Let’s talk about my favourite yoga poses for fibromyalgia. As a yoga practitioner and a teacher I have a few poses I come back to again and again in mine and my student’s toolkit.
These are great standalone poses that have a prominent place in my toolkit and my students are loving these too.
As you can likely tell, there are a multitude of tools on offer from the yoga toolkit and I use many. It is hard to narrow it down so in this post, I share just six.
My favourite version of this pose is supported child’s pose, but even usual child’s pose is a great restful pose. It gently stretches the lower back and shoulders (if you take it extended). Placing your forehead on the ground will calm you down. This pose comes from restorative yoga, a lovely, gentle yoga style that is great for calming the nervous system.
This is such a great introductory restorative pose. One prop required. It is very calming and can be replicated with pillows/cushions/an ottoman, anything to raise those legs a little. Relieving pressure in our legs can be a nice bonus here. Place your neck on a flat pillows/cushion/folded towel if you find it uncomfortable.
While they are stand alone poses, I like them together, they are the perfect counter pose to each other and a great way to mobilize the back and neck. I use this regularly throughout the day. Not only does the physical movement help my body but matching the movement to my breath and moving mindfully helps my mind. It’s calming and relaxing.
Forward bend is so great for a gentle neck and back stretch (as well as the hamstrings). I was using it for gentle neck tractions between physiotherapy appointments before I knew what I was doing (using yoga as tools).
Eagle is really great for helping out the upper back (a key problem area for fibromyalgia, desk workers and almost everyone). In Foundations of Yoga for Chronic Pain and Fatigue we work through this pose as a journey because there is so much space in this pose for us to grow.
This is great if you’re not getting onto the floor and want to stretch your lower back. You could use this as a standalone pose, as part of a sequence before bed, in bed and first thing in the morning.
So these are my favourite poses for fibromyalgia. What are yours?
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…
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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?
Step four discusses using the breath as an energy source, “Pranayama can increase your fitness and energy levels – without getting out of bed!”
Step five is the actual yoga! Kuran provides a more active routine, a gentle restorative routine and discusses yoga Nidra.
“Like other forms of meditation, yoga Nidra helps release serotonin and decrease cortisol which lowers your stress response.” I adore yoga Nidra and it’s a vital part of my coping when I’m tired, especially when I have tiny babies and am not sleeping much at night – so I always enjoy learning more about it.
I loved the suggestion that even in a flare up we can do yoga. Practicing yoga doesn’t mean a big routine or even physical movement – Kuran points out that even visualizing yourself doing yoga poses can be useful. A breathing practice while lying in bed is sufficient. This makes yoga such a useful tool for those fighting chronic fatigue – its adaptability.
If you enact the action points suggested at the end of each step you will be a long way toward a holistic healing process.
I highly recommend this book and yoga if you struggle with chronic fatigue.
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