Medications, physical therapy, and proper nutrition can sometimes go a long way to easing the symptoms of fibromyalgia syndrome. However, many fibromyalgia sufferers find that these traditional fibromyalgia treatments simply don’t provide enough symptom relief. As a result, many patients turn to alternative forms of self-care to help them on the path to recovery. In particular, yoga has become increasingly popular amongst fibromyalgia sufferers. Yoga can help to provide you with some excellent symptom relief while helping you achieve mental, physical, and spiritual balance.
What is Yoga?
Yoga is a health practice that incorporates both physical and mental exercises. It typically involves performing a set of physical exercises in order to build bodily strength, increase endurance, and achieve deep mental and spiritual relaxation. Originating in India more than 5,000 years ago, yoga was originally designed to help unify your mind, body, and spirit. It is now becoming increasingly popular in North America because of the fitness benefits that it offers. In fact, more than 15 million Americans now practice yoga on a regular basis.
What Does Yoga Involve?
The practice of yoga is comprised of three main parts:
- Postures (Asanas): Yoga postures are gentle stretches that are used to exercise the body. These stretches are generally held for a short period of time and help to stretch and strengthen the muscles, relieve tension, and build endurance by improving circulation. There are hundreds of different yoga postures.
- Breathing (Pranayama): Yoga also incorporates deep breathing exercises. These breathing exercises are performed in combination with the yoga postures. Breaths are focused and calculated and taken through the nose. This deep breathing helps to increase the flow of oxygen and nutrients within your body, working to reduce stress and lift depression.
- Meditation (Dhayana): Yoga also focuses on helping you to achieve a meditative state. While performing yoga postures and breathing, yoga followers are encouraged to let their worries go. Many people focus on a single object in the room or repeat mantras in order to achieve this meditative state.
Types of Yoga
Yoga is actually a term that encompasses a variety of different individual types of yoga practices. Depending upon your physical needs, one type of yoga may be more beneficial to you.
- Hatha Yoga: Hatha yoga is a very mellow and slow form of yoga. It is among the most commonly practiced types of yoga and focuses on simple, flowing poses. Practitioners of Hatha yoga are encouraged to perform exercises at their own pace while focusing on breathing and meditation.
- Ashtanga Yoga: Ashtanga yoga is also known as power yoga. It is a much more physically demanding type of yoga, requiring practitioners to hold numerous challenging poses. It focuses on increasing muscle strength and stamina while focusing less on breathing and meditation. Athletes generally enjoy Ashtanga yoga.
- Bikram Yoga: Bikram yoga is a very challenging form of yoga that is performed in a heated room. Practitioners focus on a set of 26 specific postures, which are performed in a particular order. Bikram yoga is only recommended for those who are extremely physically fit.
- Viniyoga: Viniyoga is very popular among seniors, people recovering from injuries, and those dealing with chronic pain. It is a slower, more individualized type of yoga that focuses on increasing strength, coordination, and balance.
How Can Yoga Help People with Fibromyalgia?
The benefits of yoga are numerous, particularly if you are a fibromyalgia sufferer. Yoga postures are easy to perform and can be practiced in the comfort of your own home. Yoga is great for beginners, because you do not need to know how to do all of the poses in order to start practicing. Additionally, yoga can be tailored to your own personal needs and stamina levels.
Here are just a few of the specific benefits that yoga can offer fibromyalgia sufferers:
- decreased muscle pain
- increased muscle strength
- greater endurance and stamina
- mood regulation and relief of depression
- improved sleep
- improved concentration
Beginning a Yoga Routine
Before you can start a yoga routine, you will need to choose a type of yoga to practice. It is recommended that fibromyalgia sufferers do not pick a very challenging form of yoga, such as Bikram yoga. Instead, focus on a type of yoga that allows for you to proceed at your own pace and with modified postures. Both Viniyoga and Hatha yoga exercises are very popular amongst fibromyalgia patients.
You will also need to choose an appropriate place to practice your yoga. There are group and private yoga classes available at most health clubs and community centers. Alternatively, practice yoga alone or with a family member in a quiet room in your house. Try to select a place that is free of interruptions and will allow you enough space to move around. Get a yoga mat or lay down a soft towel on the floor so that you can practice comfortably.
Tips to Keep in Mind when Practicing Yoga
When practicing yoga there are a few important things to keep in mind:
- Listen to your body. Be sure to monitor how your body feels at all stages of your workout. Your muscles should not feel in pain at any point. If you do feel pain, stop, or ease up on your stretch.
- Start slowly. Don’t begin a lengthy yoga routine right away. Begin with just five minutes a day, and gradually work up to a thirty minute session.
- Stick to certain postures. Some postures are going to be quite challenging and even painful for you to perform. Stick to postures like Downward Dog and Tree while you are battling fibromyalgia.