Yoga & Pilates for Fibromyalgia: Does It Help?

woman with fibromyalgia

Can yoga and Pilates help with fibromyalgia? The answer to this question depends on the severity of the condition. Fortunately, most medical professionals believe that yoga and Pilates ease many of the symptoms related to fibromyalgia.

Symptoms Related to Fibromyalgia

According to WebMD, there is a wide variety of fibromyalgia symptoms, including:

  • Fatigue and reduced energy
  • Constant muscle pain, leg cramps, and/or muscle spasms
  • Excessive stiffness after sitting too long in position, or when you wake up
  • Slow muscle recovery after exercise
  • Insomnia
  • Tension headaches
  • Jaw tenderness
  • Numbness in the limbs, fingers, toes, or face

This battery of symptoms is one reason why fibromyalgia is a difficult disease to understand. People with this condition may be fine during midday, but mornings and evening cause symptom flares. Stress aggravates this condition, just as it does to a host of other problems.

For many, asking "can yoga and Pilates help with fibromyalgia" is a progressive intent to focus on more natural methods to supplement medical therapy and improve quality of life.

Can Yoga and Pilates Help with Fibromyalgia?

First and foremost, doing yoga and Pilates should always be an exercise solution to not exercising at all. As contradictory as it sounds, if you don't move because you are in pain, your pain will get worse.

Whether you're recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia or have suffered from it for years, incorporate some type of non-weight bearing exercise, such as certain styles of yoga, Pilates, swimming or bicycling, on days when your energy is low. On days when you feel better, do a more intense routine of any of the above, or take a 30-minute walk.

The Yogic Approach

The many asanas of yoga are designed to rid the body of "dis-ease" and unite it with the mind and spirit. Yoga is beneficial for many reasons, including:

  • Restorative poses, such as Legs-Up-the-Wall and Seated Forward Bend, provide relief from painful flares.
  • You can use yoga equipment such as blocks, straps, and bolsters for days when your condition restricts full mobility.
  • Even performing a gentle routine for 20 minutes will increase circulation, improve muscle recovery, and reduce inflammation.
  • Regular yoga practice may also reduce stress and help you sleep better.

An article in Yoga Journal describes how yoga can relieve stress and reduce the chronic pain associated with fibromyalgia. While yoga is not a cure for the disease, many people greatly improve their wellbeing with regular practice.

Here are a few yoga DVDs to try that suit any level of mobility:

How Pilates May Help

One way Pilates may help relieve fibromyalgia symptoms is by toning the muscles.

  • This doesn't have to be a weight-bearing exercise, which may help a lot of people continue to practice, even when symptoms are more severe.
  • Since it's important to move in a slow and controlled fashion, you'll receive the benefits of the exercise while still maintaining a pace that's right for you.
  • Some practitioners say the controlled motion reduces lactic acid build-up in your muscles, which may make you feel better.

Pilates can be as vigorous or as moderate as you like. If you're new to Pilates, here are a few DVDs to try:

The Importance of Breath

One key factor when asking "can yoga and Pilates help with fibromyalgia" is the common denominator of breath. Both yoga and Pilates require a focus of breath to ease into and support movements. Learning how to move with breath and increase oxygen throughout the body helps not only with the exercise, but also reduces stress levels. With less stress raging through your system, you might notice that you have fewer flares, Or, when you do have flares, you can work through them more comfortably by using breathing techniques.

Don't Suffer Alone

Medical professionals encourage you to learn more about your condition and receive support from people who intrinsically understand what you're going through. Consider joining the following fibromyalgia support groups:

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Yoga & Pilates for Fibromyalgia: Does It Help?