One in 5 Australians aged 45 and over are living with persistent, ongoing pain and In 2018, chronic pain cost an estimated $139 billion in Australia, mostly through reduced quality of life and productivity losses.
Chronic pain is pain that lasts beyond normal healing time after injury or illness. It is ongoing, debilitating, has a huge impact on quality of life and more of us are experiencing it than ever before. The number of people seeing their GP in relation to chronic pain has increased 67% in the past 10 years.
So what causes persistent pain and how can yoga help?
Pain can have physiological causes (such as physical trauma or disease), psychological sources (such as psychological trauma) and behavioural causes (such as habitual poor posture). But persistent pain is rarely that clear cut.
Often, a number of complex of factors combine to create conditions for the experience of ongoing pain, sometimes outlasting the original cause of the pain, or persisting despite no discernible origin, as well as in response to a specific cause.
Yoga Therapy offers a multidimensional approach to pain care. While studies show that certain yoga postures can improve range of movement in clients with neck or shoulder pain, the practice of yoga therapy for pain care is not limited (or even mostly related) to a set of physical activities that impact the body’s tissues in a biomechanical way.
Rather, Yoga Therapy provides a framework that empowers clients to participate in their own healing. There are no ‘set and forget’ exercises that fix the parts of the body where pain is experienced. Instead, yoga therapy clients learn to experience themselves as multidimensional beings, becoming attuned to their relationship with pain on physical, energetic, psychological, spiritual and relational levels.
This is why yoga therapy is effective in addressing different types of pain - from physical injury through to pain caused by diseases such as cancer or arthritis. Yoga therapy supports clients to cultivate equanimity and calm, even in the face of distressing physical sensations. Yoga therapists lead clients through a step by step process of developing mindful awareness of the physical body and breath, which has been shown to have extraordinary benefits. These include:
Improved positive psychological state
Increased physical health and resilience
Autonomic nervous system regulation
Increased interoception (the ability to feel what you’re feeling on the inside)
Enhances compassion for self and others
These proven benefits combine to provide a powerful support in pain management, simultaneously approaching the experience of pain from physiological, social, emotional and psychological perspectives.
Importantly, yoga therapy is not a ‘cure’ for pain. Indeed, yoga therapists are not trained to ‘cure’ anything. Instead, yoga therapy provides a set of tools, and a framework within which they can be used, that empower clients to develop a profound sense of connection to, and knowledge of, themselves. This process supports a deep understanding of the difference between ‘pain’ and ‘suffering’ and offers clients pathways for reducing their experience of suffering through releasing their identification with the causes - and experience - of pain.
As well as showing that yoga therapy can reduce pain and disability, studies indicate that it can be practiced safely, has few adverse effects and is well-received by study participants. With growing awareness of the benefits of yoga therapy, increasing numbers of clients and clinicians are seeking out qualified yoga therapists to work in pain care. Yoga therapy is an effective, sustainable and affordable way to tackle the growing pain care crisis.
Learn how Yoga Therapy works with the Introduction to Yoga Therapy Mini E-Course. This short online program introduces you to the principles, framework and techniques of yoga therapy - it's the perfect introduction to this fasciniating complementary health discipline.
AIHW, May 2020 https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/chronic-disease/chronic-pain-in-australia/summary
W hite Paper: Yoga Therapy and Pain—How Yoga Therapy Serves inComprehensive Integrative Pain Management, and How It Can
Do More. Neil Pearson, PT, MSc, C-IAYT, Shelly Prosko, PT, CPI, C-IAYT, Marlysa Sullivan, PT, C-IAYT, Matthew J. Taylor, PT, PhD, C-IAYT4