Breath, concentration and mindful movement. These are the foundations of physical yoga practice. They are also some of the most effective ways to manage pain, naturally.
Yoga, as an ancient tradition and in its many forms, has been a way of life for millions of people throughout centuries. It builds resilience, strength and ability of both body and mind.
The practice of breath management results in the control of mind. The control of mind results in the control of body and that, makes it easier for us to manage pain. Yoga enables the management of pain from within.
The practice of Pranayama enables the breath to be managed to lower blood pressure, heart rate and stress, relieving tension and reducing pain. Gentle, mindful movement or Asana increases circulation, flexibility and strength. It stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for rest and digestion) and lymphatic system. Guided meditation or Dharana has long been a proven method to manage pain through visualizations and concentration.
That is why, according to Harvard Health Publishing, a study published in Annals of Internal Medicine found that among 313 people with chronic low back pain, a weekly yoga class increased mobility more than standard medical care for the condition. Another study published at nearly the same time found that yoga was comparable to standard exercise therapy in relieving chronic low back pain.
A meta-analysis of 17 studies that included more than 1,600 participants concluded that yoga can improve daily function among people with fibromyalgia osteoporosis-related curvature of the spine. Practicing yoga also improved mood and psychosocial well-being.
What you need to consider when you choose to incorporate yoga into your pain management routine:
- Practice regularly
- Choose the right style, teacher and class (generally a gentler, more traditional Yoga class that focuses on breath, mindfulness and movement rather than the physical exercise will be more suitable. Look for Hatha classes, Restorative classes, classes that focus on Pranayama, and meditation, any classes that mention the Pawanmuktasana Series)
- One-on-one Yoga therapy classes are a great way to learn a practice tailored to your specific needs
- Practice gently
- Be aware that practiced incorrectly or without proper supervision yoga can also exacerbate your pain in the short term. At least at the start, choose guided yoga classes before practicing on your own or via online videos or tutorials
- Be patient and open to the idea that pain can be managed from within
Can anyone practice Yoga?
Yes! Contrary to how it is portrayed in the media, yoga is not just for strong, flexible and athletic people doing handstands.
It is a way of life that incorporates many different aspects, which aim at achieving a state of balance, comfort and peace within. It is an internal practice that has nothing to do with the way you look or whether you can reach your toes. The goal is to find equanimity, where things are neither good nor bad, painful nor pleasant. They just are. That is true pain management.