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Yoga is believed to have many benefits for physical strength and relaxation. In our culture, we work hard and expect to do the same when we exercise. I believe it is important to balance hard work with a mindfulness and relaxation practice. Forms of yoga that promote mindfulness and breath -work are vinyasa, hatha, and ashtanga to name a few. Try to avoid only doing yoga classes that are high intensity such as Bikram or intense power classes.

Research has supported reduction in chronic pain symptoms in women with fibromyalgia, specifically. Why did yoga help pain in this population? Because researchers found that yoga practice increases levels of cortisol to NORMAL values. The researchers tested pre and post intervention cortisol levels using salivary hormone analysis. Cortisol a hormone that has been found to be abnormally LOW in women with fibromyalgia. This means that women with fibromyalgia may be suffering from adrenal insufficiency or adrenal fatigue which contributes to pain, fatigue, and sensitivity. In the study, the subjects practiced 75 minutes of hatha yoga twice weekly over the course of eight weeks.

Normally cortisol levels peak about 30-40 minutes after we get up in the morning and decline throughout the day until we’re ready to go to sleep. This pattern can be disrupted in fibromyalgia.

Anyone can benefit from the cortisol balancing effects of yoga.

Source: Kathryn Curtis, Anna Osadchuk, Joel Katz. An eight-week yoga intervention is associated with improvements in pain, psychological functioning and mindfulness, and changes in cortisol levels in women with fibromyalgia. Journal of Pain Research, 2011; 189 DOI: 10.2147/JPR.S22761

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