5 Steps to Pain Relief, plus Yoga and the Root Causes of Suffering
YOGA, PAIN RELIEF & THE ROOT CAUSES OF SUFFERING
Included here below:
5 STEPS FOR PAIN RELIEF
A WORKSHOP – YOGA, PAIN & SUFFERING: THE ROOT CAUSES & YOGA REMEDIES FOR BODY, MIND AND HEART
JANUARY 21ST, 2-5PM, WORKSHOP AT WALTON HALL – “PAIN, THE ROOT CAUSES OF SUFFERING AND YOGA SOLUTIONS “ In this workshop, we will begin this annual journey into the teachings of classical Yoga for our deeper healing. Here we begin with our suffering, it’s root causes from a Yogic perspective and Yoga remedies. If we want to be happy and free from pain, then we need to understand what is creating our struggles and hurts, and how to wisely remedy it. We will be looking very practically at the pain we experience in our bodies, and also at that deeper more existential suffering that we all know, the suffering that is of the mind and heart. I hope you’ll join me. Please do book soon if you’d like to come as these workshops sell out.FIND OUT MORE
FIVE STEPS FOR PAIN-RELIEF
Recurrent or persistent pain is debilitating. It takes away our joie de vivre and in extreme cases can halt us in our steps and prevent us from taking part in activities we love, or even doing necessary daily duties. Thankfully now we don’t have to suffer. There is pain relieving medication at hand. However, I think most of us are aware of the harm that prolonged use of pharmaceuticals can do to our bodies and would prefer not to have to resort to pain killers and anti-inflammatory medication over the long-term. I’m not suggesting you immediately ditch your prescribed pain killers. Please don’t reduce or stop medication without guidance from a medical professional, of course. However, Yoga has much to offer in regards to helping us stay pain free or reducing our pain levels . It is possible to work with the kind of Yogic knowledge shared below to gradually reduce any pain medication you are on under your doctor’s guidance.
As we get older, we might feel blessed if we are escaping the aches and pains that often accompany the body’s ageing. Although, my guess is that if you are “aches-and-pains- free”, it’s not only the blessing of good genes giving you a healthy, happy body and mind. The likelihood is that you work at it. You are taking care of yourself. It can happen of course that we are taking care of ourselves and still are plagued by a persistent or recurring pain, maybe due to some postural anomaly, an injury or some unknown cause.Yoga has much to say about so called “unkown” causes but that is for another time.
If you regularly experience pain in any part of the body why not try integrating these 5 steps into your daily life as part of a pain-relieving routine. I taught these methods on specialist programmes whilst at the Yoga Retreat in Bahamas, and have shared them with Yoga Therapy clients and have had positive feedback.
- MOVEMENTS FOR PAIN RELIEF– For joint pain, and for any kind of pain in the body – except perhaps the dreaded tooth pain – the right kind of movement might help to ease the suffering. In the case of joint pain, for example, specialised movements will boost the flow of synovial fluid in the joints, and in any part of the body targeted exercises can move prana, or life-force energy, where it is trapped. From a Yoga perpsective, pain is trapped, prana. There are situations where movement might not be recommended. If your pain is acute, such as a newly injured back or shoulder, it’s advisable to rest first of all and seek treatment from a professional practitioner. Also, can you determine whether the pain is nerve pain or muscular spasm? It’s best to find guidance from a qualified Yoga Therapist or other kind of physical therapist. If your pain is not a nerve issue and you wish to practice the Joint Freeing Series, go to “just before” any point of pain in the movements. The Joint Freeing Series is a sequence of movements which isolate the main joints in the body and the muscles surrounding them, strengthening weak muscles, and softening tight muscles. We recommend considering your pain levels on a scale of 1 – 10 before practicing. If the pain level is between 5 – 10, it’s best to not to practice. If the pain level is lower, between 1-5, gentle practice of the Joint Freeing Series described below, can be beneficial but still caution is needed. It can help to relieve lower, less acute pain levels, so if you experience intermittent flare ups of severe pain, then try practicing the Joint Freeing Series in-between flare-ups. This is a great way to help reduce pain the body, especially in the musculo-skeletal system. Some of the benefits of regular practice of the Joint Freeing Series include
i) Reduced pain
ii) Increased flow of synovial fluid
iii) Increase range of motion in the joints where there are tight muscles, and increased stability around the joints where the muscles are week.
iv) Reduced stress levels in body and mind.
