Instead of reaching for that bottle of painkillers in your medicine cabinet the next time you experience a headache or back pain, try channeling your inner yogi. Why? While 11.5 million Americans living with chronic pain misuse prescription opioids, there are alternative treatment options available — like yoga — that are effective and come with zero risk of side effects.
“One of the main reasons I believe yoga for pain is such a hot topic right now is that there’s still a lot of unknowns in the world of pain science and our understanding of the nervous system,” says Tiffany Cruikshank, LAc, MAOM, RYT, an internationally renowned yoga instructor, holistic health practitioner, acupuncturist, sports-medicine expert and founder of Yoga Medicine. “This question mark leaves behind a void that our health-care systems haven’t been able to solve yet. Plus, the current solutions have way too many side effects and drawbacks. We’re in desperate need of a better strategy, and yoga practices can be an effective, cost-efficient solution.”
Yoga is a great tool to help people:
- Self-soothe with stress-reducing techniques
- Down-regulate the stress response and, in effect, increase the relaxation response
- Create body awareness, which acts as an internal monitoring system to help the nervous system recalibrate
Putting Yoga Into Practice
The next time you experience one of the five common painful conditions listed below, Yoga Medicine instructor Marnie Hartman, DPT, CSCS, RYT, suggests practicing its corresponding yoga pose. “It’s important to note that it’s not actually about the ‘pose’ itself but the ‘practice,’” she says. “Mindfulness, awareness of breath and reactions during the positions or movements are just as important as the posture themselves.”