How do yoga, yoga therapy and meditation work to address pain?
Through breath-centered meditation and movement meditation, or yoga “asana” postures, the vagus nerve can be toned and the parasympathetic relaxation response can be turned on. It’s commonly said that there’s a “smoothing out” that happens when breath is focused on the places where pain is experienced. The phrase “send your breath to your knee” refers to the act of sending the energy, expansiveness and calm that can create that smoothing effect. It’s all because of the power of the mind, which doesn’t necessarily take away the actual pain but gives the person a different relationship to the pain by putting some space between them and the sensation.
An important thing to note in pain management is that everyone’s pain is different. That has to do with the wiring of the brain, but also the stress response and how that amplifies pain. The relaxation response may not change the physicality of what’s happening, but rather the person’s experience of what’s happening.
Many older people that may not have been in touch with their bodies throughout their lives may not know the difference between stiffness, sensation and pain. Yoga helps bring to light and discern what one is feeling.
Blakey Elkhart Kornfeld is founder of Elkhart Yoga Therapy, teaches with Transformation Yoga Project and has completed trainings in trauma sensitive yoga and yoga therapeutics. For more information, call 501-574-8703 or visit ElkhartYoga.com.