Transforming chronic pain with Yoga
When dealing with chronic pain, many of us have been told, “It’s all in your mind.” These words may actually be the key to unlock, and relieve, much of your suffering.
Pain is a real experience, and it has a biological basis. However, the starting place of the pain may not be where you think it is. Recent research points to a second source of chronic pain – your thoughts, emotions and memories. The mind and body mount a protective response at any hint of a threat, and this would be the case with chronic pain. Ideally, you want to deviate from that predicted response, and teach your mind and body something new. Yoga practices, such as breathing, meditation and asanas (postures), can transform pain and stress responses into chronic healing responses.
Using props, such as a wall, chair, couch, pillows, blankets, towels or bolsters, will help to make it feel effortless so that you can let go of tension and stress. Restorative yoga rests the body and focuses the mind on healing.
- Nesting Pose: This pose is great for insomnia. Lie on your side, legs bent and drawn in towards your belly. Rest your head on a pillow and place a pillow between your knees. Rest your arms in whatever position feels comfortable. Another bolster or pillow may be placed behind your back for extra support. Observe your breath.
- Supported Bound Angle Pose: This pose helps to release tension in the belly, chest and shoulders. Lean a bolster on a support (telephone books work well). Sit in front of the bolster with your legs in a diamond shape. Place a pillow or a rolled blanket under each outer thigh and knee, making sure that the legs are fully supported without strain on the knees, legs or hips. Lean back onto the bolster so that you are supported from the lower back to the back of your head. Rest your arms, and feel the front of your body ease as you breathe.
- Supported Backbend: This pose releases chronic tension in the back and shoulders. While sitting, place a bolster, a stack of pillows or blankets under slightly bent knees. Place a pillow or rolled towel behind you when you lie back (it should be positioned under the upper rib cage, not the lower back), as well as one to support your head and neck. If you need extra support, add another to follow the natural curve of your spine. Watch your breath.
- Forward Bend: This pose relaxes the hips and back. Sit crossed-legged on the floor. Lean forward onto the support of a sofa or chair. Place one end of a bolster in your lap and the other end on the support. You can hug your bolster, turning your head to the side. Be sure that your support is high, and sturdy, enough to avoid strain in the back or hips. Feel the belly and chest gently release in the support of the bolster or pillows.
Simple breathing practices and restorative yoga poses promote a relaxation response that may very well start you on a pain-free, healing path. For more information visit BODY & SOUL: Conscious Breathing Tips.
|Helen Pach Goldstein is the former owner of The Yoga Studio in Toronto, and appointed the ‘Godmother of Yoga’ by Toronto Life. She is certified by Dr. Deepak Chopra, and teaches wellness management at the private and corporate levels.
Check out her series on YouTube – I MAKE MY DAY. ME