Objectives: Yoga for Chronic Pain


  • Multiple tools show success in prompting the relaxation response, from mindfulness and meditation to asana, breath practices, chanting and more
  • Restorative yoga is often a tool for relaxation
  • Yoga Nidra and Thai Yoga Bodywork are other relaxation tools

Stress Reduction

  • Whether through a yoga or meditation practice or through other therapies that change one’s perspective of life events, stress reduction is a priority in addressing chronic pain
  • Support to healthy management of emotions can be crucial support

Reduction of Muscle Tension & Postural Issues

  • “Stress makes muscles more likely to go into spasm, and muscle spasms are [related to] both acute and chronic pain. Indeed, in the case of back pain, it’s tight, aching muscles…that experts now believe cause most of the pain.” (Timothy McCall, MD)
  • “Remember that your goal is not perfect posture, but freedom from the restrictions to the body that pain generates. In general, what I have found to be most effective is to strengthen the muscle immediately below the site of pain or injury. This provides a grounding support into which the painful tissues can relax. This is especially true in chronic pain. I find that working directly on the injury will either aggravate the pain or, at best, be of temporary relief. I recommend that you develop strength in the areas below the site of pain…Pay attention, as well, to stretching and relaxing the area directly opposite the pain. For instance, if you have pain in the posterior hip area, such as sciatica, strengthen the hamstrings and relax/stretch the upper quads and hip flexors. I have found that this brings the greatest relief in the shortest amount of time. Later on, focus your attention to strengthening the painful area directly.” – Mukunda Stiles
  • Asana and stretches to address a forward head and other postural issues typically bring relief

Support for Improved Sleep

  • “Poor sleep can worsen pain and is thought to be a major contributor to the pain in such conditions as chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. Be sure to advise your students to avoid activating practices, such as backbends or vigorous pranayamas, too close to bedtime.” (Timothy McCall, MD)