(I received free access to Aroga Yoga’s Chronically Kind Yoga course in exchange for this review. However, all opinions are my own. This post includes affiliate links.)
I bet I can read the minds of some of you: “Another yoga-related article? Is she seriously gonna try to convince me that stretching is really gonna help my chronic illness?”
I know the feeling because I’ve been there myself! But there’s a reason why so many chronic pain-related websites are obsessed with publishing yoga articles.
It’s because it actually works!
Below are links to a few research studies, which show the many benefits of yoga for those with fibromyalgia:
- Impact of daily yoga-based exercise on pain, catastrophizing, and sleep amongst individuals with fibromyalgia
- The Impact of a Daily Yoga Program for Women with Fibromyalgia
- A pilot randomized controlled trial of the Yoga of Awareness program in the management of fibromyalgia
- An eight-week yoga intervention is associated with improvements in pain, psychological functioning and mindfulness, and changes in cortisol levels in women with fibromyalgia
- A protocol and pilot study for managing fibromyalgia with yoga and meditation
- Gentle Hatha yoga and reduction of fibromyalgia-related symptoms: a preliminary report
While all of these studies involved small numbers of patients, taken in totality, they provide clear evidence that yoga can help improve the pain, fatigue and other symptoms of fibromyalgia.
A quick Pubmed search came back with no Lyme-related yoga studies, but there’s definitely anecdotal evidence supporting the use of this ancient form of movement as part of Lyme treatment. One of my favorite Facebook groups, Lyme Success Stories, includes dozens of testimonials from Lyme warriors who found yoga helpful during their healing journeys.
I was first introduced to yoga more than 20 years ago at my local YMCA. I actually still own my first yoga mat! Back then, I was young and healthy, and I loved how I felt both relaxed and energized after an hour-long class.
Fast forward to 2012-13. By that time, I was experiencing the early symptoms of chronic Lyme disease and fibromyalgia. I constantly felt stressed out even though nothing out of the ordinary was happening in my life. I intuitively knew if I could somehow calm my mind and body, then I would feel better, so I pulled out my old yoga mat and started a daily at-home practice using Rodney Yee DVDs.
For a year or two, I began almost every day in our basement with an hour of yoga, meditation, reading and prayer. My symptoms stabilized to some degree, but that changed in 2013 when I moved and lost my designated practice space. My daily routine was forgotten as I settled into our new home and returned to college.
As the years passed, I gradually became sicker and sicker. Looking back, I now realize giving up my daily practice likely contributed to the decline in my health since I was no longer actively addressing my overactive nervous system.
I’ve tried over the years to resume a daily practice but I’ve never stuck with it for longer than a few weeks. Part of that is because I no longer have the physical stamina or strength to survive a traditional yoga class. The classes are too physically intense, my body is too stiff and I can’t do many of the forward-bending poses due to a bulged disc in my lower back.
Fortunately, I’ve found the work of Kayla Kurin at Aroga Yoga. Kayla specializes in developing online yoga programs for people with chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), fibromyalgia, Lyme and similar illnesses. This work is very personal for Kayla because she was diagnosed with ME/CFS during her teens and intimately understands the physical and energetic limitations of these conditions. Kayla is one of us, so she’s been able to create gentle, modified yoga routines that our bodies will actually tolerate!
Chronically Kind Yoga review
After reviewing her book, “Yoga for Chronic Pain,” and signing up for a couple of her 10-day yoga courses, Kayla asked if I’d be interested in trying her new 6-week online yoga and meditation course, “Chronically Kind Yoga.” I’ve been slowly working through the program over the past couple of months, and as with all of Kayla’s courses, I’ve really been enjoying it. It’s nice to be back on the mat again!
During the course, I received an email from Kayla every Monday with that week’s main yoga routine. There’s a different theme for each week of the course such as sleep, focus and the autonomic nervous system, among others.
The program also includes daily emails. Sometimes these emails would contain a new yoga routine or meditation technique to try. Sometimes it would be an inspirational message or something educational that was related to yoga/meditation and their many benefits. I really liked the variety!
Kayla did a great job of mixing up the content of the course, balancing on-the-mat time with education, inspiration and tips on how to take the teachings of yoga and meditation off the mat and into daily life.
She encouraged us to try the routines at least three or four times a week. To make that goal easier to obtain, she showed us modifications to make some of the poses more chronic illness-friendly and also incorporated poses that could be done in a chair or bed.
Starting with week one, I quickly realized my body wouldn’t tolerate my regular yoga mat. It was just too thin for my achy knees and back, so I used a thicker, cushier exercise mat for most of my practice. Kayla’s suggestions for incorporating props like pillows, blankets, straps and yoga blocks helped me to modify the poses so I was more comfortable.
My body was sore during those first few days of practicing because I hadn’t had a regular exercise routine in a while, but that soon passed as my body acclimated to stretching again.
I enjoy having Kayla as my teacher. Her presence and voice are very calming and soothing to me. I wish I could feel as relaxed as she is in her videos! Maybe I’ll eventually get there if I keep up my practice, huh?
The only downside to the program is that I wish there were more shorter yoga routines. There are some shorter videos mixed into the course, but the main weekly routines are an hour long, and I seldom had the time or energy to complete those in one session. It wasn’t a huge deal though because I would just finish the second half of the video on the next day of practice.
Overall, I feel like Chronically Kind Yoga is a gentle, paced way to reintroduce movement back into a life with chronic illness. Because Kayla lives with ME/CFS herself, she’s been able to create an online yoga program that actually accommodates the special needs of those living with chronic pain and fatigue.
Kayla is currently registering new students for the next session of Chronically Kind Yoga. Learn more about the program here.