Yoga and its Effect on Chronic Pain and Brain Function

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Put your hands together, in prayer, at your heart. Close your eyes. Breathe in. Breathe out. This is yoga. Yoga is defined as a way of life, an integrated system of education for the body, mind, and inner spirit. This art of right living was perfected and practiced in India thousands of years ago, but since Yoga deals with universal truth, its teachings are valid today as they were in ancient times. Yoga is a practical aid, not a religion, and its technique may be practiced by Buddhists, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and atheist alike. Yoga is union with all (Mcgonigal,1996) It has become a hot, new trend. As a beginner, yoga is something that can be done at home. However, there are many other forms of yoga. From yoga by the beach, yoga at the park, hot yoga, restorative yoga, and even yoga with baby goats. People everywhere are getting in on this new wave of a healthier lifestyle. However, most people don’t know what benefits their body is receiving, when participating in this activity. Yoga does more than cut down the extra fat on the stomach area. Yoga helps with relaxation, weight reduction, balance and self-control. It even has some effects on chronic pain and brain function, as well as a great deal of other things. Exactly what effects does yoga have on chronic pain and brain function?

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In the book Yoga Mind and Body, she shows the yoga stances and how to do them correctly. She also highlights how these positions effect you mentally, physically, and emotionally. Like the Simple Standing Forward Bend position, all you do it stand straight and bend at the waist. This easy position increases blood supply to the brain, it invigorates the entire nervous system, and mobilizes joints. Mentally, this position, with expel tamas, which is inertia or laziness, and it also stimulates intellectual capacities. (pg. 98) Another pose that can be done and helps the body, is the peacock. With this pose, you are balancing all your body weight on your hands, as you are parallel to the ground. This eases many mental disorders, removes lethargy, and general feelings of weakness and helplessness. This pose also positions the elbows so that they massage and revitalize the internal organs, curing many digestive diseases. (pg. 90) Lastly, an easy pose she mentions is the Spinal twist. While sitting on the floor, with your legs out, twist your back. This position removes adhesions in the joints caused by Rheumatism. It also helps relieve muscular problems in back and belly. (pg. 84)

In Doctor Kelly McGonigal’s book, Yoga for Pain Relief: Simple Practices to Calm your Mind and Heal your Chronic Pain, she explains that most chronic pain is mentally. If the mind is calm the chronic pain will calm. The steps to start relieving the chronic pain is finding the trigger of the injury or illness. Once that is determined, realizing a threat signal is being sent to the brain is next. Finally, what is the pain response: sensation, thoughts, emotions, stress, coping? From there, learning how yoga can help with those issues is the final step. (pg. 10) She also expresses how different poses deal with different issues. For examples, the Neck Stretch, releases tension in the neck and shoulders. The Upper Back Stretch releases the tension in the upper back and shoulders. She states that yoga taps into the body’s natural healing vitality.

Liz Owen is a certified Iyengar yoga instructor and has taught yoga for over 17 years, according to her website. She teaches a wide range of yoga practices that can help with chronic pain. She speaks on the fact that most believe that their body is several different parts. However, yoga considers the body to be an organic, connected entity whose parts are constantly in moving relationship to each other. (owen) She teaches a sequence of yoga poses, which are designed to both stretch and strengthen your body. They offer mental comfort to your painful areas and listen closely to them.

Although yoga can be cute and fun, it has many health benefits, that some may not know about. I found 5 mains ideas on the effects that yoga has on chronic pain and brain function. As mentioned, different poses can perform different jobs both mentally and physically, chronic pain has a lot of mind control, which yoga can help ease those issues,  These are some of the many reasons why people should be interested in yoga. Sakyong Mipham once said, “The body benefits from the movement, and the mind benefits from the still.” That explains yoga in a nutshell. While this activity is easy to do at home, you can also find a group that practices yoga in town. As McGonigal mentions, you can go at your own pace and choose the movements that are best for you. Until we meet again on the four corners of our mat, Namaste.

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