When we look at the current state of yoga research, the trend in most capitalist countries is to put it into a scientific study, show how it improves conditions that our medical industrial complex really doesn’t want to treat, and then use that as proof that yoga can “cure” the disease. This has happened broadly with chronic pain, a condition that thanks to the DEA and the CDC along with the false narrative of the “opioid crisis”, doctors don’t want to touch for fear of getting in trouble. Even the CDC on its website states that yoga can be an effective therapy for chronic pain.
First, as someone with chronic pain, I can affirm that yes, gentle stretching through yoga (I prefer a slower approach than the yoga-as-fitness models do, but that’s another blog.) can help my pain. There’s a difference between the pain from a fibromyalgia flare or my back arthritis getting angry, and the pain of gently used muscles learning how to adapt again.
But I will never tell you that yoga cures your fibromyalgia. A chronic illness is just that…chronic. The definition states that it lasts for six months or more, and most of us who have a diagnosis of fibromyalgia have dealt with it for years, because rather conveniently for the medical industrial complex tends to close any avenues to further diagnosis, even for newly emergent conditions.
And the truth be told, if each and every one of us had a nickle for every time we were asked “have you tried yoga?”, we’d be so rich we could afford all the complementary therapies like massages so that our fibromyalgia would be in remission most of the time.
It’s a very capitalist mindset, a very colonialistic mindset to be blunt about it, to believe that we can take a modality that’s rooted in liberation and ascension from the self and scientifically explain it as a fix for the massive failings of capitalist medicine to honor that most sacred of Hippocratic Oath, “do no harm”.
This isn’t to say that the person with fibromyalgia doesn’t want a cure. Personally if I could be free of the pain, the brain fog, the gnawing pain, the temperature sensitivity, and all of the hundreds of symptoms that come with fibromyalgia syndrome, I’d happily do so. I’m not alone. But for me, I believe that to do so would involve a time machine, to go back in time, and ensure I had the supports I needed as a child, the help I needed as an adult, and since I don’t see a Delorian parked in my driveway, I don’t think that’s going to happen.
I’ve done significant research into my personal circumstances, not to mention fibromyalgia in general, and I am pretty certain I know how mine became started. Let’s just say that support and help could have started anytime, and I think the reason why most fibromyalgia patients are self-described “type a” personalities are because we had to be, because we had to take care of ourselves.
Instead of pushing another “cure” on us, the best thing to do would be to give us the care and support we need RIGHT NOW to put fibromyalgia into remission. But that’s not the capitalist thing to do. Instead, we’re gaslit into being told that there are “cures” out there, either in the form of pills that according to NIH studies have a rate of being moderately effective for only 30% of the patients in the trial, or yoga, which is being stigmatized every single time someone suggests it.
I love yoga. My body feels better, a bit more functional, when I do yoga. What I don’t love is the stigma that’s being attached to it every time someone asks a chronically ill person, “have you tried yoga?” because to ask that question without any specifics as to type of yoga, or style, or duration, is simply a cop-out.
Yoga is not a monolith. There are many different styles, schools, and even intents for its use. It’s a tool, a way to get in touch with ourselves, to soothe the nervous system which needed soothing so long ago, and to inhabit our bodies. It’s a path of liberation, a way to transcend the self and the parts of our minds that are always running, running, running. But please, don’t call it a “cure”.