What surprises yoga teachers and health practitioners about Yoga for Pain

What surprises yoga teachers and health practitioners about Yoga for Pain

Many people – people with pain, yoga teachers and health practitioners – think that Yoga for Pain is about modifying postures to suit physical injuries. While the training does help with making better movement choices, this is in fact just one part of a range of skills we offer to help those with pain.

In the early stages of the 12-week course we learn to calm the sympathetic nervous system, through breath work, relaxation skills and mindfulness.  There is also an emphasis on uncovering what the client needs from yoga, rather than what we as the practitioner think we can, or should, give them. (There is no point providing world class stress management tools if the client perceives, for example, that they are too busy, or too anxious to use them.)

Yoga for pain practitioner training prepares yoga teachers and health practitioners for these tasks by encouraging their capacity for inquiry. This is supported through the structure of outcomes-based lesson planning, where they consider what they really intend to achieve with a client (including at a physical, social and psychological level) and then draw on their individual skill set to develop a flexible plan tailored to those needs.

We think that the capacity to inquire is critical for getting great results, rather than just good ones.

A physiotherapist and yoga teacher at the training in May said:

Having to come up with our own answers is frustrating, but ultimately more powerful than having them handed to us.

Without inquiry we can offer clients a range of techniques to help them relax, we can explain to them how pain works (which will likely affect their beliefs about how well they can be) and we can teach yoga in a way that has been known to work for people with pain before.

But without inquiry we can never know what is unique about this person who has presented to us for care. We are unlikely to appreciate how what we teach them on the yoga mat supports what they want for life, or what else is going on in their life that is affecting their wellbeing.

It will be difficult to give them what they need because we won’t really know what they need, and it is very likely that our programs will become static.

When clients outgrow Yoga for Pain it’s awesome. Our techniques have probably worked. Through inquiry we are able to recognise when to guide them onwards, and to where. We may also find we have the capacity to grow with them.

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