Fibromyalgia and Yoga are topics that I am passionate about since researching for my book ‘Breaking the Attention of Pain’. Fibromyalgia is a very common disorder with a variety of physiological symptoms whose causes are poorly understood. The causes seem to be rooted in dysregulation of the nervous system cues for physiological functions. Symptoms are variable and can be challenging to treat. Possible symptoms can include fatigue, joint stiffness and pain, pain sensitivity generally, sleep difficulties, and other things.
Since the exact causes of fibromyalgia are not fully understood, treatment has focused on dealing with the symptoms. Specific treatments depend on the particular symptoms someone is experiencing. But common treatments may include things like exercise protocols, strengthening exercises, diet, meditation, alternative therapies like acupuncture, and medications like muscle relaxants. Yoga therapies have been also proven to be successful in previous research as well.
In a recent study, researchers evaluated the effects of a long-term yoga protocol on one person’s symptoms of fibromyalgia. This style of research is called a case study. The patient in this case study was a 42-year-old female who did not smoke and was not an alcoholic. Because the research team was developing a yoga protocol for one individual, they began by doing an in-depth assessment with her of her experience with fibromyalgia symptoms. The symptoms causing her the most distress included: joint pain, fatigue, nausea, difficulty walking, sleep difficulties, and trouble with balance.
Based on what they learned in the assessment, the research team developed a personalized yoga protocol for their patient. She was guided through a yoga session in the morning and again in the evening for a total of one hour per day. She completed the assigned yoga protocol six days per week for nine months.
The research team assessed the effects of yoga on her fibromyalgia symptoms by measuring: hand steadiness, grip strength, fatigue, back leg strength, flexibility, musculoskeletal pain, quality of sleep, and overall quality of life. They measured these items before beginning the yoga sessions with the patient. Then they measured them again at three, six, and nine months after treatments began.
- Quality of life improved
- Mobility increased
- Sleep quality improved
- Pain decreased
- Joint stiffness decreased
- Fatigue decreased
Why is this relevant to yoga practitioners and yoga teachers?
You may be suffering from fibromyalgia yourself, or you may have yoga students who suffer from fibromyalgia. If so, understanding the symptoms that are often a part of this syndrome can help you better design a yoga practice that meets the student’s unique needs. This study also points out the importance of maintaining a yoga routine over time. For anyone hoping to support something as complex as managing fibromyalgia symptoms, it’s important that we aren’t expecting instant change. We need to give the yoga time to work. Learning how to offer a healing yoga practice to your students, is an invaluable part of our role as yoga teachers. Practices like Yin Yoga, Restorative Yoga, or Yoga Nidra are all ways that we can teach our students techniques that can heal many chronic illnesses including fibromyalgia. Yang dynamic styles of yoga are perfect for building strength and increasing flexibility, but a slower deeper practice should also be part of our full practice.
Learn more about how to teach Yin Yoga with our 100hr certified Healing Yoga Teacher Training or book in for a free discovery call to chat more about how yoga can bring positive changes to your life.