Yoga and Fibromyalgia: The Dos and Don'ts to Know Before Starting a Routine
As more and more people seek to augment their fibromyalgia treatment with exercise and natural, holistic healing methods, it's essential that patients do so in safe and effective ways.
Here are some helpful tips from our experts:
A chronic pain disorder affecting an estimated ten million Americans, Fibromyalgia was first identified by a Scottish physician in the 1800s--though the American Medical Association wouldn't officially recognize it as an illness until 1987. The disease, which seems to affect more women than men, still isn't fully understood, and tends to manifest itself as widespread pain throughout the fiber of the muscles within the body, along with unrelenting fatigue, brain fog, headaches, and sleep disturbances. It also mimics other conditions like chronic fatigue syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and MS, making diagnosis tricky and leaving some patients bouncing around from doctor to doctor in search of answers.
Fortunately, while the exact cause of fibromyalgia remains a mystery, science is beginning to shed light on the disease. Along with genetic factors that make it more likely for certain individuals to develop a chronic pain condition in the first place, it's rapidly becoming evident that triggers like stress and certain physical components can both ignite and aggravate fibromyalgia. Treatment options that go beyond medications and include lifestyle changes and low impact exercise routines and flexibility have been shown to improve symptoms to an extensive degree. And according to Harvard Health, one of the best ways to incorporate these changes is by utilizing yoga as a natural remedy for fibromyalgia.
Yoga's ability to shift the body's nervous system out of the stress response and into relaxation mode is vital for fibromyalgia sufferers, whose central nervous systems are sensitive and naturally ramped up into overdrive. But like all lifestyle and health changes, it's important to have a grasp of the essentials before jumping into a yoga routine for fibro treatment. Here's a primer to get you started:
DO Your Research
There are dozens of different kinds of yoga classes, with levels that range from beginners classes to highly advanced courses. Remember that everyone is different, and in order to reap the most benefit from a restorative yoga class, you'll want t go into it fully informed. Ask questions, read, and make sure you know what's involved before you sign up for a particular class or with a teacher that isn't aware of your issues.
DON'T Be Afraid to Ease In
One of the few certainties about fibro is that it affects everyone differently. In order to most effectively utilize yoga as a fibromyalgia treatment, the class you select should reflect that. Bring awareness to your body and focus on your pain and limitations. There is absolutely nothing wrong with starting with a gentle practice that enhances relaxation and then working your way up to something more strenuous. The last thing you want is to push yourself too fast and trigger a pain response.
DO Modify Poses When Needed
One of the most wonderful things about yoga is that it is so fully customizable. Again, this is why open communication with your instructor is essential before deciding on a practice. If a particular pose is painful or difficult for you to maintain, find a way to modify it or shorten the hold in order to avoid injury until your body adapts to the point where you can slowly start to ease into it.