When Kathryn Curtis put her passion for yoga to the test, the results were quite riveting. The PhD student in York University’s department of psychology, faculty of health, is the lead author of a pilot research project that suggests yoga reduces physical and psychological symptoms in women with fibromyalgia, a condition that causes fatigue and chronic pain in muscles and joints. “I was inspired to do this project as I have a deep love for all aspects of yoga, and wanted to be able to make this practice accessible to those who might benefit from it most,” says Curtis.
Eligible research candidates completed an eight-week yoga intervention in which they provided pre- and post-program salivary cortisol samples, attended two 75-minute hatha yoga sessions weekly, filled out multiple questionnaires concerning pain, and took part in a final follow-up session. In total, 19 female yoga beginners with fibromyalgia participated. Results showed increased levels of cortisol in post-intervention participants, a stress-reducing steroid hormone that is thought to be less prevalent in women with fibromyalgia. “We found that levels of continuous pain and pain catastrophizing decreased after the yoga program and that levels of pain acceptance and mindfulness increased,” says Curtis, adding that further research is needed to address the results definitively.
This study is in stride with the exploration of physical and psychological responses to yoga. “I think many individuals with pain shy away from yoga, as it is so often portrayed as highly vigorous or athletic, but the practice of yoga is multi-faceted and can be tailored to any body, to any person,” she says.