September is Yoga Health Foundation’s National Yoga Month, and we can’t think of a better way to celebrate than to look at all the ways in which yoga can help chronic pain patients. Grab your mat, a block, and a strap, and take a look at these 17 ways yoga can help.
1. Yoga calms the mind
After a while, seasoned yogis will tell you that just the action of unrolling their mat begins to calm the stormy thoughts of the mind. The action of stepping on to the mat signals the body and the mind that it’s time to slow down
2. But at the same time it speeds up the body
Yoga gets the heart pumping, brings oxygen to the lungs and muscles, and generally fires up all of the body’s systems. A solid yoga practice includes different classes of poses – forward bends, backbends, inversions, seated poses, twists, and standing poses – and moves the spine in six different directions. This wakes up the body.
3. You can focus on building flexibility
Chronic pain can cause muscles to tense and tighten. A slow restorative or yin yoga practice can help the body to release that tightness.
4. Or maybe concentrate on strength
For chronic back pain, working the core muscles can help to rehabilitate the spine and add support. Knees get stability when the muscles of the upper thigh and calf get stronger. Strength is not just about being able to handstand. Strong muscles alleviate the pressure on the aching bones.
5. Yoga can help to stack your bones
Some chronic pain conditions may be a result of years of improper alignment. This alignment could be as a result of injury, overuse, or misuse. Whatever the cause of misalignment, yoga can help you to learn how your skeleton fits together, perfectly balanced to support your whole body.
6. It can also correct scoliosis
Preliminary research has found that just one pose – side plank – can actually dramatically correct a C-curve in a scoliotic spine. Researchers found a reduction of 41% of curve in just six months.
7. Yoga’s effects can be felt in just ten minutes
In ten minutes you can get the benefits of yoga, even as a beginner. Focus on energizing poses in the morning, digestive poses at midday, and restorative or relaxing poses in the evening. For people with chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia, this little bit of movement spread throughout the day may be just the thing to keep joints lubricated and moving.
8. It doesn’t have to be physical to work
For some in chronic pain, full bed rest is the only movement they are capable of at certain periods. Good news: asana (the poses themselves) is only part of yoga. Other parts of yoga include pranayama (breath work) and meditation. The word “yoga” means “union,” generally of body and mind. If the body is unable to be physically active, the mind can be strengthened and breath work can help change the mood. Balancing breath like alternate nostril breathing can be alternated with bumblebee breath for anxiety or bellows breath to warm the core.
9. Yoga can help build a community
One of the most difficult aspects of chronic pain can be the isolation. Often, a chronic pain patient will feel trapped inside their body, or they will feel like no one understands. Change that perception by attending a yoga class. Many studios feature gentle or therapeutic classes to slowly build strength and flexibility. Others may offer a yoga for arthritis class that uses props to help enter and exit each pose. Participants in each class are likely going through similar experiences, and tha