Yoga For Pain Relief
By: Anne Foy
While you’re doing your Ashtanga yoga teacher training here in Nicaragua, you’ll learn that yoga is capable of a lot more than you’d ever have thought possible. Best of all, you’ll learn how yoga works from the inside out, mobilizing your body’s own natural systems to fix problems. Because of its unique ability to bring mind and body in tune with each other, yoga can bring practitioners a whole new level of intuitive ‘wholeness’ which is surprisingly beneficial in multiple ways.
During your Ashtanga yoga teacher training, you’ll gain an even deeper awareness of this than usual! One area which is particularly interesting doctors and patients alike at this time is that of pain relief. Though it may seem strange, regular yoga sessions can actively help to relieve the pain of many patients, and considerably improve their quality of life. This is important, as many pain medications carry nasty side effects, as well as being dangerously addictive. Prescription painkiller addiction is becoming increasingly problematic in the USA, so there’s a lot of interest in yoga’s potential to naturally and healthily reduce pain.
One of the most obvious ways that yoga relieves pain is by improving musculoskeletal conditions. Once you’ve gained your yoga teacher certification, you’ll probably find yourself inundated with people wanting you to correct their posture and suggest poses to help out with dodgy backs, wonky hips, and stiff shoulders. It’s great to know that you really can help them! Musculoskeletal problems are very painful. Furthermore, although many such conditions are covered by the major insurers, some treatments may still prove expensive. Yoga is generally inexpensive, and very effective. It also notably improves general health, thus vastly reducing the chances of the pain recurring. By practising yoga poses, patients can improve their posture while simultaneously strengthening the muscles around their bones. This not only ensures that they are standing and moving correctly, but gives their skeleton a lot more muscular support. Something as simple as this really can iron out an awful lot of pain-causing problems! Older individuals in particular can benefit from yoga – but it’s important to learn how to work with older people who may have limited mobility and flexibility. This is why you need to get a yoga teacher certification!
It seems reasonably obvious, when you think about it, that yoga should be able to help with musculoskeletal problems. After all, yoga poses work directly with your muscles and bones, making tangible alterations. What is harder to believe is that yoga can improve more ‘abstract’ pain, from deep within your body. It can, though. A study on people with chronic pancreatitis – a painful condition stemming, as the name suggests, from the pancreas – revealed that regular yoga lessened the pain reported by patients, and improved their quality of life. Other yoga/pain studies have come to similar conclusions. Nobody is entirely sure why this should be happening. Some speculate that yoga, by improving circulation and lymphatic drainage, induces the body to fight infection and reduce inflammation faster than it would otherwise have done. Others believe that the source of yoga’s pain-relieving properties is psychological. This is, as yet, a little understood science, but the evidence all suggests that pain has a strong psychological/emotional component as well as a physical one. Pain we incur when we’re in a bad mood ‘hurts’ us far more than pain we incur when we’re feeling happy. We’ve already covered the many ways in which yoga lifts mood and improves mental health. Perhaps, therefore, yoga does not so much reduce the causes of ‘abstract’ pain, as increase our ability to bear it. By making us happier, healthier, and more relaxed, yoga prevents the pain from taking over our lives, and allows us to ignore it with greater equanimity.
Of course, if you’re working with people who are ill and/or in pain, it is vital that you do not make them worse via your ministrations! There are many poses which are incompatible with certain conditions, and you’ll have to go gently and carefully with the majority of ill or injured clients. Our Ashtanga yoga teacher training course here in Nicaragua can help you to understand when to be gentle, and when to push your clients. It will also give you a greater comprehension of how and who yoga can help – as well as perhaps fixing a few pain problems of your own!