Alison -Their About page says, “We believe that free education, more than anything, has the power to break through boundaries and transform lives.” And living with chronic illness is definitely a barrier to further learning.
I have my eye on a few of their free courses for some future up-skilling. With options for 2-3 hour certificates or pathways for diplomas there is a lot to search through. Subjects range from touch typing to French to graphic design to project management.
If you would like my entire repository of online, on-demand yoga, breathing and meditation classes and courses then you are welcome to come and join Yoga for the Chronic Life virtual studio. I have been building this for several months now.
Hello friend, are you new here? I am Melissa a mama, fibro fighter and yoga coach. Join the newsletter list for updates, my free resources library and check out the archives – there are over 200 articles here to help you. My free course You vs Fibromyalgia is also here.
Micro yoga is such a good tool for managing chronic pain and fatigue. The benefits of yoga are continually being proven in research, especially for chronic symptoms. I want to share what micro yoga is, how micro yoga helps me as a mama with chronic pain, fatigue and insomnia and tiny children and how you can use the tools too.
What is micro yoga?
It is simply yoga that is not a traditional length or what we typically (in the west) think of as “yoga”.
I literally do 5-30 minute snippets at a time. As a person with chronic symptoms I find it much better to do 10 minutes regularly than one hour once a week.
I’d take it one step further and call my yoga super accessible micro yoga. When done right, yoga is super accessible for us and what we need.
What does this look like?
Five minutes of asana (stretches) when I am getting dressed.
A random pose to help my back when it is feeling tight during the day.
Five minutes of breathing when I am feeling overwhelmed.
“By weaving micro practices into your everyday life, you will: Cultivate a consistent yoga routine that won’t overwhelm your busy schedule Have the tools to reset your mood and energy with just a few breaths Feel empowered by the quality of your self-care Recognize that small acts can make a major difference in your physical and mental health.”
I use micro yoga as part of my toolkit for managing pain and fatigue.
You might like the targeted stretches section starting pg 65. The best part of The Little Book of Yoga Practices is the succinctly described pose section. You can see what resonates and try one or two at a time.
The one minute miracles section is a gold mine! Pg 82
Rachel might not specialise in yoga for chronic pain and fatigue but her books are great resources when you are trying to build a micro yoga practice. And the size of The Little Book of Yoga Practices means it isn’t going to be hard on the old brain fog to get through, it is succinct and easy to follow.
Would you like to try a relaxing pose right now? Here you go…
Would you like access to premium information, tools, support AND a yoga library designed especially for fibromyalgia? Melissa vs Fibromyalgia Membership Team is ready for you. Join us today to grab your spot.
Let’s chat central nervous system, restorative yoga and fibromyalgia. A lot of research suggests that Fibromyalgia is the result of central nervous system dysfunction – specifically an overactive nervous system, stressing and exhausting the brain (Dennis W. Dobritt, Fibromyalgia – A Brief Overview).
Having lived it for over 15 years, I would be inclined to agree.
It is not the sole problem, but it certainly causes
physiological flow on effects, even after we have learned to calm it down
Like perhaps a switch gets flipped in our brain from some kind of trauma – an illness, childbirth, experiencing abuse of some kind, experiencing a natural disaster etc. and then it is very hard to turn it off.
The simplest way to
Simply put – we are too often in “fight or flight” mode and
struggle to active the “rest and digest” mode.
Fight or flight is that response
we have to stressful stimuli – a bear chasing us? Energy is diverted to the
functions that are needed to fly, or run really fast! We experience that belly
full of butterflies on crack, feel shaky, anxious and fearful.
The rest and digest response is that delicious restful
feeling when we are totally relaxed – like during a good, gentle massage.
When you have a central nervous system over activation it is
like you are stuck in the fight or flight mode. A chronic, low level anxiety
that persists that you live with for so long you might not recognize it as
anxiety – because you try to adapt.
This causes real problems in the body. If our energy is constantly diverted to scanning for threats and getting to run or protect ourselves, how can we have energy for normal functions? Digestion itself takes a lot of energy. Then being unable to drop into deep sleep because our brain is watching for threats, even more energy is drained. It is a big, vicious cycle.
