My rare disease does not have a recognized treatment modality. There are no pills, infusions, or healthcare practices known to mitigate the systemic nature and progression of myotonic muscular dystrophy. Yet I have found several health practices that provide both physical and emotional relief from the various symptoms I experience with my chronic health condition.

Chair yoga class or “urban zen”

I have been practicing yoga for over 20 years. There is no doubt that this has been therapeutic for me. During a longitudinal research study I participated in at the University of Rochester the physical therapist commented that the range of motion for my arms and legs has not dramatically decreased over the years perhaps due to my regular yoga practice.

What’s wonderful is that finally there are now research studies exploring the health benefits derived from a regular yoga practice. In a recent podcast episode,  Murali Ventkatrao briefly discusses the science of yoga. Murali, a software engineer, left his job to pursue doctoral studies in yoga, after experiencing relief from depression. He explains how yoga poses, pranayama (breathing), and meditation can have a profound positive impact on many chronic health conditions.

Not everyone can work their body into the classic yoga poses and that’s why there is now an Accessible Yoga movement. Jivena Heyman — a yoga therapist and the founder of the Accessible Yoga organization — explains what this new movement is all about in this podcast episode.

More recently I attended a training in Teaching Accessible Yoga and met other teachers who worked with students with a varying range of abilities. In this episode I spoke with three of those yoga instructors.

One of the first yoga teachers I met, who focuses on making yoga accessible for those with physical disabilities, is JoAnn Lyons. JoAnn talks about her work with yogis who have cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, stroke survivors, and others in this podcast episode.

There are yoga programs structured for a variety of people dealing with health challenges such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and even post-cancer treatment. Cheryl Fenner Brown, a yoga therapist on the East Coast, discusses her protocol for working with people undergoing cancer treatment in this podcast episode.

In this episode, Dr. Baxter Bell talks about maintaining a yoga practice in your later years. Dr. Bell brings a great mix of eastern and western healing modalities to his yoga teaching.

Yoga is not only for those with a health condition; caregivers can also benefit from a restorative practice called Urban Zen. Valerie Jew discusses this self-care and healing modality in this podcast episode.