I’ve been an avid yoga practitioner for over 15 years. My love of the system is so great that in 2012 I decided to do a teacher training so I could share what I’ve learned with others. After finishing the program I became a teacher at a couple of studios in Brooklyn. In the beginning I was quite surprised to discover how much attention my bio received from people not usually interested in yoga. In it I mentioned how I was able to overcome most of the symptoms of fibromyalgia that had been plaguing me since I was a teenager.
The studios would receive emails from people seeking to meet with me to learn how my practice had helped me so greatly. I always meet with them and pretty much told them all the same thing. Since my current life doesn’t afford me time to teach anymore I thought I’d put into a blog post what I always told them. Hopefully Google will help folks in need connect with this post as easily as it did my teacher bio.
Here are the rules I live by to fight fibromyalgia:
- Eat well: no processed foods, no sugars that don’t naturally occur (ie: fruit good, fruit roll ups bad), moderate alcohol and caffeine (if any).
- Sleep well: ideally going to bed and rising at the same times everyday
- And here’s the big one. Get lots of exercise!
Unlike a “normal” person, I found my limits were hard to gauge. It took me well over a decade of experimenting to discover that my body often sent me the opposite signals of what I needed. When I felt beat I layed off but then would continued to feel beat. Eventually I discovered that to push myself extra hard was the key to overcoming all the muscle pain and fatigue. The harder I pushed myself the better I felt. When something felt a little too much, often it was just right. I became the guy who was always in the back of class doing handstands when everyone else was in child’s pose (sorry to those who find that annoying).
The two things I used to say to myself everyday:
If I didn’t work out yesterday, I must today.
If I try to kill myself by working hard today I’ll feel amazing tomorrow.
All that said, everyone is different. While I pushed myself to the edge regularly, I learned to find that edge over many years. Caution is still crucial especially since we with this condition can get injured easily and those injuries can take a long time to heal. So while I recommend pushing your limits, there’s no rush to this process. Go slow and work incrementally. Remember it takes time to figure out you’re real edge. But don’t back down because you feel tired. Fight that urge and explore doing a bit more today than you did the day before. Eventually you’ll find the true limits and balance of what your physical practice should look like.
And finally, why yoga? For me it was because I loved it. I find it to be the perfect balance of stretching, muscle building, mindfulness, meditation and doing things slowly (the music I could do without, though). But it doesn’t have to be yoga. Any athletic activity you enjoy is the one for you. Before yoga I swam, biked, weight trained and used cardio machines. All those activities made me feel better too. Yoga did give me the most relief but it was also the activity I enjoyed the most, which meant I did it the most consistently, which is key.
Legal stuff: don’t read this and then do something stupid with your body! No recklessness allowed. Love yourself and be careful. Pushing your edge is not about abusing yourself. It’s about exploring going a little further each day. There’s no rush. Always pay attention to what’s going on.
Be like a detective where your primary case is the mystery of your own health. Notice patterns and try to find answers. They are there. You can live a healthier, happier life.