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Yoga: Ancient Pain-Relieving Practice

February 1, 2011 by  

Yoga: Ancient Pain-Relieving Practice

More than half the American population is said to suffer some form of chronic pain. This pain interferes with quality of life by affecting sleep, emotional states and ability to work. In fact, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) report that pain is the single most common reason that Americans seek medical attention. So bad is the pain epidemic that Congress has called the first 10 years of this Millennium the “Decade of Pain Control and Research.”

And while the biotech and Big Pharma industries are spending trillions of dollars in search of super drugs to hide the pain and lessen suffering, their efforts have shown no great lasting benefit. Yet, it seems that a centuries-old Indian practice, known as yoga, proves not only safe but also quite effective at reducing pain.

Yoga is an ancient practice of health and well-being. As an exercise, it involves holding and moving between various postures, specified breathing methods and altering states of consciousness through meditation. While the broader aim of traditional yogic practices is unifying mind and body with spirit, in the West it has come to be seen as a relaxing or muscle-toning physical activity, depending on yoga style.

One of the basic tenets of chronic pain is that it has both mental and physical origins and manifestations. It is a mind/body phenomenon that requires a mind/body approach. Yoga seems to be the perfect practice to relieve this health issue. Here’s why…

One of the causes of pain is the hypertonicity (tightness) of muscles that constrict blood flow, reduce the amount of fresh oxygen and nutrients in circulation and allow toxins to accumulate in muscle tissue. Yoga is structured around the practice of physical movements that gently move the body. These movements are within the normal ranges of motion and thus do not require great exertion or flexibility and will not cause sprains and tears while being performed. When the muscles are supple and the blood is moving, pain is reduced and the mental anguish and physical restrictions of that pain are diminished.

Regardless of which method of yoga is practiced, studies have confirmed its healing properties. In fact, many studies have found that regular practice of yoga can reduce blood pressure by as much as 15 mm/Hg. With extended practice of yoga, a level of fitness is achieved and weight loss experienced which is also responsible for additional lowering of blood pressure and reduction of the effects of daily stress. Reduction of stress, lowering of blood pressure, calmness of mind and slowed breathing are all tools that help reduce pain.

Yoga can be an effective method for decreasing pain by its ability to induce a deep calming effect and slower breathing which assists in the relaxation of muscles and reduction of trigger points and systemic inflammation. This ancient practice brings down the stress-induced fight or flight response, thereby reducing the levels of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol that are pumping through your system.

Yoga practices, especially those with a spiritual component, are also able to offer practitioners an emotional experience along with their physical movements. These often foster feelings of love, kindness, compassion and forgiveness. These feelings alone reduce the way people react to daily stress and the people around them. Stress causes pain, so less stress means less tension in the body and therefore less pain.

The body has learned ways of reacting to stress with protective measures like tension and pain. To overcome those ingrained responses, one needs to retrain the body’s response to the mind. Practicing yoga on a weekly or bi-weekly basis has proven effective at doing this. It gives the mind and the body a new pattern of relaxation and quietness. Yoga teaches one to use his mind to observe his body, to control posture, to regulate breathing… all in an effort to allow him to take control of his experiences and how these experiences take hold in the body.

The on-going practice of yoga is transformative. It changes stress and pain responses into healing responses. Over time, it brings one to feel a sense of self empowerment, vitality and relaxed, stress-free living.

Pain and energy drain comes from tight muscles and tense minds. When the mind is tense, the muscles also become tense. When muscles become tense, it restricts blood flow, decreases range of motion and can cause trigger points. Trigger points are painful dime-sized “knots” deep in the muscle tissue that can cause pain for weeks on end.

Easing mental stresses and physical muscle contractions is a must if you are striving for pain-free living. When you are relaxed, very little energy is consumed, which allows the body to recharge and repair. These periods of regeneration, just like when sleeping, are vital to proper pain-free functioning.

One natural way of relaxing both mind and body is through regular practice of yoga. By assuming the yoga postures, known as Asanas, one is able to relax, stretch and tone the body at the same time. How?