v) Enhanced peace of mind, energised body and mind, and balance in the nervous system due to the total breath-coordinated movements. This can indirectly help to relieve symptoms of pain in other body systems, for example in the gut.
vi) Reduces elevated Vata dosha
Learn the Joint Freeing Series with me on YouTube
2. BREATH PRACTICES FOR PAIN RELIEF– If pain is trapped prana, and prana is carried by the breath, then it stands to reason, doesn’t it, that specific breathing practices can go a long way towards relieving symptoms of pain. At the time that I was teaching pain relief programmes in the Bahamas, I took a break from the ashram and went to India for a while.I did a panchakarma (Ayurveda cleanse) whilst there but was not guided out of it properly and this left me in a lot of pain, as well as weak and unable to eat. I saw two doctors, an allopathic doctor and an Ayurvedic doctor. Both gave me medicines and I remember sitting on my bed after seeing them, with pharmaceutical medicine in one hand, and Ayurvedic herbal medicine in the other, wondering which to go for. In the end I took neither medicine. I decided I should walk my talk and use the Pranayamas (breathing practices) for Pain Relief I had been teaching. And even with this severe pain, the practices worked and I found relief. That evening I was eating curd (similar to plain yoghurt), and the next day I was taking light foods. There are many ways that we can work with the breath for pain relief. Here is a simple technique for you to try any time you feel pain:
As the breath is said to carry our prana (vital energy), intentionally directing the breath to areas of pain is seen in Yoga as a good way to provide relief. Try this pain relieving breath technique whenever needed. It’s good to practice it with low levels of pain at first. Become an adept through practice. Some of my yoga students have successfully used pain-relieving breathing techniques at the dentist, for back pain, and for intestinal cramps.
- Sit or lie down somewhere quietly.
- Describe the pain to yourself. Is it sharp, dull, hot, cold, radiating, specific?
- Connect with your breath and sense you can send your inhalation directly into the centre of the pain. Feel that your exhalation releases fresh energy directly into the area of pain to disperse the blocked energy or prana. You can visualise this energy carried by your breath in the form of a stream of light or liquid: you can give it a colour which is a soothing, calming colour for you.
- Keep breathing into the pain and watch what happens.
- Breathing into your pain consistently, imagine the centre of the pain is a bullseye, your breath is the bow and your awareness is the arrow. As you inhale the bow is drawn back, as you exhale the arrow of your awareness is released to the bullseye. Imagine as you exhale, the energy carried by your breath is spreading throughout the bullseye, and the pain is dissolving as trapped prana, energy, is released with your exhalation.
3. RELAX FOR PAIN RELIEF– People new to Yoga and getting to grips with the foundational practices often tell me that it’s only when they consciously start to relax the body using the techniques of Hatha Yoga that they realise how much tension they are unconsciously holding in the body. Prolonged levels of stress can cause us to take a particular posturing in the body, which over a period of time might cause our muscles to become so chronically tight that we experience pain. We might hold our shoulders raised upwards or round the shoulders, due to stress and worry, fear and nervousness. The surrounding muscles become tight and we possibly start to feel pain in the neck as the muscles spasm and lock tight.
We know that stress has an impact not only on the muscular-skeletal system, but also on the functioning of our internal organs. It can contribute to inflammatory conditions such as IBS or menstrual pain when experienced over a long period of time. Giving a little time daily to deep relaxation practice is a great habit to develop for reducing pain in the body as well as stress in the mind.
The practice of autosuggestion – consciously relaxing each muscle group from the feet upwards – can go a long way towards reducing long-held muscular tensions, possibly relieving stress-induced pain in the musculature and inflammation in the inner body.
When we consider relaxation and pain relief, we must look to the breath once more. The breath is directly connected to our nervous system, affecting it and being affected by it. The exhalation and inhalation relate to the two parts of the autonomic nervous system: parasympathetic and sympathetic respectively. The parasympathetic nervous system is the “rest and digest” part of our nervous system, and it switches off the stress response. These days unfortunately, our nervous systems are locked into the sympathetic drive and it’s stress response which is supposed to cause only a temporary elevation of the body’s respiratory and heart rates, a constriction of blood vessels putting blood pressure up, and a decrease in the motility of the intestines. When the body is locked into this stress response over a prolonged period of time, it leaves our immune response challenged and inflammatory markers in the body raised. It is the exhalation which will help to turn on and strengthen the parasympathetic nervous system, and thereby lower the body’s elevated stress state. Spend some time each day in the relaxation posture and combine effortlessly lengthening exhalations, with the practice of autosuggestion to deeply relax the body, and support reduction of pain and inflammation in the body.
