A Yoga Therapist’s Advice for Yoga Teachers: Yoga for Chronic Pain

In How to Work with Chronic Pain on the Level fo the Physical Body, Olga Kabel advises how a yoga teacher (vs. a trained therapist) may wish to approach chronic pain:

  1. Bringing awareness into the body. Many pain sufferers disconnect from the body and even begin to hate it. We need to help the student reestablish her connection to the body and begin to accept it even with pain.
  2. [See also Restorative: Befriending Body & Mind (All 60-min) for multiple practices suggested by Kelly McGonigal to address this vital issue.]
  3. Differentiating between pain and sensation. In chronic pain the boundaries between pain and sensation get blurred and any sensation can get interpreted as pain. We need to teach the student how to recognize sensations for what they are and not confuse them with pain.
  4. [See Theme: Inner Attention for ideas to help guide students inward in order to support his skill.]
  5. Identifying activities and behaviors in daily life that might be contributing to pain and encouraging the student to eliminate, minimize or replace them (whatever is realistic for her lifestyle).
  6. Discovering positions that are pain free (in supine, kneeling, seating and standing positions). Those positions serve as a starting point for movement and show the student that she can always return back to them and rest there without pain.
  7. Investigating the parameters of movements that do not cause pain. The gradual exploration of movement starts from the spine and extends out into the periphery (limbs). It’s important to find those movements to show the student that she can move without pain…
  8. Identifying movements that are agitating and pain-inducing. It is best to avoid any movement that causes pain at the beginning to give the student a safe space within her practice to move without pain.

Olga has kindly provided a handout summarizing the above points: Working with Pain on the Annamaya Level.