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Injury is one of the most common issues that my Yoga students talk to me about. At one time or another in our lives we come up against some kind of injury. It can range from an athletic injury to falling down; or to the most common, which is a lower back injury. In some cases, a low back injury can lead to chronic pain. My Yoga students ask me often about what they can do to help with their low back pain. New research from Boston Medical Center has shown that Yoga will help.

Yoga designed for those suffering from chronic low back pain will reduce pain

Injuries can have a big impact on our daily routines and our sense of well-being. They can contribute to the stress we may already be feeling by having to shift our movement patterns and routines to accommodate the pain.

Yoga and Chronic Pain

When we are injured the tendency is to do one of two things: either try to push through it and ignore the symptoms or to stop all movement for fear of further injury. The answer is often somewhere in between.

For many, and depending on the level of you pain, I understand that the idea of moving at all can be scary. It’s often hard to know the best actions to take. A study published in the July, 2017 edition of the Annals of Internal Medicine Research found that Yoga may be the answer.   Researchers at Boston Medical Center found that Yoga that is specifically designed to meet the needs of those suffering from chronic low back pain will help to increase mobility and significantly reduce symptoms of pain.

What Yoga Poses Work for Lower Back Pain?

Boston Medical Center outlines a program that works for for low back pain. Researchers found that practices like cobra pose, locust pose, twist and “knees to chest” pose helped with chronic pain. These familiar poses are also some of the poses we use in Ornish Lifestyle Medicine to help stop and reverse heart disease, along with a low-fat plant-based diet, exercise, and group support.

The stress management element of Ornish Lifestyle Medicine is not exactly the same as the yoga program outlined in this study, but many of our participants also report that their chronic low back symptoms start to improve after a very short time practicing yoga in the program.

Three Elements of Yoga that Help Heal Injuries

1.Yoga Increases Awareness

Also known as mindfulness, this awareness can serve to connect us to our relationship with the injury. We may have an unconscious movement pattern that is adding to the injury. Increasing our awareness to how we are moving can be the first step in changing a pattern that isn’t working anymore.

2. Yoga Relaxes Muscle Tension

If we allow the chronically overworked muscles that may be protecting an injury to relax and soften, we are less likely to experience the pain that can go along with the injury. It can also help to prevent further injury if we are relaxed while moving.

3. Yoga Opens New Pathways

When we open new pathways in our body, energy can flow more freely. These new pathways may override old habits that could be the cause of an injury or the reason that it the injury is sustained.

Four Suggestions for Working with Injuries

Whether you have a back injury or some other injury, there are ways to modify your yoga practice to help find your way back to health.

1. Move Slow and Do Less

During an injury, it’s important to move slow and do a little less until you can find patterns of movement that don’t aggravate your condition or create more pain. In time, you will find ways that you can move and work with and around your injuries.

2. Use Imagery

Before actually moving into a pose, imagine yourself doing it in your mind’s eye. If you can’t imagine doing it, don’t do it. Just work with the imagery practice. Imagery alone can help clear obstacles and create new pathways that can in time help with the healing process. You may need to focus more on the internal practices like breathing, relaxation, imagery and meditation until the area is healed.

3. Use Breath

Allow your breath to lead you. If you find you are holding your breath or your breathing becomes irregular or shallow, try doing less in the poses. See if you can breathe in, around, and through the injured area. Use the exhale breath to imagine letting go of any tensions or pain. Use the inhale to bring energy to the affected area and promote healing.

4. Ask Your Body

Take time during your practice to ask your body what it needs and what adjustments you should make. This kind of attunement helps to strengthen your inner healer. It may guide you in healing your injury and allow you to stay tuned in so as not to reinjure the area.

What Yogic healing strategies have you used when you are injured?

Contributed by

Susi Amendola
Stress Management Specialist

What have you done to remind yourself of the things that have meaning for you?

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