Mindful Yoga is a way of inculcating awareness. Awareness towards ourselves, our minds, our bodies and much more. Research has shown that different disciplines of Yoga have yielded beneficial results for a range of chronic ailments including chronic pain.
Mind-body practice like Yoga seems to exert a protective effect on brain’s Gray matter that counteracts the neuroanatomical effects of chronic pain. A specialized study on the effects of Yoga in people suffering from chronic low back pain showed significant reductions in levels of pain, depression and fatigue. The more yoga classes the participants attended, the greater the improvement. This may leave you wondering how practicing Yoga can help you combat and understand chronic pain in a better way. Well, here’s how.
1. Asanas combat pain at multiple levels
Asanas (Yoga Postures) bring strength, correct misalignment or mechanical disorders, free the joints, relieve pressure on cartilage, fix postural defects and help the tissues slide smoothly. This, in turn, enhances the vital flow of energy through the body, perceived as the positive sense of wellbeing. A well designed regime of postures along with suitable relaxation and meditation techniques can work well to recondition the body and mind. Asanas also make one feel more in control by increasing blood flow and decreasing cortisol and cholinesterase levels.
Some Asanas that can be included in a beginner’s routine are Tadasana (or Samasthiti), Warrior I, Tree Pose, Cobra Pose, Legs Up the Wall (Viparita Karni) and Extended Triangle Pose.
2. Pranayama attacks the root cause of pain
Pain modifies the frequency, depth and patterns of respiration. In chronic pain states, breathing might become strained, shallow and mainly thoracic. This can affect neuronal activity and blood flow. Cortisol levels may remain higher, translating to high stress levels.
Pranayama or Yogic breathing practices leads to the controlled expansion of vital energy. Yogic breathing with prolonged exhalation relaxes most of the muscle groups of the body. If you try it yourself, it is simply impossible to remain angry when you’re breathing gently, deeply and slowly. Diaphragmatic breathing is probably the single most valuable thing that an individual with chronic pain can learn on the road to recuperation.
3. Meditation and relaxation heal pain at the deepest level
There have been a number of positive studies of the effect of meditation and relaxations on pain. Apart from a relaxed physiological response, common findings included the reduction in blood pressure and lactate, better respiratory function and significantly reduced oxygen consumption. Mindfulness based practices involve observing the body and mind. These serve towards changing the response to pain and removing the fear of pain.
4. Yoga Therapy adapts to your individual needs
Yoga postures can be modified to suit your needs. Even, people with multiple sclerosis or those at advanced stages of Parkinson’s can perform them on a chair. The meditation and relaxation practices can be chosen to match your specific needs. Also, you can mould your yoga practice as per your current physical limitations. The effect of therapy programs is multiplied by manifolds if complemented with favorable lifestyle changes.
This Blog is contributed by Dr. Ruchi Phool. Ruchi holds a diploma in Yoga Vidya, a Diploma in Naturopathy and a Laughter Yoga Teacher Certification. Her skills include Hatha Yoga, Yoga Nidra, Laughter Yoga, Diet & Nutrition, Shuddhi Prakriyas (Cleaning of Mind, Body, Psyche), Pranayama and various Mindfulness, Meditation & Relaxation techniques.