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Restorative Yoga for Relief of Chronic Pain Conditions

ChronicPainJacquie Eubanks RN BSN

Analyzed data from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) showed that most American adults who were surveyed regarding their overall health and illness-related issues, reported experiencing some level of acute or chronic pain within the previous three months, that ranged in levels from relatively minor to the most severe. Chronic pain, described as daily pain lasting for more than three months, affects over 25 million adults, while nearly 40 million adults experience severe pain. Surprisingly, half of those who reported living with chronic pain rated their overall health “good or better,” however those who experience serious pain are more likely to suffer from poor health, as well as disability.

There appears to be no doubt that a significant number of Americans suffer from pain, making pain management a high priority for many, as the use of prescription pain relievers has more than quadrupled since 1999. With current estimates of over two million Americans suffering from opioid addiction, the interest in complementary and integrative approaches that minimize the potential for negative consequences of pain relief is rapidly growing. As a traditional mind/body practice dating back thousands of years, yoga combines pranayama, focused breathing techniques, with asanas, poses that stretch and strengthen muscles, and shavasana, a deep meditative state of rest, to help to manage pain, stress, anxiety and other symptoms.

Surveys show that people practice yoga to promote wellness, reduce stress and anxiety, improve mood and physical fitness, relax the mind, and enhance quality of life. Different types of yoga, some gentle, some more physical, address individual needs. Some practices consist of a specific series of flowing sequential poses, while others concentrate on body alignment, making use of props, blocks, and ropes to assist working within your own range of motion while holding the poses to allow sufficient time to relax into them. Many embrace restorative yoga to address specific health conditions, including back and neck pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia, and insomnia. This gentle, slower moving practice focuses on healing one’s thoughts, sensations and emotions, allowing for deeper relaxation, as well as symptom relief.

Yoga exercises were originally practiced to improve health, as well as to strengthen the body, enabling the yogi to sit immobile without discomfort during long periods spent in meditation. Yoga’s breathing, relaxation and meditation techniques help to improve concentration and circulation and reduce muscle tension and stress reactions, minimizing the brain’s perception of pain. With the intense focus on breathing techniques, we can learn to relax the body at will and tune in to our inner strength, until at some point, pain recedes into the background. Learning to truly relax all our muscles counteracts the natural tendency to increase pain-causing muscle tension that adversely affects microcirculation within the muscles and underlying viscera.

Relaxation helps turn off the stress response, and directs the body’s energy toward the growth, repair, immune, digestion and self-nurturing processes, which provide the foundation for healing. Consistent practice teaches the body and the mind to rest in a sense of safety and security, transforming the chronic pain response into a more protective healing response, improving the sense of wellbeing. Restorative yoga is about letting go of tension and stress; resting the body, but engaging the mind. Catherine Bushnell, PhD scientific director of NCCIH and her research colleagues have found that chronic pain can be prevented or reversed through mind-body practices and suggest that yoga may have neuroprotective effects. It appears that yoga practitioners have a significant increase in pain tolerance and better coping responses to the anticipation of pain. As opposed to the release of the stress hormone cortisol during the “fight or flight” response of the sympathetic nervous system, when yogis anticipate pain, the parasympathetic nervous system activates a “tend and befriend” or “rest and digest” response.

Many begin yoga practice as a physical exercise, as it offers approaches to relax, energize, remodel and strengthen the body and psyche. Those who practice regularly will discover that yoga influences the whole person mentally, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. Postures that realign the body open the vital flow of energy, thereby breaking the cycle of pain-reinforcing forces and cultivating a sense of wellbeing. Researchers continue to study the effects of yoga and other complementary practices on the brain; the hope is that in the future these alternative treatments may replace pharmaceuticals, and effectively relieve the chronic pain disease process.

Before beginning practice, inform your yoga instructor of any pain or limiting health issues. A knowledgeable teacher will adapt the poses to accommodate your specific needs.

