Fibromyalgia is an illness that causes widespread pain in the muscles and soft tissue of the body. Its symptoms, in addition to pain throughout the body, can include specific tender points on the body, extreme fatigue, stiffness when waking, sleep problems, depression and memory problems. Doctors have not been able to pinpoint any specific trigger for the disease.
In the past, some doctors told patients that the symptoms they were experiencing were imaginary, while others used the illness as a diagnosis when they could not find a cause for a patient’s symptoms. Research has now shown that both of these ideas were wrong.
Recent studies have shown that many of those diagnosed with fibromyalgia have lower than normal levels of the hormone cortisol in their bodies. Scientists believe that the processes that cause fibromyalgia, including the lower levels of cortisol, affect the way that the brain receives and perceives pain signals. In those with this illness, the sensation of pain is greatly increased from what is considered normal. Current treatments for fibromyalgia include pain medications, management of stress and, if needed, lifestyle changes. However, doctors are starting to include alternative treatments such as yoga, tai chi and acupuncture. Many doctors now advise their patients to incorporate yoga as a part of their overall treatment plan.
Those new to yoga will find that it is a purposely slow form of exercise consisting of three main components. The first of these components are the poses or postures (asanas in Sanskrit). There are many poses used in yoga, making its use appropriate for many different reasons. These postures help the body by allowing it to stretch gently while relieving stress and helping to strengthen the muscles. Using these postures also increases blood flow throughout the body.
The next vital part of yoga is breathing. The practitioner is encouraged to use deep breathing techniques in order to get the greatest amount of oxygen to his/her body and brain. Deep breathing is also used to relieve stress and aid in the release of tension throughout the body.
The final component of yoga is meditation. Those taking part in meditation typically report a sense of calm and awareness. This soothing energy aids the body in its natural healing process. The practitioner is usually reminded to concentrate on their breathing and to let thoughts come and go without any particular attachment to them. Meditation provides a great opportunity to become aware of the mind and body connection, to listen to the needs of the body and respond with love and healing energy.
Most fibromyalgia patients are encouraged to take part in some type of exercise, but many find that just a small amount of exercise leaves them in a great amount of pain. Unlike regular exercise, such as running on a treadmill, a stepper or using weights, yoga allows the patient to perform slow stretches and gradually develop more complex routines if desired. Most practitioners advise those with fibromyalgia to begin with basic styles of yoga such as Hatha yoga.
No matter which way a patient decides to practice yoga, through yoga videos or with an instructor in a class setting, it should become part of the daily routine. Once yoga becomes habitual fibromyalgia patients may notice changes in their pain levels, their sleep and their fatigue. When used in conjunction with a treatment plan set up by their doctor, the fibromyalgia patient may find that yoga makes that plan more effective, allowing them to gain control over their life again, without the severe pain they had previously endured.