What are some of the
symptoms of a central nervous system over activity?
From personal experience, I can tell you it is not a quick
fix either. I have meditated, done yoga, worked on sleep, removed myself from
perpetuating factors (as best as I can) and it is still a work in progress.
And – although my central nervous system is MUCH calmer, I
am not magically healed. But with my whole of life plan in place, including a
heavy amount of the above treatments, I am feeling much better.
For a long time meditation was my thing, particularly yoga
Nidra guided meditation, because I needed the profound rest it offered
Gentle breathing was a great tool to reduce some of the
constant tension in my chest, shoulders and neck. It is also fantastic at
helping to calm the central nervous system when it gets flared again.
Right now, though, my jam is restorative yoga.
Why? Because it is a little less passive and easier to
access for those who find it difficult to just sit still and breathe.
What are the benefits
of restorative yoga?
Total relaxation of body and mind
Improves capacity for healing
Balances the central nervous system
Helps us tune into our body
What is restorative
Well this is a big question. Because a lot of people get it
confused with yin yoga.
Restorative yoga is a passive practice that utilises props
(cushions, bolsters, blocks etc.) to achieve total support. Yin yoga also holds
poses for longer than other yoga traditions, around five minutes or so, but it
is looking for deep sensation and it is energetically more strenuous (while
still being relatively gentle).
In a restorative yoga class you will have your props around
you, it will be a calm atmosphere and you will like only do a few poses. There
may or may not be calming music and essential oils.
Would you like to learn restorative yoga with me?
Join me in this free workshop to learn what restorative yoga is, how it can benefit us, try a restorative pose (the one that made me fall in love with restorative yoga) and more.
In this post I have taken my combined knowledge and written
it up as you see. For some sources and further reading see below…
Pregnancy and fibromyalgia is one of those weird information voids. Having been pregnant three times, and gathering all of the (limited) research together as best as I can for the past several years, something was still lacking. This blog post is the gold mine I was missing. A doctor who has fibromyalgia and has experienced pregnancy herself!
I am so thankful to be able to share this interview with Doctor Ginevra Liptan, a fibromyalgia specialist, who has fibromyalgia. I love her work and have followed it for a long time, so I was super excited when I got up the courage to ask her to do an interview for this blog and she said yes.
About Dr Liptan
Ginevra Liptan, M.D. is a graduate of Tufts University School of Medicine, board-certified in internal medicine, and trained in functional medicine, a holistic approach that blends both western and alternative medicine. After developing fibromyalgia as a medical student, Dr. Liptan spent many years using herself as guinea pig to find successful treatments, and has fine-tuned her approach by treating thousands of patients.
She’s one of the few clinical specialists in the world to focus solely on fibromyalgia, and directs The Frida Center for Fibromyalgia in Portland, Oregon. She is the author of The FibroManual: A Complete Fibromyalgia Treatment Guide for You and Your Doctor and The Fibro Food Formula: A Real-Life Approach to Fibromyalgia Relief.
In your experience, do you believe fertility is an issue for those with fibromyalgia?
Clinically my patients with fibromyalgia do seem to have more fertility issues, and I think there are a few reasons for this 1) higher levels of inflammation 2) hormone alterations caused by the chronic fight-or flight response and 3) myofascial restrictions around the uterus and fallopian tubes. All of these factors can have a negative influence on fertility.
However one study from Turkey found no difference in pregnancy or birth rates in women with fibromyalgia compared to healthy women Most of my patients have ultimately conceived even if the road to conception was a bit bumpier or longer.
Most of my patients have ultimately conceived even if the road to conception was a bit bumpier or longer.
Do you have recommendations for women prior to trying to conceive with fibromyalgia?
I encourage my patients to boost their nutritional status as much as they can prior to conception, as growing a fetus takes a lot of nutrients! In particular I recommend checking iron, B12, Vit. D levels and supplementing to ensure these nutrients are all at optimal levels.
