It has been just over two months since I took my first yoga class and discovered how healing and compatible with Fibromyalgia the practice is. I know I have mentioned my new passion for yoga on several posts since, but I have not gotten in to the “Why?” and “How?” of it. Each time I leave a class I have a huge desire to reach out to everyone I know suffering from Fibromyalgia and chronic pain and share with them how light, refreshed and rejuvenated I am feeling – a feeling I have never experienced, even before I was diagnosed with FM and was active and fit. The gentle and controlled movements of yoga are forcing life back into my body, which has long been frozen with pain and fear of exercise. So I am going to give you my honest, newbie description of yoga and why I recommend it for everyone.
Since I was diagnosed in 1997, I have tried an unimaginable number of times to find an exercise that would get me up and moving, and not send me spiraling back down into FM hell right after. Try and fail. Try and fail. I tried and failed so many times that I became fearful of trying again. I HATE PAIN! I AM SICK OF PAIN! Why was I constantly putting myself through that vicious cycle? Well, for one because I missed exercise and being active, and two, because deep down I still believed that the less I moved, the more intense and chronic my pain. Even with Fibromyalgia, it is possible and important to exercise, and yet I still continued to fail. Something as seemingly simple as a short and gentle walk could send me into a two week flare-up. I wish I could see all of you nodding your heads right now, because I know you understand what I am talking about.
Now let me tell you why yoga is different. Yoga is not painful! After numerous sessions over the past two months I have not had a single flare-up caused by yoga. Yoga is about the freedom of movement; slow, gentle, controlled movements during which your muscles are active but not strained. Yoga is personal. It is not competitive. If the person next to you can reach their toes and you cannot – so what! It is your session. Do your best and get your most out of it. Next time I bet you will reach further and if you stick with it, eventually you will reach your toes. I was a sprinter in high school. I have short, strong, compact muscles – but I can visible see my muscles elongating! I can feel the long stored tension releasing. My body changes with each session, and I like the changes I am seeing. But that is just an esthetic bonus really. The real reason I am loving yoga is because without a doubt, my Fibromyalgia symptoms are improved since I began practicing. My overall pain and stiffness is improved, my mental clarity has increased, I sleep better and wake up more refreshed.
Today was my first day back after a two week break. I did not intend to take a two week break, but we went on vacation, and while there I suffered a minor concussion, which of course lead to an FM flare. Maybe if I was not dealing with dizziness and nausea from the concussion, I might have tried to practice yoga through the flare, I am not sure. I cannot tell you how or if you should practice while in a flare because I have not tried, but I can only say that on a average day, with mild to normal FM symptoms, yoga is not only doable, it is restorative. I have yet to leave a session feeling worse than when I arrived.
So here is my advice. Try it. Find a yoga studio, a YMCA or a community center and look for the GENTLE yoga class. Most studios charge $10-$15 dollars for a session, but if you purchase packages, each session costs less. Talk to the instructor. Let them know you have Fibromyalgia, that you may need modifications to some of the poses, and that this is your first time trying yoga. If a pose hurts, DON”T DO IT. Personalize the class to your needs. Don’t feel like you need to compete with those around you. Relax, breathe deep, and enjoy the experience.
If going to a studio is not an option for you, there are tons of DVD’s on yoga. I do not have a personal recommendation, but again look for the for gentle practice yoga. After a quick search on Amazon I located a well reviewed DVD called Yoga for Healing – 5 out of 5 stars – for $39.95. Sounds like a great choice! Read the reviews for yourself and consider it. Be sure to invest in a good mat too, and don’t be afraid to use a blanket or towel for extra padding and comfort.
I cannot emphasis enough how much I have come to love yoga and the way it makes me feel. My goal is to do three to four sessions a week, but I have been doing more like one or two, and even at this infrequent rate I am seeing and feeling the benefits. We all need as many tools as possible to make living with Fibromyalgia less painful and more bearable. I still believe one day I will be symptom free, and I know when I get there, yoga will have played a huge part in my freedom from chronic illness.