How to Use Yoga to Decrease Chronic Pain

Pain is your body’s reaction to something that it perceives as harmful. It is telling you that something is different. When we experience pain, it often triggers a stress response, causing more breakdown in the function of your nervous system that keeps you healthy.

Using the tools of yoga, you can decrease the pain response by activating your parasympathetic nervous system, your rest and digest function.

Breathe. Breathing is fundamental for your overall health and wellbeing. The mechanics of our breath is indicative of mental and physical health. Someone with shallow, labored breathing, shortness of breath, or tightness across the chest is likely experiencing some sort of pain. Breathing from your belly, using nostril breathing, extended exhales, and correct posture will all contribute to decreasing pain in your body.

Mind your thoughts. Visualization is a powerful tool in healing from chronic pain. What you focus on increases, so it’s important to focus on what you ideally want to see in your body. Many people who’ve experienced long term, chronic pain do not trust their bodies. It is important to rebuild that relationship, and begin to increase awareness. Visualizing your body free from pain is an important factor in reprogramming the mind, because your brain may no longer discern between movement that is actually happening and pain.

Move accordingly. Sometimes when the body experiences pain, movement can be intimidating. The mind may become stuck in the safety that is stillness. Movement helps to break up stagnation in the body, which causes pain. When you find movements that are accessible to your body, you can progress into pain free exploration. Asana, the physical practice of yoga, can naturally decrease pain and release tension.

The Challenge: Sit up straight and take a big deep breath in through your nose. Exhale out through your nose and make it longer than the inhale. How do you feel?