And while you are doing bloodwork I also check for the MTHFR genetic mutation. This sounds scary, but it simply reflects how efficiently your body can activate and use folic acid. If you have this mutation you can counteract the inefficiency by simply supplementing with an already activated form of folic acid called methylfolate or L-5-MTHF. Both Thorne Research and Pure Encapsulations, my two favorite supplement companies, offer great prenatal vitamins with this form of folic acid.
To optimize fertility in fibromyalgia we need to reverse the three inhibiting factors I mentioned. First reduce inflammation by making dietary changes to avoid triggering foods, or adding a medication like low dose naltrexone (see below). Lowering inflammation can improve hormone balance, as can supporting our adrenals, because any component of adrenal burnout will drag down all the other hormone systems. Learn more about treating adrenal burnout in my blog.
Finally myofascial release therapy (www.myofascialrelease.com) can break up the myofascial restrictions around the uterus and fallopian tubes.
Do you have any general recommendations for women during pregnancy with fibromyalgia?
The most common question I get asked is “ Are my fibromyalgia symptoms going to get worse during pregnancy?” and what I tell patients is most most often the answer is yes. In fact in a study of 26 women with fibromyalgia who had a total of 40 pregnancies, all except one women described a worsening of their symptoms during pregnancy, with the third trimester being the worst. The good news is that none of these women reported fibromyalgia having a negative outcome on their pregnancy outcome or on the health of the baby.
I personally found my fibromyalgia symptoms were worse during pregnancy. I do have some patients- especially those with both fibromyalgia and an inflammatory/autoimmune illness like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, that feel much better during pregnancy. Pregnancy does alter immune system functioning in a way that can give a temporary remission for autoimmune illnesses.
As far as managing symptoms during pregnancy, fatigue, low back and pelvic pain are common in most pregnant women. In fact one study found that 26% of healthy pregnant without fibromyalgia had widespread pain and fatigue severe enough to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia!
Another study found that 60% of healthy pregnant women reported fatigue during the last trimester and 75% complained of disturbed sleep.
So the addition of even more fatigue and pain due to pregnancy can be extremely challenging when added on to what someone with fibromyalgia is already dealing with. It is especially hard because in pregnancy our pain management toolbox shrinks due to medication safety concerns.
This is where the importance of self-care comes in– saying “no” and protecting your time, pacing activities and taking good care of your muscles with gentle stretching and movement. Gentle prenatal yoga- whether in classes or videos at home- and myofascial release self-treatment can be a life-saver for lowering back and pelvic pain during pregnancy.
Are your food recommendations (from The Fibro Food Formula book) any different during pregnancy and nursing?
Generally my food recommendations are the same during pregnancy such as eating frequent protein and trying to avoid foods that you know you don’t tolerate still apply. But pregnancy is also not a time to try any strict diets or major dietary changes and due to nausea you may need to eat more carbs compared to protein. And pregnancy food cravings can be fierce. So my recommend is to eat what makes your pregnant body feel good. And if the baby demands donuts, eat the donuts!
Do you have any experience using low dose naltrexone during pregnancy? Do you have any resources/tips/ideas around this?
Side note: I (Melissa) personally used LDN in my third pregnancy and it was such a better experience for me (my first two dramatically worsened my pain and fatigue levels) and I am coping with the first year better than before and have managed to breastfeed successfully where I couldn’t maintain supply previously. I could never find any place to share my experience (like a register) or others experiences. I based my choice off Dr Phil Boyle’s work.
Among practitioners that prescribe LDN it is considered safe in pregnancy, and in fact is used as a treatment for fertility. As you mentioned, anecdotally Dr. Phil Boyle has found LDN safe in his clinical practice.
There haven’t been any studies looking at LDN in pregnancy. In animal studies for naltrexone, the safety data is conflicting, with some showing that naltrexone had negative effects on growth and behavior and others showing positive effects.
The few human studies we do have looked at outcome of pregnancies in women taking higher doses of naltrexone as treatment for opioid abuse. These studies showed slightly higher rate of pregnancy complications, but the dosage of naltrexone is important to keep in mind.