Coming soon – my guided deep relaxation processes on my YouTube channel LoveYogaHealing. Why not subscribe and receive notifications of any new yoga and meditation practices I add to the channel.
4. VISUALISATION-MEDITATION FOR PAIN RELIEF The brain does not distinguish between reality and imagination. And so, watching a thriller on tv or at the cinemas, our adrenalin starts to rush even though we are not under threat from the scenes we are watching: and the thought of juicing or sucking lemons can cause our saliva glands step into action and our mouths start to water. Moving into a deeply relaxed state, visualising the pain or area of pain and seeing it with our mind’s eye change appearance as it releases and relaxes is a proven technique in Neuro Linguistic Programming. Swami Sivananda spoke much on the power of thought.
“Thoughts are giant-powers. They are more powerful than electricity. They control your life, mould your character, and shape your destiny.” Sivananda Saraswati,
The Yogis have long understood that thought comes first and then an action follows. It is, in Yogic thought, at the root of all that is in creation: a thought comes, and manifestation follows. It can be the same in our bodies. If you are not convinced, consider the placebo effect,a seemingly remarkable occurrence when an inactive sugar pill, distilled water or saline solution are given as a fake treatment and yet they improve the patient’s condition.
Each day, find 10 minutes or so to lie back undisturbed in a quiet place and try the following practice to relieve chronic intermittent or ongoing niggling pain in the body. It might take some practice and repetition before you start to really relax, connect with the practice and feel any effects, but do give it a go!
i) To begin with make an image of your pain or inflammation: give it a colour, a shape, a size. Then put that image aside a moment.
ii) In your mind’s eye, take yourself back in time to a place where you felt happy, at east, healthy, contented. Notice how you are feeling in your body in this place, smells, sounds, sights around you. Feel that you are actually there again.
iii) Then can you please imagine your immune cells, imagine that you can see them within you, active and strong in a balanced way. Notice also, see and feel any parts of your body where you have been experiencing pain and inflammation, free and healed of that pain.
iv) Recall your image your pain and see it dissolving and disappearing, taken over by a more wholesome, healing image which is suggested by and represents how you are experiencing your body in this memory, in this happy place in time and space that you have returned to.
v) Rest in that image of pain dissolved, see, feel and hear health and happiness pervading your whole being for a while, perhaps giving health and happiness a colour and/or shape, a sensation, a sound. It flows throughout your body and mind, as stay in this memory, still seeing, feeling, and hearing all that surrounds you. Sensations of wellness and happiness course through your whole body, including areas where you have been experiencing pain.
vi) To finish, and before leaving your memory and opening your eyes, see the present day you appear in your mind’s eye in front of you. Let yourselves hug and let the present day you dissolve into this you in your memory. All lingering inflammation, pain and discomfort dissolves in the floods of health and happiness sensations coursing through you.
5. DIETARY ADJUSTMENTS TO REDUCE PAIN AND INFLAMMATION – Certain foods are allergens and increase the levels of inflammation in our body. Observe it sometimes. If you have been eating a lot of sugar, taking a lot of caffeinated or alcoholic drinks, a familiar gut pain might return, or you might notice that an old recurring knee pain or lower back pain starts to niggle you again, or that your joints in general feel a tad more achy and stiff. Not only do the typical allergens in our diet cause an inflammatory response in our bodies, they also increase the body’s acidity weakening our resistance to dormant bacterial or viral infections which in their wake can again trigger painful inflammatory responses in the joints or any currently weaker body systems such as the reproductive, digestive, respiratory systems.
Try giving up the main allergens – sugar, dairy, gluten, caffeine, alchohol – for just three weeks and see what happens to pain levels in your body. They are sugar, caffeine, alcohol, gluten, and dairy. Opt for a plant based, wholefoods diet for 21 days, at least significantly reducing, if not avoiding all, animal products.
