Four yoga moves to stop chronic pain

February 15, 2010 4:59:01 PM PST
They'll also put your mind and body in a better mood.

Why yoga can help back pain:

  1. Yoga teaches you healthy, natural ways to move your spine and whole body. You'll be less likely to aggravate a back injury through mindless movement in everyday life.

  2. Yoga reduces stress. Back pain is strongly related to stress. Stress increases muscle tension and joint inflammation, and makes the pain receptors in your body and brain reactive to pain. Yoga teaches you how to relax unnecessary tension, how to breathe in a way that shuts down stress, and how to take time to yourself for rest and recovery from the craziness of life.

  3. Yoga helps the body and brain produce the natural chemicals that suppress pain and produce feelings of pleasure and joy. It puts your mind and your body in a better mood.
Four movements to help ease back pain:
  1. All Four's/Child Pose. On all fours, inhale to lift your chest and arch the spine; as you exhale, draw your abdomen in, tuck your chin to your chest, and round your back. Repeat for a few breaths, then rest in child's poses (hips back to your heels, arms stretched in front of you).

  2. Cobra Rising and Rest. Lying on your belly, bring your arms by your side, either bent with your hands by your chest, or stretched straight back alongside your hips. As you inhale, lift your head, shoulders, chest, and legs. Come up only as far as you can maintain a comfortable breath. To rest, lower and relax, making a pillow for your head with your hands.

  3. Cradle Pose. Lying on your back, cross one ankle over the opposite leg, near the knee. Draw the bottom leg in toward your belly and clasp your hands behind the thigh. Keep your head and shoulders relaxed on the ground.

  4. Supported Relaxation Pose with Belly Breathing. Relaxation is extremely important, and the pose busy people love to skip! I can show how to use a sofa/chair to support the legs as you lie on your back, or just the basic lying on your back with legs bent. I'll explain how to breathe here in a way that reduces stress and helps manage pain.
About Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D.:
Kelly is an award-winning instructor at Stanford University, where she teaches yoga, psychology, and healthy back classes. She is a leader in mind-body science and practice, and provides teacher trainings and continuing education for yoga, fitness, and health care professionals.

McGonigal is editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Yoga Therapy and a frequent writer for publications such as Yoga Journal and IDEA Fitness Journal.

She was also recently named by Forbes as one of 20 Inspiring Women to Follow on Twitter.

Visit her online at

About the Book: "Healing your pain & restoring your spirit with yoga"
A guide to using yoga and the latest in mind-body research to end the physical, mental, and emotional suffering of chronic pain.

Yoga has become increasingly popular over the last decade. By now nearly everyone knows how a steady yoga practice can increase flexibility and decrease stress. What isn't as commonly known is the positive effect yoga has on those suffering from chronic pain. In fact, yoga is a proven treatment for back and knee pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and other chronic pain conditions.

Author Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., has created more than a simple book of postures. Yoga For Pain Relief offers a complete mind-body program for healing chronic pain and mastering relaxation practices drawn from the yogic tradition. McGonigal also helps readers address feelings of anger or betrayal that may be keeping them from making peace with their bodies.