Score one more for yoga!
Researchers say light stretching can do what a pharmacy full of drugs often cannot: Bring real relief to women suffering from fibromyalgia, the mystifying and often debilitating pain condition.
Researchers from York University in Toronto asked 22 women to take 75-minute hatha yoga classes twice a week. After just eight weeks, the women reported less pain than they did at the start of the study.
They also felt better about their condition, reporting less helplessness and more acceptance, and they were less likely to focus on the worst possible outcomes of the disease.
Although those responses were based on a questionnaire given before and after the study, there were also noticeable changes on a much more objective level. The researchers say the women had higher levels of the "stress hormone" cortisol after eight weeks of yoga lessons.
Now, that might sound bad. "Stress hormone" sounds like trouble, and you definitely don't want too much of it hanging around.
But too little can be even worse, because the stress hormone is needed to help control inflammation and regulate blood pressure. More importantly, it also keeps the immune system in check -- the same immune system that often goes haywire in fibromyalgia patients.
And not so coincidentally, fibro patients usually have very low levels of cortisol.
Since the study was small, it'll take more research before anyone can say for sure whether yoga can boost cortisol levels in the long run -- but other studies have been encouraging, at least when it comes to pain relief.
In one I told you about last year, yoga actually brought as much relief as drugs, with none of the risks. (Read about it here.)
Now, if you're suffering from fibro, I know you might think the pretzel-like contortions of yoga are the last things your body could handle.
In reality, the hatha form of yoga used in the new study is one of the most basic -- and the most gentle.
And in addition to helping to beat pain and regulate your cortisol levels, yoga has been shown to boost physical strength and energy levels, lower blood pressure, and even improve mental health.
You can often find inexpensive or even free lessons through your local library, park, or senior center -- or even try it on your own with a book or video.