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Yoga for pain relief

It’s a well-known fact that yoga can be used for pain relief. Although traditionally a profoundly spiritual practice, yoga has helped relieve many people from ailments such as sore backs, knees, and shoulders. The immense benefits of yoga are, therefore, no longer a secret and allow most people to find relief if they follow a simple formula: Google search + practice + patience.

Yet there’s more to it. Yoga for pain relief is not just about being in downward dog for 20 minutes; this is where real wisdom beyond Google is needed. 

Let’s take a look at how to get the most out of your yoga practice if you’re looking to get rid of your aches and pains.

Deep yogic breaths

Do you know how to breathe?

Before we continue with anything else, you must learn how to breathe. This is because doing so incorrectly can send messages of stress and anxiety throughout your body, not exactly a good start to pain relief. 

Practice the following to see if you are breathing properly: 

  1. Place both hands on your abdomen
  2. Take a deep breath in and feel your abdomen expand as though you were blowing up a balloon
  3. Exhale and feel your abdomen contract as you release the air out

Were you able to do that? Practice throughout the day to bring your breath back to its natural state. If it’s too confusing, practice when you’re lying down.

For a full yogic breath, you’ll want to do the following:

  1. Place one hand on your upper chest and the other on your abdomen
  2. Inhale and feel your abdomen fill up
  3. Then notice your ribs expand as they fill with fresh oxygen
  4. Finally, see that your chest lifts too
  5. Exhale in reverse order: chest, ribs, abdomen

If this is your first time breathing correctly, you will have noticed that all of your attention was firmly on your breath. There was no room for sore this and that, only for getting as much rejuvenating oxygen into your body as possible.

Next time you’re in pain, start with the slow, deep breaths, everything else will soon pass.

Savasana: the art of relaxation

Savasana, the corpse pose, will help you heal your body from the inside out. True relaxation is more than lying on your back and falling asleep; it is about bringing awareness to every cell in your body.

By doing a full-body scan, you will be able to feel where you are tensed up and mentally relax trouble points, without lifting a finger.

Try this relaxation after your next yoga class, or before you begin any pain-relieving exercises.

Lie down on your back and repeat each line mentally 3 times, bringing your attention to the body part that you are focusing on:

I’m relaxing my feet.

I’m relaxing my calves and my thighs.

I’m relaxing my hips and my buttocks.

I’m relaxing my abdomen and my chest.

I’m relaxing my lower, middle, and upper back.

I’m relaxing my arms and my shoulders.

I’m relaxing my neck and my head.

I’m relaxing my chin, lips, cheeks, nose, eyes, eyebrows, forehead.

My whole face is relaxed.

My heart is relaxed.

My whole body is completely relaxed.

Remain in savasana for a few minutes and then slowly get up. Take some time to meditate if you have a few spare moments.

Yoga for headaches: Viparita Karani 

From stress to dehydration, there are many reasons to have a headache. If you cannot pinpoint the root of the cause and deal with it i.e., drink a glass for water if you’re dehydrated, then viparita karani is your next best bet.

This posture is more commonly known as the less exotic-sounding asana of ‘legs up the wall.’ Combined with deep breaths, you will be able to find relief in sore feet, aching muscles, and, most importantly, your head. 

Stay as long as you can in this posture and observe a deep sense of relaxation as blood gently rushes from your feet, back down to the heart.

Yoga for back pain: Balasana

Back pain is perhaps the single biggest reason why people that have never touched a yoga mat would type in ‘yoga’ into their Google search bar. There are many different causes for back pain, and you should consult your physician before practicing yoga; however, there are several relatively ‘safe for all’ postures. 

One of them is balasana, or child pose. This relaxing asana allows you to stretch your back without putting a strain on it. You can also modify it to suit your needs by using bolsters, bringing the knees closer together or further apart, and having the hands either by your side or in front of you.

Yoga for shoulder pain: Dhanurasana

Dhanurasana, or the bow, is a fantastic posture for shoulder pain relief. By grabbing onto your ankles as you balance on your abdomen, you will be able to give your shoulders a nice big stretch. 

You can increase the intensity of the stretch, and have some fun with it, by gently tipping over to each side, or rocking backward and forward. This will give you the added benefit of a light abdominal massage.

If you are unable to grab both ankles, you can always stretch one side at a time.

Yoga for knee pain: Setu Bandhasana

Knee pain is another tricky area where you need to ensure that you don’t cause more damage than you start off with. As there are many causes of knee pain, it is important to consult your physician first, although they will most likely tell you that you need to strengthen your legs.

Setu bandhasana, the bridge pose, is a fantastic way to do just that, without putting unnecessary stress on your knees. By staying in the posture for a few moments at a time, you will be able to strengthen the muscles around your knees, which should give them the relief they need for a quick recovery.

Yoga for menstrual cramps: Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana

Menstrual cramps are not fun. If you experience them, your number one tip is probably to curl up into a ball and ride out the wave of pain with a hot water bottle. This is relatively effective, although you may also want to try the one-legged pigeon pose. 

Not to be confused with the versions that aim to have your toes touch the back of your head, this variation is much simpler. By gently resting your upper body on your bent leg, you can allow yourself to let go and completely relax in the posture. A favorite in the yin series, you can remain in this asana for a few minutes on each leg.

Be patient, be well

The best way to find pain relief through yoga is the combination of proper breathing, proper relaxation, and appropriate asana practice. Most importantly, remember to listen to your body and never push it beyond its means; patience is perhaps the most essential factor of all.


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