Professional Supplement Center offers these and other helpful solutions for minor pain relief:

Turmeric ForceTurmeric Force™ by New Chapter: This whole food supplement provides a full spectrum of beneficial turmeric compounds. Turmeric promotes the body’s natural healthy inflammation response and supports cardiac and liver health. Non-GMO, gluten free, vegetarian formulation.


OsteoMove Extra...OsteoMove™ Extra Strength Joint Care by Natural Factors: This powerful blend of natural compounds and plant extracts may provide fast and effective relief of the inflammation and joint pain of osteoarthritis. The synergistic ingredients have been clinically shown to enhance joint lubrication, support the repair and recovery of joints and connective tissue, and fight inflammation to help maintain joint health and integrity. Dairy, soy, gluten and wheat free formulation.


End Fatigue Pain...End Fatigue Pain Formula by Integrative Therapeutics: This highly effective formulation provides clinically studied herbal ingredients for relief of occasional muscle pain due to overuse. Gluten, dairy, wheat, and yeast free vegetarian formula.


Large Joint Pain...Large Joint Pain Drops by Professional Complementary Health Formulas: This high quality homeopathic liquid formula combines scientific research with clinical use to aid relief of large joint discomfort, including knees, ankles, low back, elbows and shoulders. Gluten and soy free vegetarian formulation.


Corydalis Natural...Corydalis Natural Pain Relief by Pacific Herbs: This safe, time tested, Traditional Chinese proprietary herbal blend helps to relieve headaches, menstrual cramps, backaches and chronic pain. The synergistic high quality concentrated ingredients are tested for potency and purity. No binders, sugar, yeast, corn, wheat, alcohol, or artificial ingredients.

Yoga: In Depth. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/yoga/introduction.htm
NIH Analysis Shows Americans Are In Pain. https://nccih.nih.gov/news/press/08112015
NIH Study Shows Prevalence of Chronic or Severe Pain in U.S. Adults. http://americanpainsociety.org/about-us/press-room/nih-study-shows-prevalence-of-chronic-or-severe-pain-in-u-s-adults
America’s Addiction to Opioids: Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse. https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/legislative-activities/testimony-to-congress/2016/americas-addiction-to-opioids-heroin-prescription-drug-abuse
Yoga for Pain Relief. http://www.everydayhealth.com/pain-management/yoga-for-pain-relief.aspx
Restorative Yoga for Chronic Pain. https://yogainternational.com/article/view/restorative-yoga-for-chronic-pain
How Does Yoga Relive Chronic Pain? https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201505/how-does-yoga-relieve-chronic-pain
The Beginner’s Guide to Every Type of Yoga Out There. http://dailyburn.com/life/fitness/yoga-for-beginners-kundalini-yin-bikram/
Pain Management with Yoga. http://www.americanyogaassociation.org/18pain.html
Perspectives on Yoga Inputs in the Management of Chronic Pain. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2936076/


The Power Of Yoga: Part II

The Power Of Yoga Part 2.By Jacquie Eubanks BSN, RN

Click here to read Part I.

It’s clear that yoga is a valid exercise choice.  Here are some very good reasons athletes should consider adding yoga to their exercise protocol:

  1. Injury prevention:  Repetitive overuse of certain muscle groups will cause imbalances in strengthening and lengthening.  Tighter muscles pull at the ligaments and joints which poses a greater risk of tearing.  Flexible and pliable muscles reduce the risk of injury.  Yoga works muscles around the joints creating better stability, mobility and fluidity and increasing your range of motion.
  2. Core strength:  Core strengthening is one of the foundations of yoga.  Stretching and strengthening of the abdominal, paraspinal and pelvic muscles helps maintain and support your natural stabilizing muscles, aiding injury prevention.  Yoga can not only eliminate back pain and lighten the stress on your spine, it can restructure your body so your lower back curve is supported, healthy, and strong.
  3. Balance:  Yoga helps to balance the body by paying special attention to symmetry.  Specific poses train and use both sides of the body equally, helping to balance the entire nervous system.  It helps to improve body alignment resulting in better posture and relief from back, neck and muscle tension. 
  4. Mental focus:  Yoga allows you to focus on the present, increases your awareness and improves coordination, reaction time and memory.  You can adapt a yoga practice to be stimulating for energy or calming for tranquility, both of which are great for mental focus.
  5. Stress relief:  Yoga teaches you to calm the mind and the nervous system while faced with stress and physical challenge.   Athletes “in the zone” are in a state of complete surrender to mental focus, clarity and calmness of being that allows for optimal performance.  Yoga is a great practice before and after any competition.
  6. Recovery time:   Yoga has become a method of physical therapy for injury recovery and can also reduce post-workout recovery time.  Doing a few yoga poses and some breath work can help move energy through the body, aiding in relief of sore energy-depleted muscles. 
  7. Increased overall strength and flexibility:  Yoga postures use all muscles of the body, helping to increase stamina and physical power.  Yoga increases flexibility in the shortest amount of time as compared to other forms of exercise.   
  8. Weight management:  In addition to burning calories and reducing stress, yoga can help reduce cortisol levels, aiding in weight control.  Unlike the tendency of other exercise to increase your appetite, yoga helps to balance your hormones so you’re less likely to suffer from uncontrollable cravings.  Yoga’s mindful awareness may help you to reach for a salad as opposed to a less healthy choice. 
  9. Endurance:  Endurance can be measured by overall physical and psychological makeup especially in the body’s ability to withstand a tough competition or workout.  Deep, mindful breathing can help improve your lung function and increase your oxygen intake.  The counter-practice of yoga lessens the stress and strain of one way repetitive movements such as running, walking and cycling. 
  10. Detoxification:  In addition to stretching and sculpting your muscles, yoga massages your organs increasing blood supply to all areas of the body.  Yogic breathing not only increases oxygen, it aids in carrying away waste.  Many yoga poses are specifically designed to support the lymphatic system and aid in detoxification of the body. 

Whether you are seeking a gentle class or are looking for a straight sweat session with no Sanskrit involved, there is a style and an instructor for you.  A good thing to remember, a little Zen can go a long way toward improving your overall physical and mental states of health.  It may even increase your zest for life as you continue your yoga practice well into your golden years. 

Supplements to support physical and mental well being:

Ashwagandha by Ayush Herbs –  Ashwagandha, also known as Indian ginseng, is indicated in Ayurveda as a daily rasayana or anti-aging aid.  It is one of the most highly regarded and widely used Ayurvedic herbs and is believed to increase energy and overall health and longevity. It acts as an adaptogen and immune promoter, nourishing and strengthening the inner reserve of the human body.  Ashwagandha literally means “to impart the strength of a horse.”

Stress Ease by Banyan Botanicals –  Stress Ease helps the body cope with stress by supporting the resiliency and tone of the neuromuscular system.  Unlike the temporary jolts and inevitable crashes experienced with caffeine and sugar, this blend of herbs strengthens the system to provide a sustained source of natural energy.  Stress Ease bolsters one’s ability to surmount physical, mental and emotional challenges.  Contains certified organically grown herbs. 

Asian Green Tea by Jason Winters International –  Sir Jason Winters calls this superior blend of green tea “Chao Phrya Tea,” named after the mighty river upon which the tea barges sailed.  Chao Phrya means “the river of the kings,” and villagers in the river valley say their special green tea is “as emerald as the mountains rising in early morning mist.”

Body Regenerator by Amrita Aromatherapy –  This product is intended to support the body’s natural healing processes, aid in regenerating healthy muscle and nerve tissue and strengthen and enhance the mind/body connection.  With herbal extracts, essential oils and flower essences. 

PureLean Nutrients by Pure Encapsulations –  PureLean™ Nutrients is designed to provide metabolic and weight management support as part of a healthy lifestyle along with a reduced calorie diet and regular exercise.  It is a complete hypo-allergenic, highly bioavailable multi-vitamin, multi-mineral and trace element supplement.  The formula combines superior mineral cofactors, activated vitamins, antioxidants, amino acids, cinnamon, green tea and pterostilbene to support healthy glucose metabolism, lipid utilization and body composition.

