How Can Yoga Help Relieve Pain?
by Angie Newson
A Yoga and Pilates Expert
Pain - physical or emotional? We've all visited both places I'm sure. Physical pain caused by injury can be incredibly frustrating to those of us who work out or practice every day. Not to be able to do our usual regime which is such a part of our lives can sometimes make us angry and short with ourselves and others. We may become low and depressed if the injury persists for longer than a couple of days, and then we start to feel unfit and lethargic - a possible vicious circle.
However, if we take time out to be patient and review this 'pain' differently we can observe it more as a 'gift', allowing the injuries and pain to be positive and then we can beat it! It may be that we actually need to physically slow down or even grind to a halt for a while to take stock of not only what's going on in our bodies and workouts but what is really going on in our lives. It can also be an opportunity to try something different. Yoga and Pilates are great disciplines to experiment with - how often now do you hear the medical profession say take up yoga to relieve stress and do Pilates if you have a bad back! Thankfully more and more (even though they may say this without ever having tried either themselves!). Nevertheless, giving yoga and Pilates a go is great for rehab and you will hopefully then incorporate yoga and Pilates into your other workout programmes and into your life. As a teacher, if I do have an injury, then by rehabbing myself and experimenting with what eases the pain, I learn not only new things about a particular part of the body but my teaching improves as I become more knowledgeable and more empathetic to my injured students!
Do remember to inform the teacher at the beginning of class with what's going on injury-wise and they will modify and adapt the poses to suit - however take note that if you are in a lot of pain, seek the advice of a medical professional. Please don't attend a group class and ditto if there are numerous injuries or other concerns. A specific clinical or remedial class will be far more suitable, and even better, a one-to-one session for individual attention.
We've all heard the line 'no pain no gain' and there is truth in this, but we need to evolve our awareness of what is 'good' pain and what is 'bad'. The 'no pain, no gain' line has not had great publicity over the years to the extent that some participants now hardly push themselves at all and then wonder why things don't change, mentally and physically! And some students push themselves far too hard, working more from the outside rather from an inner connection. In my opinion Jane Fonda was right - you need to feel the burn to get the desired results along with igniting that inner awareness of your mind and body and do what is right for you. And be honest - don't cheat yourself. Learn to ease off and learn when to go deeper. Remember how we feel when we've been through deep emotional pain and come out the other side - we've become stronger, more aware and more conscious.
Yoga particularly can bring up and release old emotional wounds and pain, and often backbends where the chest is lifted and the heart is opened can bring on a huge surf wave of emotions and a bout of tears. Emotions are often held in our hips, shoulders, back and chest - our mind, our emotions and our body are all connected so by connecting with the breath, stretching, opening and releasing these areas, be brave to allow the pain to surface - observe it and welcome it like a guest, and like a guest, it will leave.