
— Caroline Rasthian