Yoga and Pain Management
Let me give it to you straight. If you do not exercise, you will experience more pain. A person who has a regular exercise program will struggle with daily activities and pain much less than someone who does not exercise. If we are injured, suffer from illnesses and as we age our tolerance for pain decreases. Our threshold for pain decreases from stress, a lack of spirituality and financial worries as well as injury, illness and aging. The pain you felt ten years ago is intolerable for you today. Yoga is considered to be the Fountain of Youth. You can turn the hands of time back with a suitable yoga work out. If you are healthy, you will perform your everyday activities much easier no matter your age and you will experience less injury. The beauty of yoga is anyone can do yoga at any age. Keep in mind, of course, that there are different styles of yoga for different needs. You absolutely must start at the very beginning and learn technique with not only a qualified teacher, but also one with experience. I have pointed this out before and I hope you are really listening. Let’s face it we won’t live forever, but we are around for a long time so let’s take care of ourselves.
Accumulated stress contributes a great deal to the experience of pain. Not only do our injuries or illnesses cause us pain but also stress can exacerbate pain tremendously. Here is what can happen. When we are under stress our bodies react by tightening up to protect ourselves. It is a natural reaction. Sometimes we can even get into holding patterns and contract the same muscles continuously causing injury just from stress. Then on top of the stress maybe your diet isn’t so good or you receive an injury. Put that all together and you are in for chronic musculoskeletal pain. What we need to do is stop the cycle of pain which leads to stress which leads to holding patterns in the body which leads to more pain.
Yoga deals with both physical pain and mental suffering. The great Guru Patanjali wrote, “Yoga removes pain and suffering and instills peace and happiness.” He was one of the first physicians ever. He also said yoga poses should be held in “comfort and stability”. Stretching is not always comfortable especially at first, but it sure shouldn’t be painful. Yoga not only deals with strengthening and stretching muscles, but also trains the muscles to stay relaxed in stressful situations. Teaching our muscles to relax is something that requires consistent practice but can and should be done if you want to experience less pain.
Here is how yoga relaxes our muscles and stops the cycle of pain. First of all, tight muscle is dry muscle. Yoga teaches you to breathe deep so you receive an abundance of healing oxygen. This high dose of oxygen is picked up by the blood and carried to every cell of your body. The poses squeeze this super blood into tissues of the body saturating your tight, dry and painful muscles with super oxygenated blood. What heals our bodies? Blood does. That super oxygenated blood is the best medicine for painful muscles and joints and it is all-natural. Yoga uses your own body to heal yourself. That really is the basis of the whole philosophy of yoga. Chronic pain not only breaks down muscle tissue but over time breaks down our fascia and other connective tissue, which is very painful. This syndrome is called fibromyalgia. Yoga is highly recommended for this malady. Yoga postures will also release synovial fluid into the joints and help you heal up connective tissue. Synovial fluid is what oils our joints just like oiling your car. What do you think would happen if there were no oil in your car? Bad news.
If your muscles are weak, your body, your heart, your lungs everything is working overtime to do your daily tasks. Yoga uses the weight of your body to strengthen your muscles. There is no fancy equipment that you need to own. If your body is tight or the muscles imbalanced it may take twice as much energy just to lift an arm. Yoga can help you increase your energy and stamina by balancing the side, front and back of your limbs and your torso. Having balancing issues can contribute to pain and cause falls and accidents. If you are favoring one side of your body you are over working the other side and causing stress which leads to tight, dry muscles which leads to pain and the cycle begins. Yoga poses improves your balance and decreases the occurrence of accidents. If done correctly and at your personal physical capabilities yoga will break the cycle of pain. The tendency as a new yogi is most often than not to over do it. That is the worst thing you can do. Most yoga classes are an hour long. Who says you have to participate the full hour or do every single pose. You don’t. Not until you are ready to. Yoga postures are deceptively simple. They deserve a lot of respect.
Here is the best part of yoga . . . meditation. Don’t let that scare you away. It is somewhat simple and not religion although you can use meditation to deepen your time of prayer and keep your mind focused on your prayers. I think I should have started this article with meditation because without it, you are not practicing yoga. Meditation relieves mental and physical pain, increases awareness, improves your memory and relieves stress like nothing I have ever seen before. It truly is a phenomenon. In meditation, you are training your mind to tell your body to completely relax. I mean really deeply relax. This breaks the cycle of pain and tension.
When you are in a yoga posture, you are learning to contract one part of your body while you are relaxing another part of your body. That takes some thought believe me. Oh, yes, this takes practice, but you will feel the benefits after the very first class. Holding a yoga pose is a meditation. One of the main themes of every type of meditation is a one pointed focus. In a yoga posture, you are going to have to focus on your body and not much else or you won’t be holding that pose for very long. How does this help your pain? You’ve all heard the phrase the mind/body connection. When you divide your attention in this way by contracting here and relaxing there, you really have to think about what is happening in your body. You have to mentally connect with your body. You are saying to yourself, “ok, shoulders relax and abdomen contract simultaneously or neck relax and legs contract. Try it. We are reeducating the muscles so they learn to relax again which breaks the cycle of pain. We are also improving the volley of our nerves from the brain to the muscles. Every system of the body is addressed in yoga. When the all of the systems of the body are in harmony, you simply feel better. Do yoga and feel better. The main thing to remember when coming to a yoga class for the first time is DO NOT try to keep up with everyone else. Yoga is extremely individual. I truly hope you can all try my yoga classes. I am here to serve you and help you heal.