How Yoga Helps Christine Cope with Ehlers-Danlos Pain

Christine has found a method to cope with her Ehlers Danlos Syndrome that works well for her. Practicing gentle yoga has changed the way she thinks and feels about her pain and helps her get back more control over her life.  

By .


For one woman struggling with a deadly genetic disease, a daily practice provides so much more than stress relief—it’s truly changed her life.

“Many of us have dealt with a painful injury or illness at some point in our lives—some more serious than others. But for Christine Spencer, a 30-year-old from Collingswood, NJ, dealing with severe pain is an ever-present fact of life.

Spencer was diagnosed at 13 with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS), a debilitating connective tissue disorder related to fibromyalgia. It causes hyper-mobility, muscle tension, constant pain, and in some cases, death.

When her symptoms worsened and caused her to withdraw from college, doctors wrote her a prescription for a cocktail of medications, including painkillers. “This was the only way western medicine knows how to deal with disease,” Spencer says. “I did some physical therapy, but no one gave me a long-term plan to help me heal.” For months, she was completely bedridden, and unable to carry on with any semblance of a normal life.

At 20, Spencer was encouraged to try yoga by the person who knows best: her mom. She picked up a DVD, bought a yoga mat, and started practicing at home. While it seemed to help, she didn’t practice consistently. In fact, after some of her doctors discouraged it, she gave up her fledgling practice. “The problem with EDS is that people believe that nothing will help—that’s what I believed for about eight years,” Spencer says.

But in January 2012, she began to think differently. “I woke up one day and realized that being on painkillers all the time was numbing me, shutting me off from life,” she recalls. “That’s when I decided to try yoga again—but this time, I knew I had to do things differently. I needed to do it every day.” So she started practicing with videos on YouTube, and eventually found Grokker, a subscription video site that features many different types of yoga flows and offers access to personal trainers who provide guidance.”

After about four months of doing same gentle practice, Spencer suddenly felt a shift in consciousness. “Everything changed from that moment on,” she says. “Yoga completely transformed the way I think and feel about my pain. Now, I’m more able to simply witness my pain, rather than be attached to it.”

Christine has found that yoga works well for her. What works best for you?

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