Take a deep breath… Yoga – yes, yoga. My ideas about yoga have gone something like this. It came in with the Beatles about forty years ago. It’s mostly about stretching, and it provides a good social outlet for some people.
I have learned better. For those seriously engaged in it yoga is more a lifestyle than an exercise program. Many studies indicate it can produce documented health benefits.
It was the third leg of Dan Moricoli’s recovery protocol, but the answer has to be no simply because there is no one answer for these disorders. People with these disorders have gotten sick in a variety of ways and those who have recovered have recovered in a variety of ways.
All we have at this point are anecdotal stories that point signs in different directions. Your recovery story – the approach that works for you – may not have been written yet. On the other hand, it’s possible that it has, and you don’t know it. That’s why these stories are presented.
The recovery stories are meant to show how some people do recover, not how to recover from these illnesses.
I like Dan’s recovery story because he mostly recovered using practices (pacing, heart rate based exercise program, yoga) that are inexpensive and readily available. The only downside to them is the discipline they require and the ability to put aside the time to rest and recover.
ME vs ME/CFS vs CFS or Does It Matter?
Until subsets are clarified I don’t know that general characterizations such as “ME” or “CFS” or “ME/CFS” are going to help much. With his sudden onset, severe illness, his seizure-like symptoms and severe exercise intolerance, Dan looks like he had “ME”, yet he largely recovered using a program (pacing, a heart based exercise program and yoga) most people would not associate with “ME”.
I recently published a recovery story of a woman with a gradual, non flu-like onset (i.e. non ME) who recovered using antivirals. I had relatively gradual onset, no obvious infectious etiology, exercise intolerance, PEM and rather mild ME/CFS. Doctors told me I would be “easy” yet my milder (CFS-like?) illness has proved utterly resistant to all kinds of therapies.
This is a complicated disease or set of diseases. Dan’s protocol worked for him. It might not work for you. Then again it might. The same logic applies to almost every recovery story.
But what about yoga – the third leg of what ended up being Dan’s recovery protocol?
Research suggests that a dedicated yoga practice can affect several of the systems implicated in ME/CFS and FM. Yoga appears, for instance, to be able to reduce sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) activity and increase parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) (rest and digest) activity.
Deep yogic breathing is able to increase parasympathetic nervous system activity and antioxidant levels after exercise. Some researchers believe yogic breathing is one of the few things that can “strengthen and recharge the parasympathetic nervous system rapidly and effectively”.
Since no medications are able to increase vagus nerve/parasympathetic nervous system functioning this may be a notable finding. Deep breathing is the first practice Staci Stevens teaches her patients beginning a heart-rate based exercise program.
A Doctor’s Take on the Benefits of Yoga
Boston University researchers propose that underactive GABA and PNS systems underlie a wide variety of disorders of stress exacerbating disorders including epilepsy, depression, PTSD and chronic pain. They assert that yoga practices incorporating deep breathing techniques may be particularly effective in relieving the symptoms of these types of disorders.
According to the proposed theory, the decreased PNS and GABAergic activity that underlies stress-related disorders can be corrected by yoga practices resulting in amelioration of disease symptoms. This has far-reaching implications for the integration of yoga-based practices in the treatment of a broad array of disorders exacerbated by stress. Streeter et. al. 2012
A 12-week trial which found significant reductions in a pro-inflammatory cytokine and significant increases in an anti-inflammatory cytokine suggested yoga has anti-inflammatory effects. Yoga reduces blood flows to the fear center of the brain and increases activation of the frontal cortex: the area of the brain where many of the problems with executive functioning in ME/CFS occur.
Yoga may also be able to reduce oxidative stress and increase glutathione activity. Military personnel exhibited decreased levels of oxidative stress and increased glutathione metabolism after a year-long yoga trial.
Severe fatigue is a significant problem for many cancer survivors. A meta-analysis of yoga studies of cancer survivors found yoga programs produced large reductions in distress, anxiety, and depression; moderate reductions in fatigue; moderate increases in quality of life, emotional function and social functioning; and a small increase in functional well-being.
A review of fibromyalgia yoga studies studies concluded the level of research was relatively weak, but that yoga produced moderate to high effects in reducing pain. It recommended that yoga be a part of any multidisciplinary treatment plan. My guess is that that’s the best way to use yoga.
Two or three month-long studies might not tell the entire story, however. It’s possible that people engaging in yoga over the long term as Dan did could experience increasing benefits over time.
Dan Moricoli on Yoga and his Yoga On the Path site.
“Dr. Nancy Klimas has developed an exercise protocol for ME/CFS and yoga, properly done is a perfect fit within Dr. Klimas’ recommendations…” Dan Moricoli
How did you get interested in yoga?
I started practicing yoga around 23 years ago on a limited, but consistent basis as part of my other exercise programs when I was very healthy and fit.
When I developed ME/CFS, I stopped as I was afraid to do any exercise at all. It seems funny to even say that today as I have learned that a properly developed exercise program has proven to be the very foundation of my recovery.
When Dr. Nancy Klimas recommended that I undergo the VO2 Max testing and I subsequently start a limited exercise program, I incorporated a gentle yoga practice into my rehabilitation exercise program.
As I began to dramatically reduce my ME/CFS symptoms I felt that yoga was the key element in my routine and gradually increased the duration of yoga in my routine.
