Asana & Sequences: Yoga for Chronic Pain

Poses to Consider

  • Adho Mukha Svanasana (Down Dog)
  • Bhujangasana (Cobra) – with careful alignment and safety
  • Garudasana Arms (Eagle Arms)
  • Inversions
  • Supported and Restorative Postures
  • Gentle Asana & Stretches

Designing a Class to Address Chronic Pain

IDEAfit published a 2006 article with strategies for designing a yoga class for chronic-pain sufferers. The advice was from Robin Rothenberg, who designed and taught the classes for a published randomized clinical trial of yoga for chronic low back pain.

  • Start with relaxed breathing in a supported position, such as lying down.
  • Introduce movement slowly.
  • Structure the class to include plenty of repetition and rest.
  • Break down complicated classical yoga poses into simple movements and stretches.

For example, have students lift and lower one arm, lying on their backs. Ask them to notice where they feel tension: in the neck, shoulder, back? Does one side feel different than the other? What can you do that does not cause pain? Include a few “whole body” poses near the end to help students integrate the isolated movements. – Robin Rothenberg

  • Focus on moving in and out of poses with the breath rather than holding poses for a long period of time.

Rehearsal creates greater ease and confidence and can reduce the fear of movement so common among individuals with chronic pain. – Robin Rothenberg

  • Use props, such as blankets or chairs, to make poses more accessible. This also helps students notice how they chronically hold tension in the body, and how to release it using support.
  • Follow basic principles of yoga alignment and use intelligent adaptations, allowing different students to practice a pose or movement in different ways.

Sample Sequences