Yoga evokes visions of painful poses and contortion; so why would it be helpful to anyone with pain? Looking beyond the extreme poses, you will find that yoga comes in different flavors. Some flavors taste good to some, others flavors taste good to others. But, the basic principle of Yoga that integrates mind, body, spirit is good for all. This muli-dimensional integration can provide a multi-pronged treatment for chronic pain that is accessible to even the most disabled individual.
The most disabled individual with severe pain will most likely have a shallow breathing pattern. Through the Yoga pathway called Pranayana, breathing patterns can be restored to deeper breathes that fill the entire lungs at a less rapid pace. The entire body can benefit from improved oxygenation. Breathing patterns are also a good treatment target in those with chronic pain because breath work has long been advocated as a way to relieve stress. Focusing on such a primal bodily function can help to center and quiet the mind. With less energy draining stress and more energy producing oxygen, who knows what can happen?
Yoga is accessible in other ways besides learning healthier breathing techniques. Many Yoga teachers also help create improved self awareness. Awareness of body position and posture is extremely beneficial to those in pain, especially those with back pain. Awareness of thought patterns and underlying emotions are learned through the practice of meditation and mindfulness, both beneficial treatments of depression, insomnia, and anxiety which commonly plague those in pain. Consciousness can lead to solutions.
And just when you thought pain had stolen your social life, Yoga can provide a social life preserver too. Besides getting out among other individuals for the group camaraderie of a Yoga class, a Yoga pathway called Vijnanamaya actually focuses on improving personality and interaction skills. These skills can make life more accessible to those living with chronic pain by improving relationships and helping to build support networks which can be critical for staying afloat in turbulent times.
So instead of viewing Yoga as just a thing that the active athletic types do in their stretchy pants and skin tight tops, think of Yoga as a potential treatment pathway that could lead you towards feeling better with more oxygen, more awareness, and more friends. In order to find the right Yoga flavor for you, try the following websites to locate an instructor in your area:
Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute
Krishnamacharya Healing and Yoga Foundation (http://khyf.net/)
International Association of Yoga Therapists (http://iayt.org/)