Yoga for Fibromyalgia Care
When you ask people what really makes a difference in improving how you feel with fibromyalgia, yoga is always one of the top responses. I know it personally made a huge difference for me at a key point in my recovery process. So what is it that makes it such a good treatment for fibromyalgia? And what can you do to get started with your own practice?
Before we get into that, I just to make sure we all understand what yoga is exactly. I’m sure you have some idea already, but according to Wikipedia, it is a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines which originated in ancient India. Today’s yoga in the West tends to focus more on the physical practice rather than its more meditative and philosophical attributes.
Benefits of Yoga for Fibromyalgia
Yoga has been gaining popularity in recent years within the fibro community as more and more people find that it makes a significant difference in how they feel.
Yoga is holistic and adaptive. It works the entire body and can be easily adjusted for individual goals and needs. Yoga teachers regularly encourage their students to listen to their bodies and only go as far as feels right on that day and in that moment.
In addition to therapeutic movement, the practice integrates elements of breath work, meditation, and philosophy that make it into so much more than “just exercise.” Recent studies on yoga have shown time and time again that this ancient practice has extensive health benefits.
In my experience with yoga, it is the presence and awareness of being in your body that makes it so beneficial for people with fibromyalgia. Being in pain all the time simply makes us not want to be in our bodies. We mentally attempt to pull away from or ignore the feelings and sensations we are experiencing because they are unpleasant. It’s incredibly traumatic being in a body that hurts everywhere all the time.
Therefore, I believe the reason why so many people with fibromyalgia find yoga to be so beneficial is that during your practice you take time to focus on consciously being in your body. You are encouraged to allow yourself to feel and reconnect to the sensations in your body. This is profoundly healing for all of us and especially for those of us struggling with chronic pain.
Practical Ways to Start Your Own Practice
So how do you go about integrating yoga into your life, especially if you’ve never tried it before? There are two main approaches to this: going to public classes around town or practicing by yourself at home. As hard as it might seem, I actually recommend getting out of the house and trying to find your own teacher. There are a number of benefits to doing this. Being guided through and helped along the way by an expert takes the stress off of remembering the steps yourself and could prevent injuries due to carelessness or inexperience.
If you’re by yourself at home, it might be harder to feel like you’re doing it right or getting enough out of it. Lack of motivation can be another factor when it’s so easy to just take a “cheat day.” So for these reasons I suggest trying to find an experienced teacher. Do a simple google search for studios near you to get started. If you’re too intimidated to go to a yoga studio, you can also look for classes at your local YMCA or rec center.
The best types of yoga classes for beginners and those with chronic pain are called Restorative Yoga and Yin Yoga. These variations are the most gentle and usually include supported stretching using props and pillows. You are encouraged to settle into a comfortable position for several minutes, which allows your fascia to soften and relax.
If you get to the point of supplementing your classes by practicing at home, great! There are lots of YouTube videos online which can be a great help – just search for gentle or restorative yoga. There are even variations you can do in your bed or in a chair if you’re really struggling and it’s hard to keep getting down to the floor and back up again. You don’t have to do a full 1.5 hour practice either; just 20 minutes of yoga a day will really help with your muscle pain.
What do you think? Has yoga been helpful for your fibromyalgia? Is there any particular type of yoga you find most effective as a treatment option?
Please share your answers in the comments section below so we can continue facing fibromyalgia together.