We know that low-dose naltrexone has very different physiologic effects on the body than high doses so can’t assume that LDN would have the same effects in pregnancy as full dose. Also the patient populations in these studies have a history of drug abuse which puts them at a higher risk of pregnancy complications and poor prenatal care.
Have you come across any good guidelines for delivery/labor with fibromyalgia?
I have not found any good guidelines, but here is what I usually tell patients- and I admit it may be biased by my own experience, which is to have a low threshold to get an epidural. In fibromyalgia we experience so much pain over our lifetime, if there is a chance to experience a pain-free delivery, then I say go for it.
Of course, many women with fibromyalgia have natural labors with no epidural and do beautifully. Our bodies really are built to do this! But I personally had a brutal pregnancy with severe hyperemesis gravidarum with daily nausea and vomiting for 9 months that required multiple hospitalizations. So when it came time for delivery I happily got an epidural and had an enjoyable and pain-free birth. But of course, epidurals have risks so this is a very individual decision
In fibromyalgia we experience so much pain over our lifetime, if there is a chance to experience a pain-free delivery, then I say go for it.
In your work have you found nursing to be difficult for people with fibromyalgia? Do you have any tips?
I do see nursing being an issue for women with fibromyalgia. For some women the challenge is milk production. I think the chronic fight or flight response we experience in fibromyalgia affects the hormones of lactation.
The other issue is pain caused by awkward or prolonged positioning associated with nursing. One study examined this issue and in interviews with 9 women with fibromyalgia found frequent reports of fatigue and pain interfering with the breastfeeding process and concerns about insufficient milk supply.
I initially had no issues with milk supply but at 3 months I had to go back to a very stressful hospital rotation and my milk supply dried up really quickly and I was not successful at pumping and had to quickly transition my daughter to formula.
Do you have anything else you’d like to say about women either trying to conceive, pregnancy, nursing or parenting with fibromyalgia?
Well the other question I get asked the most is whether having fibromyalgia increases the risk of birth defects. The short answer is no it does not.
The longer answer is that having fibromyalgia does slightly increase risk of intrauterine growth restriction and smaller birth weight babies. This is likely due to the effects of the overactive fight or flight (stress response) as it is also seen in women with pregnancies experiencing external stressors such as war, poverty and intimate partner violence. But in those cases also see higher rates of preterm or early delivery, and that is not seen in women with fibromyalgia.
Well the other question I get asked the most is whether having fibromyalgia increases the risk of birth defects. The short answer is no it does not.
Dr Liptan has two highly recommended books that you might like to check out
Affiliate notice: Please note that some of my links are affiliate links and if you make a purchase using one of these links I may make a commission at no extra cost to you.
The FibroManual – this is my go-to, I recommend it to everyone with fibromyalgia!
The Fibro Food Formula – the best book about nutrition and fibromyalgia, it takes into account how hard it is to enact some of the general recommendations out there and helps us to make the best choices possible.
If you want an actual book about pregnancy and fibromyalgia, mine is only one of two existing!
Thanks for reading this post. Please feel free to share it with those who need to read it. Let’s close this knowledge gap!
Have you thought about your self-care plans for this year yet? Self-care is as vital as it is undervalued. Especially for busy women juggling multiple priorities. Add in chronic health issues and it should be compulsory.
Accidental multi-tasking is one of my favourite things – a two for one on your energy levels. When self-care doubles as something that also manages my health, I’m pretty stoked.
Here are my top five self-care plans for 2020 that also double as part of my chronic illness management plans.
If you’ve read my blog for any amount of time, you will know that meditation saved my life. I do it every single day, and if I must miss a day it’s very rare. It gives me deep rest my body doesn’t even achieve during sleep. It tops up my energy levels for the afternoon. It calms my central nervous system. It is just for me. 15-30 minutes of pure self-care.
Do you meditate? Tell us about your practice in the comments!
