Widespread musculoskeletal pain, relentless fatigue, anxiety and depression are among the symptoms that plague fibromyalgia patients, most of whom are women. Though the exact cause of this chronic condition is unknown, past research has revealed that sufferers have hypocortisolism (low levels of the hormone cortisol), which contributes to symptoms. Frustratingly, there is no known cure—but a new study reports that relief can come from hatha yoga, a versatile and gentle type of yoga that focuses on restorative poses, breathing exercises, breath/movement coordination and brief meditation.

Details: Women with fibromyalgia participated in two 75-minute hatha yoga sessions per week for eight weeks. Before, during and after the study, participants completed questionnaires rating the severity of their physical and psychological symptoms… they also provided pre- and post-study saliva samples (to test cortisol levels). Results: At the end of the study, participants had more normal cortisol levels… reported significantly reduced levels of continuous pain and pain catastrophizing (rumination, magnification and helplessness with regard to pain)… and experienced increased mindfulness (nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment) and pain acceptance (adaptation to living with chronic pain).

Fibromyalgia patients: The organization Yoga Alliance registers teachers who complete a certain number of hours of training in specific styles. To locate a class, visit YogaAlliance.org, click on “Find a School” and enter “Hatha” in the style box… then check with the teacher and your doctor to confirm that a particular class is appropriate for you.