PAIN MANAGEMENT THROUGH YOGA: Why the ‘No Pain, No Gain’ Mantra is Dead – We all know that flexibility is an important part of fitness and overall health, but it is important to understand why. Having a decent level of flexibility improves mobility, posture, muscle coordination, reduces the risk of injuries and muscle soreness, and importantly, increases your range of motion. Daily activities would certainly be much more challenging without the ability to bend over, twist, or squat.
If you suffer from chronic aches and pains, you will know how good it feels to have certain muscles relaxed. Whilst heat and massage can help reach this physiological state, stretching the muscles, breaking up fascia and decompressing the joints is even more effective. This can only be achieved through self care programs that include stretching, strengthening and balance work.
However if you are new to stretching or yoga, the idea of where to start can be intimidating. Here are a few tips to help make that first step a little easier.
Stretching on its own tends to be primarily have a physical approach and is often prescribed by physiotherapists, personal trainers, sports coaches, etc. Stretches can be anything from relatively easy such as attempting to touch your toes, to more intense such as sitting in an open split position. Sometimes practitioners may even promote the ‘no pain, no gain’ approach which science has now proven can actually cause more harm than good.
Yoga, on the other hand, encourages you to listen to your body and do what feels comfortable. The building blocks of yoga are poses or ‘asanas’ which aim to allow your mind and body to connect, offering a more holistic approach. There are many different styles of yoga available, some that heed from ancient roots and others that have married eastern and western approaches to make the practice more accessible.
These days stretching or yoga classes are available both online as well as within studios so depending on your preference, it is very easy to participate in some way. I often hear from potential new students that they “can’t” do yoga because they aren’t flexible enough. This is exactly WHY they SHOULD be doing yoga. Everyone must start somewhere and the beauty of yoga is that almost every position can be modified to suit your experience level.
But again, I’d like to emphasis the importance of listening to your body, or as my own mentor has said, ‘listen to the whispers before they become screams’. So what does that mean exactly? In yoga we like to talk about finding your ‘edge’. This may where you start to feel that ‘good pain’ much like what you experience during a remedial massage. It is not excruciating, and it is somewhat enjoyable because you can sense the good it is doing throughout the muscle and fascia. Your mind should be able to rest at this edge as well. If it can’t, you need to pull back. It’s that simple.
There are many simple poses one can start their yoga journey with, and as mentioned earlier, there are plenty of both online and in person opportunities to get started. For those who would like to try a few starter asanas at home, I would suggest the following:
Child’s Pose: helps to stretch the hips, thighs, and ankles while reducing stress and fatigue. This resting pose centers, calms, and soothes the brain, making it a therapeutic posture for relieving stress. When performed with the head and torso supported, it can also help relieve back and neck pain. This is a truly ‘yin’ position meaning you can stay in it for up to five minutes at a time.
Downward Facing Dog: Downward-Facing Dog energizes and rejuvenates the entire body. It deeply stretches your hamstrings, shoulders, calves, arches, hands, and spine while building strength in your arms, shoulders, and legs. Because your heart is higher than your head in this pose, it is considered a mild inversion (less strenuous than other inversions, such as Headstand) and holds all the benefits of inversions: Relief from headaches, insomnia, fatigue, and mild depression. The flow of blood to the brain also calms the nervous system, improves memory and concentration, and relieves stress. Be careful moving in and out of this position, coming to knees as needed.
Tree Pose: stretches the thighs, groins, torso, and shoulders. It builds strength in the ankles and calves, and tones the abdominal muscles. The pose also helps to remedy flat feet and is therapeutic for sciatica. Like a tree, extend your roots down and blossom your arms up toward the sun. Stay in this pose as long as you can to hone balance.
Plank: One of those exercises that make their way into most types of movement classes due to the focus on increasing core/abdominal which is crucial for back healthy. And when done the right way, plank exercises not only fire up your core, but the muscles in your shoulders and legs, too. Plus, planks can help you build strength and endurance. Find variations that work for you, hold as long as you can and modify by coming to the knees if there is too much pressure on the low back.
About the Author:
Lisa Randall is an American born qualified skin therapist, yoga teacher and remedial massage therapist who operates a day spa in Brisbane north. In addition to offering a wide array of medispa facials for all skin conditions, bodywork for chronic and acute injury and pain, she also teaches hot yoga, offers private yoga sessions and will be holding retreats in the near future. www.botaniqueskinandspa.com