Each posture is held for a period of time. This allows toning of the muscles necessary to hold the posture. However, since the postures are all designed to be assumed within the body’s normal range of motion, there is little stress or strain. And with low stress comes slow breathing which relaxes both the mind and the body. Thus, in each moment the yoga Asanas are held, the person’s mind and body relax and recharge. Just like while sleeping, but with the added benefit of gentle, strain-free toning.

When the muscles are toned, they are better able to hold the body in correct posture throughout the day. You see, an imbalance in muscle tone or muscle suppleness is a cause of chronic body pain. If muscle A is strong and muscle B is weak, then A carries the load and B suffers injury while along for the ride. Moreover, neck pain on one side is a sign that the muscles on one side of the neck are either weaker or tenser than the muscles on the other side of the neck. Pain is the result.

What we are talking about are muscle imbalances. A safe and natural way of correcting poor posture derived from muscle imbalances is through the practice of yoga postures. The breathing and meditative aspects of yoga also help relax the mind and reduce stress. Try relaxing with yoga. You may feel better than you ever thought you could.

– Dr. Mark Wiley

Jeffrey R. Matthews

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  • Anthony

    Interesting discussion, Mark. It gives me a new insight to the thought of YOGA as a part of my routine at the local Health Club.

    I notice you do not add any correlation of pain with the discussion of how toxic our food supply is. Part of your discussion makes me think of Fibromyalgia, which I have heard is really a term for something most doctors have no idea of its source nor how to cure.

    Is there a chance you would be having a followup article on PAIN and the distinctions between stress and food toxicity?

    • http://?? Joe H.

      Anthony,
      We have a DR her by the name of Bowersox that specializes in Fibro and he has a 78% success rate. He’s in Lake county Ohio and I believe Willoughby is the town he practices in.

  • Henry Ledbetter

    Dr. Wiley I can see where meditation can be very useful to many. I prefer to put my meditation on God and His Word as is related in Psalm one. “Mediatate on the Word God day and night and we will be like a tree planted by the rivers of water’s, that bringeth forth its fruit in due season.”

    • Hyperborean

      How is your style of meditation working, Henry?

  • Harold Olsen

    Back in the early 70′s I bought myself a book on Yoga and practiced a few of the exercises, but mostly practiced some of the breathing exercises. I served in Vietnam, and while there I developed kidney stones, which I still occasionally suffer from. I decided to try using some of the breathing exercises to stop the pain I had from the stones. The pain could be excruciating. I was very much surprised that it worked. In just a matter of minutes, sometimes just seconds, I was no longer in pain. For some reason, I stopped using the exercises. However, after I stopped using the exercises, when I had pain from the kidney stones, the pain did not seem as bad.

  • http://com i41

    Toxic food,better check out anything from any country. China like to use lean lean meat powders added to their food production. It is clenbutantal. It is added to help speed up the slimming process advance muscle growth and a country that has had baby killing tainted formala, dog and cat food shipped here that was tainted, just to menytion a few. The clenbute causes stomack problem, heart papations, and diaareha, and hopitazation. China will not tell the numbers and what it has discovered or how many deaths it has had. So people had better hit you beltway elected morons in the skull and start producing more of our own food instead of importing food from other countries. Usa has a out break of foort and mouth on the east coast from some raw S. American beef, SKorea got an out break from the same area, and our beef hers in the USA are lower than in 1952. Who get to honors, the government for meddling in agriculture since 1930 till now, withv 3 decades of paying land owners to produce nothing on their farm ground, beltway brillance. Also Onumnutts and the US Game Fish and Parks are going to Idle even more farm land for water fowl habitat, it will only cost a few more billion every year.

  • Henry Ledbetter

    Anthony Dr. David Brownstein belIeves most americans are suffering from hypothroidism as a result of not enough iodine. He declares that the test given for this is flawed.and my wife was one of the ones misdiagnosed as a result of this bad thyroid test. Fibromyalgia is one of about 50 ailments caused or linked to a sluggish thyroid. We have purchased two of his books. arthiritis and thyroid. We really believe he is on target with his research and case studies of his own patients. When my wife was diagnosed with RSD after a knee replacement in August, we are fitting the pieces of the puzzle together to hopefully have a full cure, even though her surgeon said there is no cure for RSD..

