11 Aug Yoga and Fibromyalgia: Melissa’s story
When Melissa’s rheumatologist diagnosed her with fibromyalgia it came as a relief. Two years of referrals to various specialists and five steroid injections into her spine and hip had made no difference to her chronic hip pain.
After her diagnosis, Melissa wanted a form of exercise that would suit her current abilities and that would build flexibility, decrease her pain and provide relaxation time.
Melissa’s rheumatologist proposed a management plan that included a low dose of Endep to provide pain relief. Melissa’s GP recommended that Melissa attend Yoga for Pain to improve her function which would make the most of the positive effects of the medication.
Tailoring yoga for Fibromyalgia
Yoga can help those with Fibromyalgia relax tight muscles, manage stress and gently re-introduce their bodies to exercise.
But Fibromyalgia sufferers who have previously been physically fit can feel like gentle movement is not ‘enough’ and persevere with activities that strain their bodies.
When asked what she should do when she had symptoms of pain, Melissa said:
“I ignore my symptoms a bit. I don’t want to indulge them, or ‘positive-reinforce them’. They aren’t that bad compared to what I assume other people experience.”
I wanted to work with Melissa to help her understand her symptoms rather than fight against or hide them.
Doing less isn’t always a step backwards
At her first consultation, I introduced Melissa to the process for moving without a pain flare-up. Through gentle movement we practiced breath awareness, whole body awareness and effortless movement.
With these foundations in place, Melissa found that she was learning to understand the triggers for her Fibromyalgia symptoms. She recognised that her posture at the computer and activity choices during the day were fatiguing her and contributing to regular afternoon and evening pain.
Melissa joined the group classes to learn more and develop a regular practice with the support of others.
“Having done some Iyengar classes when I was young I expected to be doing more of the physical aspects of yoga and less of the awareness, but now I’m glad the course is the other way around.”
Slowing down is a chance to build new habits
Six months after beginning weekly classes Melissa has advanced to a more physical practice. She also prioritises short rest breaks, yogic breathing and stretching during the day, and chooses to carry her body differently.
“The most valuable thing from attending Yoga for Pain so far is learning that my body has been desperately trying to get my attention (through pain and niggles) and I’ve been consistently ignoring it for all of my adult life!”
That listening has extended further into Melissa’s life than just the way she cares for her body as she makes empowering choices in the way she works, socialises and generally participates in life.
Yoga helps people with fibromyalgia tune into their personal pain triggers and make changes
When people with fibromyalgia find pain relief through medication or other means, the pause in the severity of their physical symptoms is an opportunity learn about the behaviours and beliefs that support their wellbeing. Through Yoga for Pain they can learn to listen to their body and create new thinking patterns that support what they want for living.