How are your cortisol levels? If you are a yoga enthusiast (especially hatha yoga), you probably have at least above-average levels of the hormone cortisol surging through your body.
The purpose of a study just published in the Journal of Pain Research was to examine what effects, if any, the practice of yoga had on cortisol levels and, consequently, on such characteristics/symptoms of fibromyalgia as pain, fatigue, anxiety, muscle stiffness, depression, disordered sleep, and stomach problems. At least one benefit—decreased muscle stiffness—of yoga is a “no-brainer.” Some of the other findings, however, were quite remarkable.
Participants were females with fibromyalgia, who engaged in two hatha yoga sessions a week for eight weeks. They responded to questionnaires and provided the researchers with saliva samples, which were analyzed for cortisol.
Their cortisol levels did in fact rise, following this program. And here are some of the positive changes observed, which the York University researchers believe to be related to high levels of cortisol, in this case stemming from practicing yoga: Increases in mindfulness, ability to detach from the psychological experience of pain, and acceptance of their condition; decreases in feelings of helplessness, and tendency to “go off the deep end.” All of these changes appear to be extremely helpful in pain management and to relieve stress.
If you have fibromyalgia or other condition that includes chronic pain, has yoga ever helped you to cope with psychological or physical problems, including pain? Would you try (or stick to) a program like this as an approach to treating pain, fatigue, and stress sensitivity?