How Yoga Helps To Alleviate Pain and Discomfort
By Joe Fleming
The practice of yoga is relaxing, meaningful and restorative in many ways. Millions of people take to the mat daily to balance their bodies, minds, and spirits. One of the key reasons that many people who are originally unfamiliar with yoga choose to get started is because they are looking for something that is gentle on the body to incorporate as a fitness activity.
Those who have painful medical conditions or suffer some type of chronic issue must be careful about rigorous workouts. For this reason, many physicians tend to recommend this type of controlled, low impact physical movement to patients who experience pain. Here are some of the ways that consistent yoga practice can help alleviate pain and discomfort.
Strengthens Overall Body Framework
A variety of yoga poses help increase the strength of specific muscle groups. Depending on the kind of pain you may be feeling, other muscles may have weakened or overcompensated in some way. For example, rheumatoid arthritis in the hands may make it hard to pinch, grasp, and hold things which over time can weaken forearm muscles.
Holding yoga poses isn’t supposed to be uncomfortable or distressing, but it does require a certain level of concentration and engagement of specific muscles. Due to the body not being familiar with holding these type of poses, over time, your muscle strength will begin to slowly improve.
The integral muscles of your back and core are essential to the network of the spine. They reinforce strong spine alignment when you are both in motion and stationary. The strengthening of these muscles, as well as the consistent stretching of them, helps condition them and offset unnecessary stress on painful and stiff joints.
Because chronic pain and injury are specific to the individual, it is important to consider that your yoga practice should also be specific to your body’s experiences. Once you choose a class that seems like a good fit, arrive early to meet the teacher and go over which poses will be done in class. Teachers will often sequence according to who’s in the room, so the more information you can give them up-front, the more tailored the practice will be to your needs.
Mental stress has a way of manifesting itself physically, and you may often feel symptomatic with specific aches and pains when you are more stressed (including low back pain and headaches). Yoga inherently incorporates many relaxation techniques including measured deep breathing and gentle flowing stretches that help relieve stiff, tight muscles where you tend to carry stress or tension.
Both the flexibility and strength-building components play a part in inducing relaxation, as does the act of guiding the mind towards thoughtless focus through meditation. Emptying your brain of negative thoughts and feelings and honing in on those core yogic principles of kindness, truth, self-awareness, and peace while you practice can do wonders for positively boosting your emotional health and warding off pain signals.
Yoga practitioners can complement their pain-relieving practice with additional self-care measures like acupuncture, using a heating pad for back pain, foam rolling, or getting a therapeutic massage.
Improves Posture and Balance
Proper body mechanics are crucial to the overall health and wellness of the body. When you practice poor posture habits like slouching, slumping, or tilting your neck down to look at your phone, you compromise not just your back and neck but your hips, knees, and feet too. Yoga poses are meant to help condition and train the body to be thoroughly grounded, aligned, and loose.
Prolonged sitting has also become a common habit that plagues today’s population, placing excess pressure on the spine and even increasing the risk of lifestyle diseases like obesity, diabetes, and stroke. The practice of yoga forces constant movement, from sitting to standing, and everything in between
Promotes Body Awareness
There is something that will start to happen once you commit to your own practice of yoga. You’ll begin to gain greater awareness of your physical body and in some respects, your existential place in the world. When you do feel specific aches and pains, your amplified body awareness may help you narrow down what triggered them.
Yoga allows you to examine the limitations of your body in a way that will enable you to understand when you can push or hold a bit longer and when a more difficult pose is simply not a wise choice. It allows you to be in tune with everything that is happening with your body.
Mental health benefits
According to Madhukar H. Trivedi, M.D. of the University of Texas Southwest Medical School, dealing with physical pain can be one of the most significant triggers for psychological strain which can potentially influence mental health issues. Chronic physical pain often lead to other symptoms such as depression and anxiety.
There is a negative shift that can happen in psychology when pain is present. Routine yoga practice can help to mitigate both the pain and the negative feelings that the pain fosters, making it a top integrative complement to an existing treatment plan.
AUTHOR BIO: Joe Fleming is the President at ViveHealth.com. Interested in all things related to living a healthy lifestyle, he enjoys sharing and expressing his passion through his writing. Working to motivate others and defeat aging stereotypes, Joe uses his writing to help all people overcome the obstacles of life. Covering topics that range from physical health, wellness, and aging all the way to social, news, and inspirational pieces…the goal is to help others “rebel against age”.