Monday, August 8, 2011

Yoga Helps Relieve Pain

When I started practicing yoga, and ultimately opened two studios and a corporate wellness business, Yoga was still considered outside the mainstream of conventional therapies in the West.  This wasn't the case in India, birthplace of Yoga, of course, where substantial research and a body of knowledge spanning thousands of years supported the understanding that Yoga was a healing science.

Fast forward to today.  As millions of people in the West are now practicing Yoga, more and more funding is going into research studies here in the US and Canada.  Medical science is eagerly exploring the mechanisms of how Yoga improves numerous medical and psychological conditions.

Adaptive Yoga for Cancer and Chronic Conditions, which is the Yoga class protocol I use when working in medical situations, is actively being studied in several large hospitals for its efficacy and ability to improve the lives of the participants.  This protocol has already been validated through the NIH-sponsored work of Dr. Dean Ornish at UCSF and is now being tested with a variety of disease groups.

In the meantime, we continue to hear of  the results of a number of other studies from around the world, which point increasingly to the scientific basis of Yoga's ability to improve health and well-being in the people who practice it.

Recently there is news regarding Yoga's ability to combat pain, and here are some exciting findings:

Fibromyalgia: The Journal of Pain Research recently published a study showing that yoga decreases chronic pain and the psychological effects of fibromylagia for women in the study. The participants practiced 75 minutes of yoga twice a week for eight weeks. The results suggest that a yoga intervention may reduce pain and catastrophizing, increase acceptance and mindfulness, and alter total cortisol levels in women with FM.

Migraines:  A study
 out of University of Rajastan, published in the journal Headache, showed that yoga can help reduce the intensity and frequency of migraines. After the participants practiced a sequence of yoga poses, breathing exercises, relaxation, meditation, and mantras for three months, they reported migraine problems improved, as did their heart rate. "Scientists have been considering serotonin, a brain chemical, to be a crucial factor for headaches. They think low serotonin levels might cause blood vessels to dilate and cause migraines. And yoga is known to improve levels of serotonin," said researcher Neha Sharma.

General Pain: The Journal of Neuroscience reported that meditation helps the brain deal with pain. It doesn't take long: In the study, the subjects each took four 20-minute sessions to learn how to control their breathing and put aside their emotions and thoughts.

How has yoga helped you with pain?

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