By Kathi Duquette
Chronic Pain sufferers deal with pain most of the time with no relief. With awareness, the gentle movements of Yoga can relieve some of that pain. Studies have shown that a Yoga practice can reduce the amount of pain in people who suffer from fibromyalgia, arthritis, chronic back pain and many other painful ailments.
Chronic pain carries anxiety and frustration with it because we constrict our breathing when we feel pain. Constricting the breath can lead to anxiety. Anxiety can make the pain worse. Constricting the muscles when they hurt, also increases pain. The frustration of it all can make us not want to do anything. Sedentary lifestyles can be detrimental to the whole body. Your muscles weaken, your immunity levels drop and your state of mind can move from frustrated to depressed. It can be a vicious cycle or a downward spiral.
Even with the popularity of Yoga today, some of you may think of a bunch of old men wearing sheets and sitting in pretzel poses. The actuality is that if you can simply calm your breathing, you can reduce the anxiety associated with chronic pain (and you can wear any comfortable clothing that you choose – no sheets required). Once you can relax a little, you can generate some healing properties into painful areas and the focused energy and blood flow can often reduce some of the pain.
Deep, slow breathing into painful areas can reduce the constriction in the muscles and send a fresh supply of oxygen to body parts that are in need of healing. The breath is a powerful tool that everyone possesses but many people don’t take advantage of.
Can Yoga cure you? We won’t go that far, but wouldn’t it be worth it to try to alleviate some of the pain? Let’s look a little more into some specific analogies.
Fibromyalgia is a condition that gives you widespread chronic pain in your muscles and even into your ligaments and tendons. It is described as a deep ache with trigger point areas that are more painful when touched. Basically ~ everything hurts and you can experience extreme fatigue.
Yoga can provide less pain, better sleep, more strength, endurance and stamina and increased positivity in everyday life. It is a practice of easy postures that can be adjusted according to your level of activity and pain on any given day. You can practice Yoga to reduce fatigue, to strengthen muscles or to simply relax your body.
Arthritis sufferers also have chronic pain. The sharp intense pain associated with arthritis can make you want to reject all movement. But people who live with this pain know that movement is essential. Unless your arthritis is severe, exercise is recommended for people with arthritis due to decreased strength and endurance. You may not want to practice first thing in the morning when pain is sometimes at its worst, but later in the day, once your joints have warmed up a bit, a gentle Yoga practice could be the best form of exercise for you.
When you do practice Yoga, adjust your poses so that you feel your stretch. Don’t’ go so far into any pose that you feel sharp pain in the joints. Some days you might be able to stretch certain muscles and other days the same stretch might be painful. You need to really listen to your body and adjust your poses and the intensity of your stretches accordingly.
There are studies that recently revealed that Yoga can help with chronic back pain. Practicing restorative types of Yoga, such as Iyengar Yoga, can help with posture, range of motion, and reducing recovery time from injury.
Chronic back pain patients need to focus more on alignment, using props such as blankets and blocks to achieve some of the poses. The muscle strengthening and lengthening should be practiced slowly while focusing on the breath-work. The same benefits previously discussed will provide relief with stress, anxiety, frustration and depression.
Chronic pain is a maddening issue to deal with. Always being in pain, sometimes worse than others, can carry negativity and depression with it. The breathing practice that is incorporated into asanas sends fresh oxygenated blood into areas to warm the muscles. Gently moving through breath connected poses is stress relieving, immunity building and mobility promoting.
Even slow strength improvements can make a big difference with chronic pain. If Yoga training can be a comfortable form of exercise why not try it? Awareness of your body and adjustments are important while practicing Yoga, but that awareness can carry into your everyday life. Being aware of breath constriction and adjusting as necessary can ease some discomfort ~ even while you are not practicing.
As always, please check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program. If he or she thinks Yoga could provide some relief to you, have an open mind and breathe into your Yoga practice.
Peace to you.
By Kathi Duquette
Certified Yoga Instructor
Certified Personal Trainer