ANYONE can practice yoga, even if you have chronic pain
“Yoga has the opposite effect on the brain as chronic pain” (Catherine Bushnell, Ph.D)
Great news, but where do you start if you have years of chronic pain? Yoga has become quite popular and there are so many different styles nowadays. Most people associate yoga with all sorts of funky positions and wearing cute, stretchy clothes.
This can be extremely intimidating for people who have chronic pain and could contribute to them being less likely to try yoga*. Or they may have had a bad experience in a yoga class and then sworn off yoga altogether.
(*I am loosely using the word “yoga” to mean asana, or physical postures, which makes up only a small portion of yoga)
YOGA=MOVEMENT WITH BREATHING + AWARENESS
This is something that anyone can do, no matter what their functional limitations. Sure, there are known yoga postures that have specific therapeutic benefits on many systems of the body. But all of these poses are highly modifiable, and can be broken down to very simple movements. It’s the breathing and awareness that transform the movements from pure physical exercise to something that goes much deeper, with wider ranging affects on the mind and body.
People with chronic pain tend to breathe fast and shallow or hold their breath. Most styles of yoga will advocate coordinating poses with the breath or practice breath awareness while holding a pose. This will have a calming effect on the nervous system.
Awareness of the physical body while practicing yoga is crucial! You are befriending your body as it is in the moment, as opposed to how you want it to be. We need to be aware of something first, in order to change it. People with chronic pain tend to have decreased body awareness so this is really vital. It is also important in preventing injury.
Hopefully this gave you a general view of how to approach yoga and how it can help you. But It’s important to:
Find a qualified teacher who is interested in your history
Try a gentle or therapeutic class, or work with a yoga teacher or yoga therapist one-on-one
Search for someone that works with you at your current level, as opposed to struggling to match the pace of the teacher
Never do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or causes you more pain
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