A Primer for Yoga Awareness Month

A Primer for Yoga Awareness Month
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Of all the forms of exercise that have come and gone in my lifetime — Jazzercise, kickboxing, CrossFit, and others — yoga is the one that has withstood the test of time. And I mean that literally. 

Many books have been written about the history of yoga. Its origin is fascinating and somewhat controversial. Most agree it was derived from an ancient Indian Sanskrit practice. But whether or not modern yoga stems from a 5,000-year-old tradition is where the controversy arises. Some authors debate that modern yoga is a 19th century invention.

Regardless of its history, yoga remains a popular form of exercise and stress management today. It is an appropriate form of activity for fibromyalgia sufferers — even those with very low energy. Many poses can be done while sitting. Others can actually be done in bed! Our local hospital even has a class called “Yoga for Fibromyalgia.”

Please be aware that not all yoga teachings are created equal. There are many variations or schools of yoga. Each is derived from Hatha yoga and is a combination of physical postures (called “asanas” in Sanskrit), breathing techniques, and meditation.

Hatha yoga classes vary greatly in the amount of focus on each of these three elements. That variation depends on the individual instructor and the goals of the students. I would caution you to visit a class before spending any money.

Side note: If you attend an in-person class, you should inform the instructor before you begin that you have fibromyalgia. Every posture can be modified for beginners or for those with limitations. A well-trained instructor is prepared to make the class doable and helpful for every student regardless of ability. 

Some schools of yoga are more appropriate than others for fibromyalgia sufferers. Some, like Ashtanga and power yoga, are physically challenging and commonly taught at fitness centers or YMCAs. Their intent is to increase the physical fitness of already-fit attendees. Not many fibromyalgia patients fall into this category.

Other schools focus more on the meditative aspects, the breathing, or some combination of the two.

By far, Kripalu is my favorite school of yoga. If twisting your body into pretzel-like poses is how you think of yoga, Kripalu will prove you wrong. I practiced it at home almost daily and attended a weekly class for a number of years before moving cross-country and away from my instructor. I can say that it contributed to my overall sense of well-being and decreased my stiffness and pain. I continue to practice some of the postures whenever I have issues with a specific body part.

Over the years, I recognized many of the stretches that have been prescribed for me by physical therapists as being yoga poses. Interestingly, my current physical therapist is a yoga therapist as well. I’ve tried yoga therapy and found it to be helpful. However, lack of insurance coverage limits its affordability.

During normal times, yoga classes also have a great social aspect. People usually are more relaxed than exhausted when a class is over. That makes social interaction a common occurrence. A cup of coffee with fellow participants after class is a great way to get to know like-minded people. It’s something to consider once our current pandemic is under control. 

In the meantime, find yourself a YouTube video and try it out. It’s as doable in your living room as it is in a yoga studio. What do you have to lose? Especially during these unusually long days we’re experiencing now. I hesitate to recommend any specific video, although I would suggest one with either Kripalu or Kundalini in the title.

The connection you feel to the instructor can be an important aspect in how much you enjoy the practice and benefit from it. So try a few. See which one you relate to and follow along — slowly and gently.

I would caution you not to force your body to do anything that causes pain. As with every other aspect of our fibromyalgia lives, we must modify any activity to fit our abilities. Doing otherwise can have negative consequences. Given the number of symptoms we live with on a daily basis, we surely don’t want to add any more.

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Note: Fibromyalgia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Fibromyalgia News Today, or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to fibromyalgia.

Diagnosed in 1990, Christine has experienced fibromyalgia (FM) symptoms since childhood. After a career in aerospace finance she was trained as an FM support group leader by the Arthritis Foundation and participated in groups on both the east and west coasts. Designated a Leader Against Pain by the National Fibromyalgia Association (NFA) she advocated for increased funding and awareness for FM. She is the author of “More Than Tender Points: A Fibromyalgia Memoir,” available on Amazon. An Upstate New York transplant now living in Southern California, she credits the sunshine for improving her symptoms.
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Diagnosed in 1990, Christine has experienced fibromyalgia (FM) symptoms since childhood. After a career in aerospace finance she was trained as an FM support group leader by the Arthritis Foundation and participated in groups on both the east and west coasts. Designated a Leader Against Pain by the National Fibromyalgia Association (NFA) she advocated for increased funding and awareness for FM. She is the author of “More Than Tender Points: A Fibromyalgia Memoir,” available on Amazon. An Upstate New York transplant now living in Southern California, she credits the sunshine for improving her symptoms.
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