I recently started my 300-hour Yoga Teacher Training. You might remember I completed my 200-hour training this past May. There is so much still to learn so I couldn’t help but do another training. I’m a little bit of a nerd in that way…The initial phase of my training is focused on teaching yoga therapeutics, which is a type of yoga focused more on the clients than the practice. It’s designed for students with specific conditions for whom we design a yoga session that’s tailored to their specific needs.
At any rate, in the training, we were given the opportunity to write about one of those specific conditions for our clients. I couldn’t help but think of one of my usual clients who has fibromyalgia. She often comes to class in pain, so I wanted to spend some time learning what poses are most beneficial to her. And then I thought why not share what I learned with you!
So first, what is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder affecting about 3-6 million Americans and occurs more commonly in women, people with family history, or people already suffering from inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid or osteoarthritis, and lupus. The disorder is characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, memory and mood issues. It is believed the pain is amplified because of the impact on the way the brain processes pain signals.
Fibromyalgia can also be associated with tension headaches (or migraines), jaw pain, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), interstitial cystitis or painful bladder syndrome, anxiety, and depression. People also often experience lack of sleep due to pain and the pain can also interfere with daily functioning at home and work. Fibromyalgia is poorly understood and that too can contribute to frustration and health-related anxiety.
The pain in fibromyalgia is from repeated nerve stimulation which causes the brain of people with fibromyalgia to change. The believed change is an abnormal increase in the levels of certain neurotransmitters that signal pain. The brain’s pain receptors seem to develop a sort of memory of the pain and as a result become more sensitive, and overreact to pain signals.
Symptoms are often stimulated by a physical trauma, surgery, infection or significant psychological stress. In other cases, symptoms can gradually accumulate over time without a triggering event. Even blood tests, x-rays, and other tests usually appear normal.
The most common symptoms of fibromyalgia are:
- Widespread pain – (dull ache lasting for at least 3 months), pain must be bilateral (both sides of the body) and above and below the waist
- Fatigue – still awaken tired, even if slept for long periods, and sleep disrupted by pain (also common to have other sleep disorders like restless legs syndrome (RLS) and sleep apnea)
- Cognitive difficulties (Fibro Fog) – an inability to focus, pay attention or concentrate on mental tasks
Unfortunately, there is no specific cure and treatment is simply aimed at improving symptoms. Exercise, relaxation, good sleep hygiene, acupuncture, massage, hypnosis, and stress-reduction may also help. Aside from yoga, other forms of mindfulness movement like tai chi, also seem to improve the management of fibromyalgia.
My client with fibromyalgia tells me that yoga is the only thing that consistently helps her.
As a result, I want to make sure we maximize the poses that are most helpful to her during her yoga practice. And she practices every day….So here are the eight I researched.
8 Beneficial Poses for Women Affected by Fibromyalgia:
- Balasana (child’s pose) – prevents outside stimulus and allows time to quiet the mind
- Viparita Karani (legs up the wall) – gentle inversion allowing gravity working against blood flow (can reduce swelling and fatigue)
- Savasana (corpse pose)- can the quiet mind and help to ignore outside stimuli
- Supported Baddha Konasana B (cobbler’s pose) – a hip opener to the strengthen knees
- Tadasana (Mountain pose) – can decrease stress and increase relaxation
- Uttanasana (standing forward fold) – creates opening across the entire back body to help relieve pain
- Bhujangasana (cobra) – can open the chest and upper body, strengthening the back
- Virabhadrasana A (Warrior I) – strengthens the big muscles of legs along with the back and arms
Let me hear from you, do you or someone you know suffer from fibromyalgia? In what ways has yoga improved your health?
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