Another Perspective: Yoga for Chronic Pain

In Yes, It Is All in Your Client’s Head: Deprogramming Chronic Pain Messages, the author shares the point that after an injured area has had its necessary stillness period, there will be a resultant lack of circulation. This leads to “chemical waste buildup” & “tissue inflammation,” and ultimately a continued message of pain despite the tissue healing.

The recommended response is to first help the student experience relaxation, which increases circulation and reduces inflammation. Of course you can turn to the many yogic tools such as breathwork, restoratives, chanting & other tools for relaxation.

Once this is accomplished, movement is the next priority. The author points out that compression is often highly desirable: “Our bodies love compression—that’s why hugs and massages feel so good—they soothe. When we are soothed, our breath deepens, circulation improves and muscles relax, all of which facilitate healing.”

Of course, a group class isn’t the place for one-on-one care or yoga therapy, and in a number of cases you’ll want to refer the student to a specialist. (In addition to yoga therapy & other modalities, Thai Yoga Massage Bodywork is excellent for providing relaxation & compression.) But we thought that being aware of this theory may be helpful in talking with students, assessing a situation, and making recommendations.

* Please, please do not take this information as “gospel” or put yourself or your students at risk by making advisements outside your areas of expertise. When faced with injuries & conditions among students in a drop-in class, teachers should consider their own training and experience as well as the cautions and potential dangers of the particular conditions. We are merely endeavoring to compile common expert advice to support you because we know it’s common to face such conditions. Please know that we wish to support you, not provide training. Unless trained in yoga therapy, teachers are usually advised against “prescribing” particular asanas to address specific conditions. Instead, sequences that are well-rounded and intentional are generally considered “therapeutic” in nature. And yet it’s also true that teachers are devising sequences, adapting poses & making recommendations to address what they are faced with. We hope you find this compilation helpful. For more information, see Introduction.