Ya’ll know I LOVE Yoga. Yoga is simultaneously mindful movement (gentle exercise), relaxation, stretching, strengthening, pain management and a sleep aid (for me). It balances the central nervous system which has been key for me. I have shared extensively how I use it to help me. Here’s the short of it: One off poses, “micro yoga” formal practices (of 10-20 minutes) and a bed time class I made to help me wind down for sleep.
Have you tried this challenge? Please tell me if so!
Getting to bed on time
Sleep is way too underrated. Seriously, lack of sleep will kill you (slowly) and make you feel terrible. I’ve written extensively about it. Going to bed around the same time each night is a key part of good sleep hygiene aka practices that help you sleep.
(Who just went, “What? I can’t treat myself. Ain’t nobody got time or money for that! It need not take much money or time!)
What is something that makes you feel super special that doesn’t cost the earth? This year I’d like to attempt something different each quarter: a manicure, a massage, a weekend away with the husband etc. With three kids 5 and under we’ve been snowed under and going to the physiotherapist every month has been the extent of it for me.
Try: Schedule something right now! A manicure? Book one once a month, schedule a time to do it yourself, or swap with your friend to do each other. Massage? Book one once a month, swap with your partner, or get out that lavender oil and give yourself a hand and foot massage. A Saturday morning lie in? Negotiate with the partner if you have kids, or send them to grandparents/aunts/uncles and grab at least one a month.
I am an analyst, a thinker, a written processor. So taking the time, even just five minutes to process with my pen is helpful for me to work through things. Even if you’re more of a talker, research shows journaling to be useful. You can have free reign to vent. To get things out of your head. Write down memories. Whatever works.
Try it: You can make a habit of giving yourself 1 or 5 minutes a day, a gratitude journal of just three good things or maybe you could draw in your journal.
Do you journal? Tell us how you do it in the comments.
Want to jump in and get some real, concrete help with your self-care in 2020?
So these were my top five self-care plans for 2020, I’d love to know what are yours?? Tell us in the comments below.
I am super passionate about sharing the tools yoga offers with people with chronic pain, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia. The thing that often gets in the way is what people think it means to “do” yoga.
Today I am going to share with you all sorts of raw pictures of me “doing” yoga because I want you to start to get a sense of the fact that “yoga” has been usurped by the perfect poses on Instagram. If you have a teacher who gets your situation, then they can help you adapt yoga to your needs.
A visual representation of the below points:
Yoga can be adapted for almost anybody (if you have been cleared to move gently and the teacher “gets” your needs)
Breathing is a central part of yoga (and many of us don’t do it optimally)
Meditation is my favourite part of yoga (yoga Nidra guided meditation is my jam, I do it in bed with my heat pack)
You can do one pose
I have several poses I enacted whenever I need them during the day
Chair yoga is a great way to make yoga more accessible
You can do yoga in bed
Classes can be 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes or more
You don’t need to be super bendy, in fact, I am not
My all time favourite that can be done almost anywhere
I hope this gave you a sense of how “yoga” can look and hopefully hope that, if you want to, you could try it in one way or another.
Show me how yours looks
In Foundations of Yoga for Chronic Pain and Fatigue, I have students who take one or two of the poses in the opening module and use those as a “class” to start. There are two full class options in module three, chair and a flow class. Many students choose only the chair class.
“For the first time I’m in a yoga class that I feel like I’m actually going to get it…I really can do this and I love how it feels.”
– Student of Foundations of Yoga for Chronic Pain and Fatigue
I’d love to see how your yoga looks. Comment below, tag me on Instagram @melissanreynolds
I ask group members regularly what topics they would like me to share about, “how to save money on physical therapies” was the top request on the last post where I asked for suggestions. So here I share how you can spend less money on physical treatments for chronic pain and strategies for decreasing your pain at the same time.
What a whopper! As soon as I read the comment, I was formulating ideas. As a person who has tried physiotherapists (many different ones), Eastern practitioners, massage therapists, osteopaths, chiropractors, personal trainers (who did not get it) and more, I know the costs involved here. We run a public system here in New Zealand so none of these private physical treatments are funded at all.