A website called arthrtitis.org sites a number of studies confirming the benefits of a plant based diet on pain-reduction. One study, published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine in 2015, observed 600 participants following a vegan diet for three weeks and found that the diet significantly reduced C-reactive protein, a key marker for acute and chronic inflammation. The Journal of the American Dietetic Association in 2010, cites a study where researchers observed 79 rheumatoid arthritis patients who did a vegetable fast for seven to ten days, followed by a vegan diet or lacto-vegetarian diet (includes dairy and egg). In the study where the patients followed a lacto-vegetarian diet for nine weeks, meaning they still consumed dairy products, researchers found no significant difference in pain or morning stiffness when compared with a control group. However, where another group of patients in the same study followed a vegan diet for three and a half months, they experienced significant improvement in tender and swollen joints, pain, duration of morning stiffness and grip strength than the people in the control group who consumed an ordinary diet. In a study published in Arthritis Research and Care in 2008, 30 patients with rheumatoid arthritis who followed a gluten-free vegan diet for three months experienced reduced inflammation.
In 2010, I developed chronic intestinal pains that were ongoing for 6 months, Whilst waiting for various medical tests and their results, I took the situation into my own hands. I took all allergens out of my diet, removed all yeasts too (also inflammatory) and ate a simple plant based diet and because it was the digestive system where I was experiencing pain and inflammation, I was blending all my foods so that they were like baby foods or thick soups to place as little demand on the digestion as possible. Combined with special gut relaxing yoga practices, and breathing techniques including the one described above, by the time I went to see the specialists one month later, my pain had gone.
I will explore the digestive system and how to strengthen/heal it in a future blog. However, the health of the gut is something to look into if you are experiencing any kind of ongoing or recurring pain and inflammation, even outside of the digestive system. A condition known as “leaky gut” is thought to affect many people. The lining of the small intestine is damaged perhaps by poor dietary choices, or bacteria or parasite infection, or yeast overgrowth, causing particles of undigested food, toxins, and bacteria to literally “leak” through the gut into the bloodstream triggering an inflammatory response as the immune system treats these food particles in the same way it would any foreign material in the bloodstream. This can lead to a number of debilitating and painful conditions from IBS, to rheumatoid arthritis, to chronic fatigue syndrome and inflammatory conditions of the nervous system.
We are exposed to so many different and often conflicting dietary recommendations, aren’t we? They are appearing almost daily in the media: low carbs, high protein, low fat, high fat, the GAP diet, the Paleo Diet are examples. All seem to recommend that we exclude or radically reduce certain food groups from our diet. Ayurvedic wisdom would recommend that we do not exclude any food groups from our diets. Good quality carbohydrates, fats, and proteins all support and play important roles in our physical, mental and emotional health. Ayurveda advises us to keep to a wholefoods, plant-based diet and to eat seasonally (foods grown in the northern hemisphere in our season) and purists might even say keep to local foods. Deer given foods that are out of season struggle to digest them with sometimes lethal consequences.
Proponents of the now popular Paleo diet and others dispute the wisdom of consumption not only of processed grains but also wholegrains. A grain is like a seed and has growth inhibitors which will not be activated until the grain is in the ground and watered. These growth inhibitors resist the enzyme activity of our digestive system making the grains hard to digest sometimes and possibly leading to gut fermentation, which can create leaky gut (described above) and the accompanying inflammation in the body. Sprouting our grains not only increases their digestibility but also releases the treasure-chest of nutrients locked within each grain. Also, for vegetarians, sprouting grains increases their protein content. I’ll be posting more soon on the benefits of sprouting and how to sprout your wholegrains. The Paleo diet seems to accept sprouting grains, but still opposes sprouting legumes. We have to explore and find what works for each one of us.
The New Year is a great time to embark on a new regime and so if you are looking for a way to reduce pain levels in your body, or to simply reduce general stiffness, aches, heaviness and a feeling of malaise, then why not join me on a 21 Day Cleanse Challenge. Join my 21 Day Challenge facebook page. I will be posting recipes, and alongside the pain-relieving visualisation, relaxation and breath and movement practices cited above on my YouTube channel, let’s see if we can give body and mind a boost at the start of this year. You will also get the encouragement of others joining us on the same challenge.
YOGA THERAPY – A personalised approach to Yoga practice to reduce symptoms of pain and chronic illness. Yoga therapy applies the deeper wisdom of Yoga and Ayurveda for restoring equilibrium to body, mind and spirit. To book a consultation and receive your personalised Yoga posture, breath, relaxation and meditation practice, lifestyle and dietary recommendations, please contact me
Om Shanti & Prem
Shama (sara Palmer)
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07910 088 032