The Power Of Yoga: Part I

The Power Of Yoga Part 1.By Jacquie Eubanks BSN, RN

“Health is not a mere absence of disease.  It is a dynamic expression of life – in terms of how joyful, loving and enthusiastic you are.” ~ Sri Sri Ravi Shankar 

True health includes physical fitness as well as mental acuity and emotional balance.  Simply stated, yoga can be considered mindful exercise.  Breath work, an essential element of yoga, can help relax not only tight overworked muscles, but also anxious and overstressed minds.  Yoga goes beyond simple stretching by working joints and muscles through all ranges of motion and activating little used muscles that support larger muscles, ensuring well rounded muscle development. 

More and more athletes are discovering the benefits of yoga.  Athletic injuries can often be linked to a lack of flexibility,  poor core strength and misalignment.  Adding yoga to your exercise routines can help enhance your performance and prevent injuries by increasing your flexibility, stabilizing your core, improving your balance and strengthening your muscles.  Yoga can aid in faster recovery after workouts, improve your range of motion and help you develop stronger mental focus and concentration.  In short, yoga can provide many of the physical benefits of other forms of exercise plus added benefits of decreased pain, increased energy levels and stress reduction. 

Yoga is considered to be the oldest physical discipline in existence and symbolizes balance in every area of life.  The basics of yoga practice center on pranayama (breathing exercises), asanas (postures), and dhyana (meditation). The 5,000 year old practice of yoga has evolved into many different schools so you should be able to find a style that’s right for you:

  • Iyengar –  This very pure form of yoga is all about precise alignment and deliberate sequencing.  It is appropriate for all ages and abilities but that does not mean it’s easy.  This type of yoga will teach you the fundamentals and build a superior foundation for other styles.  It works every part of your body, giving you great muscle definition but not bulk.
  • Hatha –  This form encompasses a basic and classical approach to breathing exercises and postures and was originally intended to prep the body for meditation.  This is a great practice for calming down and de-stressing and is a good choice for most everyone. 
  • Kraal – This three part practice encourages you to know, accept and learn from your body resulting in self-empowerment.  This is a good type for newbie’s as it teaches basic mechanics and breath work and includes a spiritual aspect. 
  • Ashtanga –  This practice has established strenuous pose sequences linked with breath, that move rapidly and flow from one pose to the next.  This vigorous form of yoga is a great cardio and strength workout.  This is not a practice for beginners as knowledge of poses is essential in order to get the most benefit.
  • Jivamukti –  This physical, edge-pushing practice incorporates yoga’s spiritual elements.  These authentic all-encompassing classes are themed and include Sanskrit chanting.  Jivamukti encourages students to find a state of enlightenment in and out of their practice and is heavily rooted in the traditions of yogic scripture.
  • Kundalini – If you a looking for a yoga buzz, this is the type for you.  The fluidity of the practice is intended to release the energy in your body while the postures and meditation keep you grounded and focused. 
  • Bikram –  This yoga is practiced in a heated, sauna-like room and includes a series of 26 basic yoga postures that are each performed twice.  It’s athletically challenging, builds stamina, increases flexibility, and helps with weight loss. 
  • Power –  This challenging, athletic style of yoga was adapted from the traditional ashtanga and includes isometric movements that spark metabolism and engage all your muscles.  This type of yoga will make you sweat while increasing strength and flexibility. 
  • Restorative –  This practice incorporates simple poses that are held for as long as twenty minutes each.  This is a great class for everyone as it gives your body an active relaxation session and is really great for injury rehab and de-stressing. 

The word yoga means to unite in harmony.  The practice of yoga is designed to strengthen the harmony of the mind, body and spirit, thereby promoting health and wellness.  The mental and physical health benefits of yoga are many and varied.  Physically, yoga aids in pain management, improved blood circulation, enhanced digestion, injury reduction, weight loss and increased flexibility, strength and energy.  Mentally, yoga helps to relieve stress, improve mood, boost self confidence, enhance concentration and create a higher awareness of your body and your health. 

Tomorrow, The Power Of Yoga: Part II