When I was at my worst I was going weekly, paying $50 or $60 a session to very little benefit. As I have finally put these things into place I have reduced to three or four weekly – this is a saving of $150-200 per month! That adds up!
These are the things that you can do to reduce the amount of treatments you need from physical therapists (physiotherapists, massage therapists, osteopaths, chiropractors, etc.). If they are not necessarily easy, when are they ever?
The four ways of how to spend less on physical treatments for chronic pain
1. Remove or reduce the things that perpetuate the physical issue the physiotherapist/massage therapist/chiropractor etc. has to work on.
This might be a tough one as you may not be willing or able to do the things. For example, working full-time on a computer really exacerbates my neck and shoulders. I cannot, no matter the steps I take to mitigate it, experience less pain and keep doing it. Do you engage in something that aggravates your tricky spots? Is your bed and pillow correct for your needs? Check your breathing!
Let yourself brainstorm as there might be lots of things that come up.
2. Work on the whole of life things
So a lot of our physical issues are related to our overall health. When the fibromyalgia was worse, I needed to see the physical therapists for in search of relief (which never came).
When I changed my entire life – reducing work hours, cutting my commute, moving to a warmer climate, learning to rest (and later meditate), gentle exercise (which for me meant cutting back!) etc. – the amount I needed to see the physical reduced.
3. Finding the right treatment
This alone halved how often I
had to go. For severe, recurrent trigger points in my neck – for which I’ve spent at least $1500 per year for over
10 years trying to get some relief from – I have the right practitioner and
treatment at last. It’s a physiotherapist who places acupuncture needles into
the trigger point, leaves it to relax and then performs gentle traction and
stretches. The amount of time and money I spent on massage therapists,
physiotherapists, osteopathy and chiropractic is insane.
Ask yourself, does that
massage or chiropractic session actually help enough to justify the cost? Does
the benefit hold long enough to be justifiable?
4. Learn to do things yourself
This might be the most
important and the easiest!
For me, this is copious amounts of stretching/yoga.
Always ask a practitioner you see to give you suggestions for things you can do at home and DO them.
So these are my top four ways to spend less on physical treatments (and reduce your pain at the same time). Are you working on any of these areas? What is your favourite way to cope with physical pain?
In this post I shared 9 inexpensive items I use to fight fibromyalgia. The first I use almost every day!
So there you have it, the key posts people were searching for this year. I hope they help you as you consider what you will tackle in 2020 for your journey toward thriving with chronic pain and fatigue.
Free live talks
In 2020 I have big plans to keep supporting you with this blog, the Facebook group, more live trainings and of course, adding to Yoga and Meditation for the Chronic Lifevirtual mindful movement studio.
Do join us for the free training on the Facebook page “My Top 5 Self-Care for 2020” on the 5th February.
For more information:
Hello friend, are you new here? I’m Melissa and I am on a mission to see that everyone receives resources and encouragement to thrive with fibromyalgia. Please come and join my free You vs Fibromyalgia micro course by signing up to my newsletter. You will receive access to a free resources page too! If you are curious about me and my journey you can have a search through the archives. Check out the What I Offer Page for all of the resources here.
I have been dabbling with yoga for chronic pain and fatigue for more than 10 years. For the past five I have progressively become more enamoured with it.
In this post I will share some research, the benefits (in brief), the thing I love most about yoga, it’s multiple uses for chronic pain and fatigue, specific ways I use it, and how you can learn more about incorporating it into your well being journey.
Let’s be clear right out of the gate. Yoga is not a panacea. It is not a cure all. It is one useful tool that can be a part of a holistic plan for wellness.
Type “yoga for fibromyalgia” or “yoga for myofascial pain syndrome” or “yoga for pain” etc. And you will find a wealth of search options to delve into.
There is research specifically for using poses for myofascial pain syndrome, fibromyalgia and more. Taking a more macroscopic view, mindfulness for chronic illness is just as much of a buzz topic at the moment.
