As a chronic pain patient, you’ve undoubtedly heard that you should try yoga or meditation to manage your conditions. While this advice is sage, you might have many questions about how to get started.
Holistic therapies take time to work, so it’s crucial to find a program that you love enough to stick with for the long term. You might have to play around the same way you try different medications to find the most effective routine for you. As you begin your journey, please remember these five yoga and meditation tips for chronic pain patients to ease frustration and build a healthy practice for life.
1. Start Slowly
If your first experience with yoga was a high-energy and physically challenging Ashtanga class, no wonder you scratched your head in frustration and didn’t return to the studio. While you can certainly embrace some of this practice’s more athletic forms as you advance, you should start slowly to avoid injury and develop your strength and flexibility. After all, trying to run a marathon without training will only result in pain.
True beginners might have luck seeking out classes that combine yoga with tai chi. The gentle, flowing movements of the former help stimulate the flow of synovial fluid to your joints before you begin stretching. This added lubrication can ease the journey if you have arthritis, fibromyalgia or gout that causes your knees and ankles to ache.
2. Combine With Other Therapies
If you can’t seem to find a class or studio that you like, speak with your doctor or physical therapist. PT often includes yoga techniques to improve your ability to manage daily living tasks, and your provider may have referred other patients to a particular studio with success in the past.
The beautiful thing about yoga is that it teaches you to listen to your body and use your mind in conjunction with physical therapies to bring relief. If you use a TENS unit to ease painful knots, try turning it on while you stretch. You may find that the stimulation along with the movement relieves pain more effectively than either one alone.
Some practitioners believe that yoga can help make a therapeutic massage more effective. A gentle class after some muscle work and plenty of water can help flush toxins trapped in the fibers, leading to long-lasting relief. If you have the time to indulge in a morning of self-care, give it a try.
3. Use Mindful Breathing
Regardless of which yoga class or guide you select, your breathing is critical to a successful practice. Fortunately, once you master yoga breathing techniques, you can use them in daily life anytime you need to calm down and ease stress — and the associated pain.
Learn how to perform ujjayi breathing. Master this method by inhaling to the base of your belly, then exhaling through your nose and mouth with a sigh. Imagine that you are trying to fog up a mirror by saying “haah.”
Once you get the feel of the air echoing over your soft palate, repeat this technique with your mouth closed. Focus on extending your exhales slightly longer than your inhales to engage your parasympathetic nervous system and invoke a sense of calm.
4. Get Guidance
You probably don’t think of yoga as an activity with high injury risk, and you’re generally correct. However, any time you’re stretching and moving your muscles, you run the risk of getting hurt. Doing so will understandably turn you off from the practice if you already have enough pain.
If you are new to the practice, your best bet is to seek out a studio. Please arrive early to discuss your health conditions with your instructor. They can show you how to modify movements that may be problematic for you and provide alternatives to challenging asanas.
Alternatively, you can look for at-home instructional videos designed for people in chronic pain. Jane Fonda has an excellent collection that’s available on Amazon and in-store retailers.
5. Try a Variety of Styles
You’ll find no shortage of yoga styles out there. Understanding the terminology can help you find the right class. The best format for you might vary daily, depending on your fluctuating pain levels.
- Hatha: This style encompasses various difficulty levels — from relaxing, meditative ones to more challenging power flows. You’ll want to talk to the teacher or preview a live class to get a taste. The principal element of this style is holding static stretches for several breaths.
- Vinyasa: If you want a little cardio with your flexibility and strength training, this style is for you. It is energetic, featuring a series of ongoing fluid movements paired with your breath.
- Ashtanga: This hardcore athletic style follows a fixed set of poses. Once you master the primary series — challenging in its own right — you can move on to the intermediate and advanced.
- Iyengar: This yoga style features blocks and straps to get you into the ideal position.
- Bikram: This style uses similar postures to the Ashtanga primary series, but it takes place in a room with precise heat and humidity controls to make you sweat.
- Yin: This gentle style lets you melt into your mat. Caution: you might fall asleep during such a class. Drooling is permitted.
Chronic Pain Patients Can Benefit From These Realistic Yoga and Meditation Tips
If you are a chronic pain patient, please keep an open mind about the suggestion to try yoga and meditation for your condition. Use the tips above to find the ride guide and style for your practice.
Author: Mia Barnes