Yoga poses can help tackle the difficulties brought on by chronic pain. Taking a proactive stance towards managing your discomfort makes it easier to face that challenge directly. With some work, you can make progress towards a more comfortable living.
Yoga is perhaps one of the best tools to have in your arsenal when it comes to tackling chronic pain. Intensive stretching helps build strength, contributes to a reduction in pain, and can be a valuable mental retreat. After all, perception is only one component of pain. Learning to clear your mind while working on your body can be just as important. When you want to explore the benefits of yoga, these four poses are an excellent place to begin.
This basic, easy-to-learn pose works well for those who experience lower to mid-back pain. By stretching the muscles along your spine in this pose, you can accomplish two goals at once: build strength in the weaker areas and relax away from the tension that’s constricting others. The cow pose is simple and involves beginning down on your hands and knees, with wrists and hips aligned with your shoulders and knees, respectively. Then curve your spine downwards, moving your midsection downward, until you feel the full extension. Breathe in, breathe out, and relax.
If you’ve ever stretched before, the lunge should be familiar — it involves “lunging” your body forward to flex one leg and extend the other. In a low thrust, you would adopt this position but drop your knee to the ground. Then raise your arms up and behind your head. You should feel your entire back stretching out as you hold the pose. Release after a few breaths and try again.
Perhaps most synonymous with the word “yoga,” this pose requires you to make an inverted “V” shape with your body. As you shift into the downward dog from a resting position on all fours, you will again feel a significant degree of stretching. This pose is particularly helpful for chronic pain centered on the cervical spine but also helps to strengthen the body and reduce back pain in other areas, too.
This pose uses your own body to help stretch the muscles in your back. In a sitting position with one leg tucked in and the other out, you reach out towards your foot and clasp your hands around it, twisting your body towards that side in the process. The rotation aids in muscle tone development while also helping in stretching the muscles. Be careful not to bend too much, or to hold the pose for too long.
The spinal twist is a fundamental and useful pose that can give your back a very nice stretch. Sit on the floor with your left leg straight. Bend your right leg so that your foot is flat on the floor beside your left leg. Place your right-hand flat on the floor behind you and twist your torso to hook your left elbow over your right knee. If you need to start with something a little easier, hold your right knee with your hand and look over your right shoulder as you twist your torso to whatever degree is comfortable for you.
Begin on your hands and knees in a tabletop position. Round your back upward, pushing down into the floor with the palms of your hands and the tops of your feet. Then, arch your back, pushing your belly down and your shoulders and hips up. Alternate between these positions for a nice spine stretch and massage that will help you stay limber.
Performing a seated forward fold the right way is highly beneficial – and it feels great. Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Then, bend at the hips and reach for your shins, ankles, or feet – whatever part you can comfortably touch. Try to keep your back straight and reach forward with your chest. Don’t worry if you can’t reach very far; you’ll find that with practice, you’ll become more and more flexible.
This pose is a great way to strengthen both your buttocks and your back. Start on the floor on your stomach with your forehead flat on the floor and your arms beside your body with your palms facing up. Slowly raise your head, chest, arms, and legs, rotating your thighs in slightly and focusing on elongating your body from head to toe. You can hold this pose for up to 30 seconds and repeat it a few times if you don’t notice any pain.
Here’s a somewhat advanced pose that can help stretch and strengthen your back, both of which can relieve pain. Stand with your knees slightly bent and then lift your right leg and cross it over your left. Either point your right foot downward or hook it behind your left calf. Bring your right arm under your left and try to bring your palms together; lift your elbows up and pull your hands away from your face gently for a beautiful stretch.
Exploring yoga can expand your horizons, but more importantly, it can help deliver some of the pain relief you desire. Whether you choose to practice in a group environment such as a structured class, or you opt to put your own mat down at home, practice frequently. In time, you’ll find that it can be a valuable addition to your daily routine that clears a path to more comfortable living.
Remember not to push yourself beyond the point of mild discomfort; if you feel pain, ease up on the stretch. Over time, you’ll gradually build strength and flexibility and be able to take on new, more challenging poses.
Dr. Eric D. Freeman is a top-rated, best-in-class pain management doctor. He is a nationally recognized pain relief specialist and is among the top pain care doctors in New Jersey and the country. He is an award-winning expert and contributor to prominent media outlets.
Dr. Eric D. Freeman has been recognized for his thoughtful, thorough, modern approach to treating chronic pain. He has been named a “top pain management doctor in New Jersey” and one of “America’s Top Physicians” for advanced sports injury treatments.
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