About two years ago, I decided to really learn more about yoga and take it up seriously. As I learned more about it, I started thinking about creating a video series on the overall health benefits of yoga. More specifically about how it affects the mind and spirit as well as the body.
How has yoga benefited you?
First of all, As you know, Dr. Nancy Klimas has developed an exercise protocol for ME/CFS and yoga, properly done is a perfect fit within Dr. Klimas’ recommendations as it’s an easily doable form of exercise no matter how one feels on any given day, whether bed ridden, confined to the house or mostly mobile.
Much more importantly, good health / well being is a product of the unison of mind, body and spirit.
All too often, we tend to think of mind, body and spirit as separate and distinct components of ourselves, but they are not. They are interdependent upon each other.
Deborah’s story of ameliorating the symptoms of severe fibromyalgia
If any one of these three elements is experiencing pain or suffering then the entire being is affected, and our ability to deal with the challenges of life, diminished.
When anyone of the three elements is enhanced or boosted the other two are likewise enhanced and our ability to deal with the challenges of life, increased.
Yoga, properly practiced, is a holistic system which seeks to balance, and enhance, one’s mind, body and spirit. In the process, any and every individual advances on their respective path towards wellness and peak performance.
The view that yoga is simply an alternative form of exercise or not a true source of healing and wellness is a gross misconception. Such misconceptions have led far too many to think that “yoga isn’t for me, I’m too ill . . . I’m too infirmed . . . I’m too out of shape . . . too old . . . too (name an excuse) .”
Yoga involves the gradual expansion of our self awareness to discover and experience the breadth and depth of our mind, body and spirit working in unison.
The various postures or poses associated with yoga are in themselves very useful for stretching and strengthening our body, but these are only among the first steps of a yoga practice and there is so very much more to be gained.
When those same postures are combined with a focus on, and rhythming with, our breathing an inward journey begins. A journey in which we start to let go of the chatter of our mind and reach ever increasing levels of concentration, self-awareness and self-healing.
As one, in turn, adds meditation, the pathway to the full realization of our essential self becomes open and a deep and abiding sense of wellbeing results as the mind, body and spirit become ever more in unison.
Yoga, when properly practiced with full intent and determination, is the pathway to the very epitome of good health.
There are many different types of yoga. There’s the fast-paced, athletically demanding “power” or Ashtanga type of yoga. There’s the “hot” or Bikram yoga done in high temperatures. There’s the more spiritual Kundalini yoga focusing on releasing the power at the base of the spine. There’s the precursor of many yoga practices, Hatha yoga, which features basic, slow moving poses accompanied by breathing exercises and emphasizes stress reduction and relaxation. Which type do you do and which type do you recommend for people with ME/CFS/FM?
By far, the most popular form of yoga practiced in the United States is Hatha yoga. That is the basis of what I practice daily and I take two classes of Hatha every week. I also combine elements of Kundalini yoga in my daily practice as well as meditation.
For most people affected by ME/CSF, or new to yoga, one or more of the Sandhya Series videos will be more appropriate. This series was designed specifically for those with ME/CFS. It is not labeled as such on this particular website as YogaOnthePath.com was developed to reach a much broader base of people from around the world with a wide variety of physical and/or emotional challenges.
How well do you have to be to do your type of yoga practice?
Only one’s mind need to function to have full intent and determination. One’s physical attributes or ability are of no importance at all. As we have demonstrated in our videos, yoga can be practiced in a wheelchair, lying down, sitting down, standing up.
It makes no difference whether one is bed bound and unable to get up or fully mobile.
Yoga For Those With Physical Limitations
Emotional Help – The non-profit means to bring yoga to people with many different types of disorders. The most powerful video for me was from someone who found a way out from treatment resistant alcoholism and an eating disorder using yoga. She is now a yoga instructor and clearly a very a very powerful woman. Check out the Tracey’s recovery video in her section
From Yoga On The Path
Our mission at YogaOnthePath.com is to expand public awareness and acceptance of the healing powers of yoga.
We are specifically targeting persons with specific physical or behavioral challenges. The very people who most need the assistance on their paths towards wellness as well as those that our medical system all too often fails to adequately help. Among them:
- Chronic diseases and disorders
- Heart disease
Our initiative seeks to use compelling personal profiles of individuals who have experienced the same challenges as our target audiences to engage and encourage them to start a proper yoga practice appropriate to their own needs with full intent and determination on their own path towards wellness.
Our goal is to raise money for ME/CFS research.
Instead of just soliciting research funds from individuals and institutions with an interest in ME/CFS, we are seeking to reach, and influence, the many, many millions more who fall within our targeted illnesses to do something for themselves and in the process the profits will go to fund research for ME/CFS.
Silly idea? Maybe . . . maybe not. $1,000,000 or more annually for ME/CFS research seems doable . . . on paper at least.
Shouldn’t you tell your friends and neighbors to check it out as well?
And by the way, please “Like” the website and videos while you’re there. With a little help, this idea just might pay off for all of us with ME/CFS.
Recovery on Health Rising Forums
Nancy, Allen and Matt all recovered or mostly recovered from ME/CFS. One’s ME/CFS started gradually and another’s began with a shattered jaw. One used antivirals, another mind-body practices and another a very usual immune booster. You’d never be able to guess from their type of onset what worked for whom.
- Check out three new recovery stories on the Health Rising Forums (registration required).
- If you’ve tried Yoga – tell us how it went here.