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A small Canadian study found that practicing yoga twice weekly for eight weeks reduced the symptoms of chronic pain and mental stress in women with fibromyalgia. The study is the first to look at the effects of yoga on levels of the hormone cortisol in women suffering with fibromyalgia. The condition, which predominantly affects women, is associated with chronic pain and fatigue, and symptoms such as muscle stiffness, sleep disturbances, and depression.
Previous research has found that women with fibromyalgia have lower-than-average cortisol levels, which can contribute to pain, fatigue, and stress sensitivity, according to the researchers. In the new study, participants’ saliva revealed enhanced cortisol levels following a program of 75 minutes of hatha yoga twice weekly over the course of eight weeks. Also patients reported significant reductions in their pain levels, as well as a mental boost from the yoga practice.
The study follows another earlier study that found that patients with rheumatoid arthritis who practiced yoga showed significant improvements in their symptoms.