  • Betty Jaws

    I have been getting acupuncture treatments on a regular basis since 2000. I have a slipped disk and a herniated disk in my lower lumbar region, plus a torn rotator cuff in my left shoulder, not to mention arthritus throughout my whole body. It has indeed helped relieve most of my pain and I highly recommend it. All of the treatments have been paid for out of my own pocket because the insurance companies fail to recognize it as a legitimate treatment. Even chiropractic treatment did not give me relief. That also was not covered by insurance. Did I mention that I turned 80 years old last April? Have been retired since 1995 and am on limited income.

  • Benjamin Merrill

    You do realize that Yoga is anti-Christian don’t you? My Baptist minister told me so.

    • Scott Todd

      I’ve heard Hindu swamis in their own voices say yoga is a Hindu means of escaping the reincarnational cycle and obtaining Nirvana and that there’s no such thing as Christian yoga. Heard it on Wretched Radio more than once.

  • http://com i41

    Well according to our marxist muslim moron in Cheif, we are a muslim loving nation. One who’s ear didn’t hear “Rev” Loony Toon Wright disparage non stop the USA!

  • http://PersonalLibertyDigest Wiselady

    Wiselady says:

    2-1-11

    No to Yoga, but thank you for the suggestion. I choose to remain with my Christian Osteopath who silently prays for my healing while he works on my cranial and lower back treatments to de-stress my pain from an injury I had not too long ago. I have not had to buy any kinds of prescription drugs nor pain pills for almost 50 years. I get treatments about every three months.

    My very first Osteopath was an MD and Doctor of Ostepathic Medicine who saved my life by treating my migraines, TMJ a severe condition of temple mendibular jaw problems and eyes.. She, too, prays for her patients when working with them and believes that Jesus is the healer, she is His hands. She never talks to the patient about her faith but to my surprise I met her at at a concert held in my church!

    I am thankful that I am blessed with good health with my three faith believing Physicians; a Catholic, an Episcopalian, and a Baptist, taking care of me. They also believe that acupuncture is most useful and I pleased that my insurance pays for it.

    Thank you, Henry Ledbetter, for your spiritual and beautiful quote from the scriptures. There would be less stress and mental illness if people would just read the Bible as a book. It amazes me how much stress we have to endure and the trauma we experience that can cause our children to grow up mentally disturbed.

    • http://?? Joe H.

      wiselady,
      I am a Christian as well and I would be willing to state that Henery’s minister told him that meditation is also anti- Christian. You Do realize what Henery described is a form of meditation, don’t you? I believe that The Lord gives us the means to at least control pain if not eliminate it. If he doesn’t aprove of it, it won’t work. I have used meditation for about 40 years and all it consists of is sitting in a darkened room and controlling my breathing and concentrating on nothing but relaxing. I don’t chant, and I don’t worship bhudda or anything else. I can slow my heart rate by almost 10 beats per minute when in pain and that has been proven over and over. I was in the ER one nite and they had put a monitor on me. I started to meditate while waiting for the doc and the alarm went off on the monitor. The nurse came running in and said are you all right? I said i was just controlling the pain. She and the Dr both admonished me not to try it again and I told them if they gave me something for the pain I wouldn’t. they gave me a shot! The Lord made it possible for me to do that just like he did the Dr for his skills.

  • Shiva Shakti

    Duality is what creates otherness,fear, anger, and hate. When you awaken to the realty we are oneness that we all have a common thread you will see the beauty and the goodness in all beings. There are many paths just because it is not your path doesn’t mean it is wrong.

  • yoga loving Catholic

    Christ preached acceptance and harmony and good will. There are many un-common paths to a common God (spirit) (power). Lets remember the words “judge not lest ye be judged”

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