The Question: I have fibromyalgia, so even the easiest yoga positions can be very painful. Are there modifications I can make to poses to alleviate some of the pressure and stress, like Downward Dog for example? ~Brenda
Hey there, Brenda! Do you know what my favorite thing about yoga is? No matter what, anyone and everyone can do it—no matter the injury or ailment. There are modifications for each and every yoga posture, so don’t you worry.
If it hurts to be on your hands, put your forearms down. If your feet get tired or your core feels overworked, put your knees on the ground. There are also certain mats that are extra thick (in fact, they kind of feel like mattresses!) that have great padding, which could be helpful for your joints or muscles.
Never be shy to pad, pad, pad your body with blankets, towels, and bolsters, or extend the reach of your limbs with blocks and straps.
Bottom line, yoga should never be painful. Sure, it can be challenging, but you should never get to a point where you are wincing in agony or unable to breathe.
If you ever find yourself at this point, reset, ask your instructor for yoga pose modifications you can do, and remind yourself that you come to the practice to relax and be comfortable—not to make things harder for yourself.
One of my greatest friends and mentors Laura Ahrens says, everyone can do any pose, because there are so many different stages to each one. For example, your version of Handstand might be standing on two hands, or it might be having two hands and a foot on the floor, or it might be Down Dog.
Each asana has many different steps—it doesn’t matter necessarily if you’re in the most advanced and developed form of that posture, as long as you are where you are comfortable being, with steady breath and steady mind.
So, if you have to modify your poses, it doesn’t mean that you’re not “good” at yoga or that you’re not doing it “correctly. Rather, you’re taking care of your own body, mind, and spirit—and that is what yoga is all about.