How Yoga and Meditation Have Improved My Life With Fibromyalgia
The past seven years or so I chose to adopt a consistent radical self-care routine. It evolved from the drill sergeant approach I began with – the all or nothing routine – into a much more forgiving space for me to just be with myself. When I began, I did yoga or meditated or exercised to change how I was feeling and if I didn’t feel better afterwards, I classed myself as a failure. I felt guilty for still feeling shitty even after applying a myriad self-help techniques to my situation, so I’d quit and try again a week or so later when the fatigue subsided or when the next mini-crisis or flare-up occurred and needed to be addressed. Now, I take a much more light-hearted approach to it. It’s slow and consistent, and that’s the difference.
I have followed Sara Avant Stover’s book, “The Way of The Happy Woman,” the past year or so as I relate to her use of Ayurvedic principles as an Ayurvedic Therapist myself, especially those she recommends within the yoga practices, specifically created for women to attune to their cycle and that of the season. As fibromyalgia causes hypersensitivity, I am pretty sure this hypersensitivity is not only applied to pain but to all feelings, seasonal changes and hormone fluctuations within the body – the latter I have found to be true.
But what can we do to help our body and mind process the pace of our daily lives, chronic pain and difficult situations thrown on top? We need to build up a savings account of awareness and embodiment, not just apply them at the time of the flare-up or crisis. If you do not have a savings account, there is no time like the present to start. Even if it is during a crisis, a positive effect will occur if you apply a mindful salve – maybe it’s a few breaths, maybe it’s mindful practice of a musical instrument or even letting yourself cry. c
We see mindfulness advertised everywhere now on TV, social media, apps, in magazines and online. I, like many other chronic illness thrivers, do my best to be mindful when I can and have to let the rest fall away for now. But I’m always open to trying something new. That’s why I got excited this week when some new resources were kindly shared with me from another person with chronic pain. One is that of the Beaumont Hospital website. They have relaxation meditations, active muscle relaxation techniques, autogenic training, body scans and so much more! If you are bored of your mindfulness routine or are curious about different techniques, I highly recommend taking a few minutes to browse their selection and see if one appeals to you.
The other shared by Chronic Pain Ireland is a free course that is coming up thanks to The Centre for Pain Research at NUI Galway, with the support of the Health Research Board. It is currently recruiting people with two or more chronic health conditions to take part in a research study. The Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) trial will provide eight online sessions to people in the comfort of their own home. At the moment, such supports are scarce and generally aimed at the self-management of specific chronic conditions, such as diabetes or chronic pain. The free online sessions in the ACT program will focus on values and goals that are individual to each person in the trial. Participants will be provided with instructions on a range of activity-pacing techniques to encourage more consistent levels of activity from day to day.
(For further information, you can contact the research team at the Centre for Pain Research, NUI Galway: email [email protected] or phone 091-495832. GPs or physiotherapists who are interested in referring suitable patients to the trial can also use these contact details.)
While yin yoga and meditation are my main medicines for fibromyalgia, they’re not the only things I use to soothe it, but they do help reset me every morning. Especially with chronic insomnia – that many of you will be able to relate to – yin yoga is more refreshing for me than my sleep. I noticed this at the yoga and meditation retreats I stayed at in the far east too. The more we practiced, the less sleep we needed, and a 4:00 a.m. start became the norm for us, whereas now I’d be lucky to be asleep before 4:00 a.m.
Luckily for me my practice has allowed me to return to work part-time this year, but we are all different and it may not be the case for everyone. I’m completely aware of this – I’m just noting what’s helped me so far. I by no means have returned to full capacity, but I have grown and feel this to be a far more valuable achievement (take your wins where you get them). It didn’t happen of my own accord either, but by connecting with my family more authentically and with support groups and therapy that have allowed me the opportunity to learn from others, get over myself a bit (still working on this) and out of this very slow-burning practice, a love and respect has appeared to help me choose more wisely the people I spend my time with, the things I will put my body through and an inkling for the better person I want to be in this world to help others.
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If you made it this far I thank you and encourage you to connect if you want help with your chronic illness. There is no need to struggle alone.
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