Yoga for Reducing Pain?


A couple of items were of interest to me this week. Firstly two of my yoga students drew my attention to an article in The Daily Telegraph entitled ‘Is your back pain all in the mind?’ which discusses chronic, lower back pain.  It highlights the huge number of working days lost to low back pain -a condition which affects 1 in 10 people and increases with age.

Secondly I watched the first part of the television documentary, ‘The Doctor who gave up  drugs’, which made fascinating viewing.

The newspaper article suggested that sometimes back pain persists even when the tissues from an injury have healed because people are still in a stressful bodily state and are ‘on high alert’-feeling anxious and depressed, rather than calm and optimistic.  One conclusion was that calm breathing and relaxation techniques are of great importance for managing back pain, as well as exercise such as stretching, yoga and/or gentle cardiovascular exercise.

In fact the Yoga for Healthy Lower backs programme which  I am trained to teach and which was funded by Arthritis Research UK and researched by the University of York, has been proved to be highly beneficial in reducing back pain, through gentle movement, breathing and relaxation.  All of these can contribute to a positive frame of mind.

The TV documentary concerned Dr Chris van Tulleken’s quest to reduce the number of drugs including antibiotics prescribed by doctors to patients -something which proves to be a huge challenge for reasons such as lack of time and resources in the NHS, as well as patients’ feeling that pills are the only solution.

The doctor has already started to show that in some instances exercise is more effective than pain killers. For example a woman who had a shoulder injury 20 years ago and who is still taking pills to manage her pain finds that pain killers are no longer helpful but, by  exercising her shoulder, she can reduce the pain.

I found both the newspaper article and the documentary thought-provoking firstly because they demonstrate that we often have more control over our health than we might think. Secondly it is interesting that yoga contains the three elements highlighted as important for managing pain -exercise; calm, steady breathing and relaxation.

Yogis have known for a long time that yoga contributes to good physical and mental health. It is a holistic approach that has stood the test of thousands of years.

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