Disclosure: I received a copy of “Yoga for Chronic Pain: 7 Steps to Aid Recovery from Fibromyalgia with Yoga” in exchange for this book review. This post includes affiliate links.
Since my diagnosis in 2014, I’ve read numerous articles and research studies promoting the benefits of yoga for fibromyalgia. The problem is most yoga routines found online, on DVDs or at local yoga centers are just too fast-paced and intense for those of us with chronic illnesses like fibromyalgia, chronic Lyme or ME/CFS.
But a few years ago, I stumbled upon the work of Kayla Kurin, a yoga teacher who actually lives with fibromyalgia’s sister condition, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Kayla creates yoga routines specifically for people like us who are living with the challenges of chronic pain, fatigue and insomnia.
I admire her work so much that I’ve routinely shared her YouTube channel and programs here on Fed Up with Fatigue and social media.
I had been meaning to reach out to Kayla to see if she’d like to collaborate on a blog post, but she actually beat me to it last year when she asked if I’d review her latest book (at that time), “Yoga for Chronic Pain: 7 Steps to Aid Recovery from Fibromyalgia with Yoga.”
Due to one health crisis after another, I am finally reviewing her book! I’m also including a short Q & A so you can learn more about Kayla’s chronic illness journey and how yoga may improve the symptoms of fibromyalgia and similar illnesses.
Yoga for Chronic Pain book review and overview…
Brain fog is one of my most challenging symptoms right now, and as you know, brain fog and reading do not mix! Before I talk about the actual content, I’d like to address some of the practical aspects of the book.
I really appreciated that Kayla’s book is an easy read. The chapters are short and use easy-to-understand language, so I could progress through the book in brief 5- or 10-minute chunks. The entire book is double-spaced and includes very basic instructions and black-and-white photographs to illustrate the yoga poses she recommends.
Content-wise, the book is divided into seven chapters, or steps, including:
- Understanding your pain
- Understanding the science of yoga
- Taming the mind
- Using the breath as an energy source
- Yoga postures to relieve pain
- Self care
- Living mindfully
The first two steps give a brief overview of chronic pain research, its effects on the body and the Ayurvedic approach to well-being and health.
Step 3 discusses the science and benefits of mindfulness, and how our thoughts can intensify our pain. The chapter ends with an overview of several mindfulness practices that can be incorporated into everyday life.
Step 4 focuses on how certain breathing techniques can help to manage stress, pain and sleep.
Step 5 features both morning and evening yoga routines for chronic pain including photos.
Steps 6 and 7 cover lots of tips for living better with chronic pain, such as the benefits of establishing a morning routine, how to improve sleep quality, dietary modifications and more.
In general, I liked how Kayla incorporated so many interesting tools into her book. Each chapter ends with an “action steps” section to help incorporate her ideas into day-to-day life.
I am currently working my way through Kayla’s 6-week Chronically Kind Yoga course and will be doing a review on that in the future. I feel like the course and book complement each other perfectly. The course is really nice for those people like me who tend to gravitate to video more than reading.
I’ve also purchased Kayla’s shorter, 10-day Yoga for Chronic Pain and Yoga for Insomnia courses and will be working my way through those after finishing Chronically Kind Yoga. Costing just $10 each, they are an affordable, non-threatening way to try yoga, taught by someone who is familiar with the challenges of living in a chronically ill body.
I used to have a daily yoga practice years ago. When I became really sick due to fibromyalgia and Lyme, I didn’t feel like I was physically capable of having a regular yoga practice anymore, but Kayla’s gentle approach and modifications have enabled me to get back on the mat after almost six years.
My Q & A with Kayla Kurin from Aroga Yoga…
Donna: Would you briefly share your story of chronic illness?
Kayla: I was diagnosed with CFS when I was 12 years old. Nobody knew how to help me. I was too embarrassed to tell many friends (I was supposed to be young and healthy), but those I did tell either didn’t understand what it meant to be this sick or thought it was “all in my head.”
I used to swim competitively and play a lot of sports and was devastated when I had to give these things up due to my illness. I struggled with my illness for many years, but was able to finish high school and university.
After eight years of being sick, I was referred to an environmental health clinic where I received many traditional and complementary treatments. It’s also where I got my first taste of yoga and meditation. I attended the clinic for just less than a year but the improvement in my symptoms was beyond what I could have imagined. The things that helped me most were yoga and meditation.
How did you get into yoga? And how did it benefit your chronic illness symptoms?
People had recommended that I do yoga for many years, but I had always dismissed it as being too “woo woo.” I didn’t think that yoga would be able to help me. If doctors and medication couldn’t help me, how could some stretching and breathing exercises? Yet, when I attended the environmental health clinic, I was recommended to do yoga by the doctors and found a special class for people with chronic illnesses.
Immediately, I found that I felt more relaxed after yoga and that it didn’t make my symptoms any worse, which was more than I could say for any other form of exercise. As I continued to practice, I noticed that the calm, energized feeling I felt after yoga class was starting to last for most of the day, I was sleeping better at night and my digestion improved. I find the longer I continue my yoga practice, the more benefits I see to my overall health.
There’s the perception that only super flexible, skinny people do yoga. I’ve heard many of my fellow chronic illness warriors say, “There’s no way I could ever bend like that!” However, there are different forms of yoga, correct? Which forms are best for those who are in chronic pain and/or dealing with chronic fatigue?
Yes! I think that more important than the style of yoga is the teacher. Knowing that a teacher has experience working with students of different abilities and is able to adapt the classes to different needs is more important than the style.
However, some class names to look out for that are best for people with chronic illness are: restorative yoga, gentle hatha, restorative flow, etc. I wrote an article on this topic for Yoga International as I think it’s such an important question!
Numerous research studies have confirmed yoga may improve the symptoms of fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and similar conditions. What are the benefits?
Yoga can reduce stress, anxiety and fatigue in people living with chronic illness, and it can improve immune function. Yoga can also stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, the part of the nervous system that helps you to rest and heal, and increases GABA levels in your body. GABA (gamma-amino butyric acid) is a neurotransmitter which can help calm the brain. Low levels of GABA have been linked to anxiety, depression and insomnia.
Students have reported a reduction in pain, an increase in energy and increased resilience to the struggles of living with a chronic illness.
What advice do you have for someone with chronic illness who wants to begin a yoga practice?
Begin with a short practice, and search for a teacher online or in your area that has experience with chronic illness. Always listen to your body as you can feel what is happening more than any teacher, no matter how experienced! If you’re nervous about a physical practice, starting with meditation or a visualization is a great option!
Can you tell us about your work with the chronic illness community?
I run online courses and workshops for people living with chronic illness. I also offer Skype classes, retreats and workshops around the world! I’m really excited about the mini bundles I’ve started offering to the community, which are great for new or more experienced yogis. It’s a 10-day bundle with 10 videos that are 10 minutes long each, and only costs $10!
How can we learn more about you and your work?
You can find my videos and courses as well as articles on my blog.
So, now it’s your turn! Do you incorporate yoga into your treatment protocol for fibromyalgia and/or Lyme? If so, what benefits have you experienced? Share in the comments below!