Research around Yoga, Pain and Fatigue
Take this 2010 study that found, “pain was reduced in the yoga group by an average of 24 percent, fatigue by 30 percent and depression by 42 percent.” The yoga group participated in a holistic program for eight weeks – gentle yoga poses, meditation, breathing exercises, yoga-based coping instructions, group discussions and a daily diary assessing their progress. The control group received standard medication treatments.
This was followed up three months later: “Follow-up results showed that patients sustained most of their post treatment gains, with the FIQR (Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire Revised) Total Score remaining 21.9% improved at 3 months. Yoga practice rates were good, and more practice was associated with more benefit for a variety of outcomes.”
This study was small, just eight participants completed the study on the effect of yoga on myofascial pain syndrome in the neck. It comprised two weeks of breathing and relaxation practices and two weeks of asanas (poses), breathing and relaxation. The poses were Trikonasan (triangle pose), Tadasan (mountain pose), Vakrasan (twisted pose), Balasan (child’s pose) and Vajrasan (thunderbolt pose).
However, let’s not lose sight here – Vajrasan is a more advanced pose, the ability to do this pose indicates a pretty high level of physical ability to me.
The results were that this program “led to significant improvement in the quality of health, physical capacity (strength), cervical range of motion, and pressure threshold of the trigger points, and decreased the disability and pain.”
Perspectives on Yoga Inputs in the Management of Chronic Pain describes the benefits: “This consists of decreased metabolism, decreased rate of breathing, decreased blood pressure, decreased muscle tension, decreased heart rate and increased slow brain [alpha] waves. As the neural discharge pattern gets corrected, the habitual deep muscle hyper tonicity and thus the static load on postural muscle also slowly come down. The function of viscera improves with the sense of relaxation and sleep gets deeper and sustained. The fatigue level comes down.”
Benefits of yoga for chronic pain and fatigue (or anyone)
• calms the autonomic nervous system • help with sleep • reduced fatigue • reduced pain • increased physical capacity • decreased myofascial pain • less anxiety • reduced depression • relaxation • mindfulness of movement • awareness of proper alignment
What I love the most about yoga for managing chronic pain and fatigue:
Ease of adapting to my current abilities -Whatever my symptom level on any given day there is an option for me to practice yoga.
Let’s talk a couple of key things here: Yoga is a tool, a multi use tool, but a tool nonetheless. I will use any tool at my disposal to help with the symptoms I live with. In much the same way I use low dose naltrexone- it was not designed for fibromyalgia or myofascial pain syndrome but it helps anyway.
If some parts of the spectrum of yoga practices don’t resonate with you, ignore them. If you want to look at it as a purely physical practice, then do so.
In terms of the spiritual side, I shy away from much if it. My belief practice is Christianity and I have never felt a conflict. In fact, there is a great Christian yoga channel on YouTube.
Some of the options in yoga
Asanas (poses): one or two gentle poses (like child’s pose and forward bend), a flowing sequence of 5, 10, 20 or more minutes, chair yoga, bed yoga or restorative yoga.
Pranayama (breathing): breathing is always useful when you are managing a chronic illness. Simply focusing on your breath and helping your exhale to be slightly longer than your inhale will cause a relaxation effect. Breathing through pain, fatigue, stress, anxiety and overwhelm can help centre your thoughts on something else, release tension and help to ease the symptoms. Synchronising movements with the breath makes you more likely to be mindful of your movement and less likely to overdo it or injure yourself.
Meditation: I began using meditation specifically to achieve rest where sleep provided little. It was a means to an immediate end. After a few years I realised it was helping me much more profoundly in the form of turning down my central nervous system overdrive. There is nothing better than the comfort I feel after a 20 or 30 minute yoga nidra meditation. I cannot achieve it another way.
Day to day my practice changes but I usually practice in one way or another.
Meditation is my top tool for managing fatigue and pain. I very rarely miss my daily meditation.
I have never completed a 60 or 90 minute class or resembled a pretzel in any way. Because that is not the point.
Strengthening, calming, being mindful and moving is.
When my first son was young I had a yoga instructor come to my house for a private session to ensure my posture was correct and craft a sun salutation sequence suitable for my physical abilities at the time.
