Pain relief through yoga

September 2017

By Saraswathi Vasudevan

Conscious breathing is a powerful tool to minimise pain and take the mind’s focus away from it, so that the body’s natural recovery process can take over, says Saraswathi Vasudevan

We work a lot with people with pain conditions; from general aches and pains to chronic neck, lower-back and arthritic conditions. When there is intense pain, it can hamper our ability to cope with daily life, causing emotional disturbance, anxiety and even depression. When the mind is disturbed, it interferes with the healing and recovery of the body. We become more and more attached to the very pain we want to get rid of.

As yoga therapists, the very first tool we engage with is the breath. Conscious breathing, especially slow and gentle exhalation, will:

  • Relax the muscles and ease the pain
  • Calm the mind, for a quiet mind steps out of the way for the body to heal, regulate itself.

So, one of the effects of a good therapeutic practice is that the person feels immediate relief in pain and disturbances of the mind. When one tastes the state of calmness and comfort, even if temporary, it helps one to commit to regular practice. We experientially understand that even simple practices can work wonders!

Healing is holistic

It is important to understand that the body is constantly changing and getting impacted by so many factors both within and without. We don’t have an ideal lifestyle. We are not able to follow food discipline. And even if we are very good with all these, we have the mind to deal with! Without bringing any change in the mind, we cannot hope to progress much with just taking care of the body. And for reaching and working with the mind, breath is such a fine tool!

The goal of yoga is citta vrtti nirodha, which means to achieve a quiet mind that can reflect the reality to us as it is. When our perception is free from distortions, when the mind is quiet, the body settles down. Just a glimpse of this experience helps us understand the power of yoga. Only when we taste this quietness, can our conviction grow. It is like tasting a mango; no matter how much I describe the taste to you, unless you taste it, you will never know.


Try this practice for calming the body and mind with the breath. Choose a lying (supine) posture with legs bent or legs raised on a stool. Lower back, neck,  and shoulders should be in relaxed position.

Bring your focus to the natural
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