My relationship with my yoga practice has certainly evolved over time. It used to be a place to turn away from hard things and has now become a safe place to land. A place to meet myself right where I am. You will hear me say that often in sessions. And it is so very true. You are always invited to meet yourself where you are. It is a beautiful way to meet yourself, yet it can be super difficult. Especially if where you are, is not where you want to be. Yoga has taught me that I can, in fact, deal with and do hard things.
Enter chronic pain. Chronic pain affects millions of people and has causes varying from past injuries, to arthritis, to the unknown. It is on-going and lasts longer than natural healing times would, unlike acute pain. A common thought on any sort of pain is that we WOULD like to escape it, rather than step into it further. Why would sitting with your pain be of any help? Stay with me…
Chronic pain is multi-dimensional. From an article, “Perspectives on Yoga Inputs in the Management of Chronic Pain”, I learned that physical, emotional, social and spiritual layers all contribute to what is called “total pain”. To me, this means pain feels bigger as we add in all these affected layers. Let’s take a look at some of these layers:
- Physically: When we are in pain, our nervous system becomes extra heightened and alert. It is almost like you are always “on”. This amplifies chronic pain. Breathing patterns may become erratic, and mainly in your chest, while your muscles may become constantly tense.
- Emotionally: Overtime this persistent stress changes our mindset and energy levels, leading to anxiety and depression.
- Socially: Chronic pain affects our quality of life and may cause us to turn away from others and the things we normally would love to do.
- Spiritually: The perpetual feeling of pain may create a sense of hopelessness and a lack of meaning for why it is actually happening.
Enter Yoga. Through the many layers of Yoga, we can directly work through the many layers of chronic pain. The coolest part is, YOU do the work. You take control of your pain by acknowledging its many layers. Even if we cannot control the cause of our pain, we learn to address the parts we CAN control. In a yoga session we can learn to physically relax muscles and naturally breathe in a more regulated way. Overall, this balanced state of mind and ease through the body leads to more hope, happier days and participation in more things we love to do. We meet ourselves right where we are in that pain, and in turn, regulate our bodies back to a more stable and even state – even if the pain is still there. We help take it down a notch. Asana (yoga poses) creates the ability for the breath to regulate itself. When the breath is regulated and natural, we create an even and stable environment. We are less bothered by externals in our world that may be causing us problems, a.k.a. our pain. Once we have addressed that, there is always the extra benefit of the movement actually diminishing our pain by targeting and working in the areas of the body that are causing it.
Similar to chronic pain, you yourself are multi-dimensional. You are the sum of many parts. Many layers that make you, you. Yoga offers us the opportunity to develop a better sense of our whole selves. When we engage in a physical and mental process with ourselves, we learn that we are not ONLY our pain and how to take this feeling with us through our day and into our everyday lives.
Ready to take control over your chronic pain? Schedule your Yoga Therapy session with me today! [email protected]
– Erica Spirko
Learn more about me & Yoga Therapy at EricaSpirkoYoga.com