Sometimes I do the sequence with several breaths for each pose, one breath for each pose or a mix. If I feel a particular benefit from one of the poses I will engage in that one longer. Forward bend is a particularly good one for letting the neck gently stretch.
Cat and cow pose is a great tiny sequence for the pelvis and back. I did this multiple times a day during my pregnancies. I teach cat and cow pose in my free challenge, Five Minutes a Day for Five Days Challenge, sign up here.
When my pelvis was unstable due to pregnancy and I could hardly walk, I could still do half sun salutations (standing) or chair salutations.
The key is to be mindful of your body on any given day. Pay attention to what you need and can reasonably do.
Learn the many options- these tools have a place in our natural pain relief toolkit.
The complexity in yoga for chronic pain and fatigue
When we have extra challenges to think through, we need to be extra mindful.
There is some complexity involved in practicing yoga when you have chronic issues. This is why it can be helpful to see a teacher privately – either for some initial guidance or ongoing personalised work.
There are several types of yoga, many asana (poses) to choose from and we need to choose sequences that make sense for our current context. The other bonus is that you can create a homework plan so that you can continue your work between sessions, equipping you further.
As an example of the complexity – I have severe, recurring trigger points in my neck and shoulders. Holding poses that activate these muscles for up to five minutes (yin yoga) is not a good idea for me. I have a heat intolerance so hot yoga isn’t for me. The fibromyalgia and poor tense fascia responds well when given a chance to gently release. So I gravitate toward slow flow and gentle yoga.
I trained to be a yoga teacher because I got so frustrated with doing “beginner” classes that we out of my reach physically and for the time frame. I also wanted to share these tools to show you that “yoga” doesn’t mean 90 minute classes getting into very bendy positions.
This is also why I created the below challenge!
Learn how we can use the tools of yoga in just five minutes a day?
Tackling fibromyalgia is a mammoth task. It is a complex illness requiring a holistic approach. Getting our mindset right is key for helping us to improve.
If we want to get better we must truly believe we can.
The tools for a cure do not exist yet. But I do believe we are close.
In the absence of a cure, we do need to ask ourselves two questions:
Do I believe I can improve?
Am I willing to do the (hard) work to achieve this?
You need to believe you can improve and you need to do the work. Or you’ve sabotaged yourself from the beginning.
Take some time and play with these questions. Write them in your journal, or a blank piece of paper and write through all the thoughts that come up with them. When you’ve worked through that, perhaps you could write yourself an affirmation like, “I will decrease this pain and fatigue.” Or if that seems too far for you right now, “I will take one small step each day to improve my life.”
There is no magic pill. Nothing a doctor can dispense will eradicate symptoms or stand alone.
It will more than likely be a multi pronged attack in the broad areas of:
Pacing and energy management
Nutrition and food intolerances
Central nervous system/meditation
It is a big task that will take time.
You need someone on your team who:
Helps you look at the big picture, holistic management
Enabling you to focus on small, sustainable changes
Can provide accountability and support
Whether that is yourself, a coach, a family member or another suitably experienced person – you need support. PS. I offer coaching, check that out here.
It sounds hard, right? Like perhaps you could never do all of this while in such pain and so exhausted?
Let me encourage you. Because I did it. Over several years I have halved my pain and fatigue levels and improved my quality of life – far exceeding my expectations.
How did I do it? One step at a time with the belief I could improve just a little more.
What are the mindset shifts for improving fibromyalgia?
Not I can’t…but how can I? From I’ll never be cured…to I will improve. Not this is so overwhelming…but what area can I tackle right now?
A positive mindset is not going to cure us but it sure as heck will keep our hope kindled and keep showing us the way forward. One step at a time.
What can help us cultivate a positive mindset?
Each day try to find three things you are grateful for. Track your progress, however small and be thankful for it. Some days you might only find gratitude for the fact that you survived it. On others you might notice that you felt so nice for a few minutes in the hot shower. Or how sitting in the sun on your deck was so calming.
For some things that might make you feel nice see this post.
Let me know, do you have a gratitude practice? Do you believe you can improve?