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Chronic Pain: Your Private Dancer

September 2018










Pain is a complex experience, a dance of sorts. Marked by practiced measures and energetic fluctuations. Punctuated by abrupt stops and held breaths. Directing how one stands, steps, bends, and rests. Living with chronic pain may seem like an invisible dance partner is choreographing your whole life. Constantly leading, forcing you to follow.

More than 25 million American adults live with pain daily. Yet, pain is an entirely individual experience. Pain can be physical, psychological or emotional - locked in a muscle group, tethered to a traumatic loss or wrapped around a memory. So how does one begin to understand another’s pain? By listening. Felt pain is what another tells you it is.    

The human body is designed to sense and respond to internal and external stimuli. Nerve impulses travel via diffused synapse points through the spinal cord and brainstem into various parts of the brain. The dispersed points by which synapses travel, as well as how the brain interprets these impulses, can make it difficult to identify the exact location of pain in the body. Referred pain describes pain felt in the body, but in a different site than that of the actual injury or trauma. Another reason why pain is not straightforward to understand or treat.

We can, however, begin to understand pain by the length of time it exists and its severity. Acute pain is shorter-lived, lasting less than three to six months. It is usually caused by something particular, such as burns, broken bones, surgery, or childbirth. Chronic pain continues for six months or longer, lasting beyond the normally expected time frame for the healing process to transpire. Chronic pain may manifest in a variety of inflammatory diseases, such as autoimmune diseases, asthma, cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, among others. Inflammation may be observed in the body as redness, heat, swelling, pain or loss of function.

Awareness of the diversity and subjective nature of experienced pain necessitates a diversity of treatment options. It is critical not to ignore pain as a coping strategy, as the body and nervous system may then just magnify the signals to command attention. Through self-observation and acceptance, a client with chronic pain may develop a higher tolerance, as well as shorten recovery time.

Yoga therapy – incorporating and practicing the principles of mind, body, and breath - is an effective approach by which one can observe and manage the physiological and psychosocial symptoms of pain, such as fatigue, stress, insomnia, fear, anxiety, sense of loss, depression, low self-esteem and social isolation. An inherent relationship exists between pain, perception, and emotion. Because of this interconnected relationship, pain can have an adverse effect on emotional and intellectual functioning. Mindfulness has proven to decrease pain scores and research suggests that meditators may learn to view painful stimuli more neutrally. Breathing techniques can help engage the nervous system’s relaxation response, as well as decrease the levels of carbon dioxide in the body. Increased levels of carbon dioxide create alkaline imbalances in the blood that may further aggravate pain.

Understanding your relationship to pain is an opportunity to change the commanding role it may play. If chronic pain is your private dance partner, remember you have the power to reset the stage, change your tune, and take back the leading role in your life.


Carson, J. W., Carson, K. M., Jones, K. D., Lancaster L., & Mist, S. D. (2016). Mindful Yoga Pilot Study Shows Modulation of Abnormal Pain Processing in Fibromyalgia Patients. International Journal of Yoga Therapy, Vol. 26, Issue 1.


Khalsa, S. B. S., Cohen, L., McCall, T., & Telles, S. (2016). The Principles and Practice of Yoga in Health Care. Edinburgh, UK: Handspring Publishing Limited.


Martin, D. (1990). Chronic Pain and Yoga Therapy. The Journal of the International Association of Yoga Therapists: 1990, Vol. 1, No. 1-2.


National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health


Pearson, N. (2008). Yoga Therapy in Practice: Yoga for People in Pain. International Journal for Yoga Therapy, Vol. 18, No. 1.


Story, L. (2015). Pathophysiology: A practical approach. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

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Anxiety: The Plight of the Pinball Wizard

August 2018












Are you a Pinball Wizard? Racing and bouncing daily between destination points: home, work, carpooling kids, grocery store, last-minute errands. Factor in flipping through groan-inducing obstacles like traffic, unexpected deadlines, a miscommunication with someone special, maybe a lost night’s sleep worrying about juggling details or staring at your phone checking emails…


Where does your self-care fit into the list?


We become conditioned to think a Netflix-binge or tunneling into social media allows an escape, but afterward did you find that true calm and grounding you were seeking? Still waiting to catch your breath?


Living in a culture dominated by multi-tasking, material distractions and compulsive screen time, it is easy to feel disconnected and overwhelmed. Many of us have lost the ability to sit in peaceful stillness and feel centered in our body, mind, and breath.


Consistent and excessive stressors cause anxiety, which can affect the ability to pilot daily living. Forty million adults in the United States are affected by anxiety. Anxiety and stress take a toll on an individual’s ability to navigate the tightrope associated with maintaining life-work balance. Individuals with ongoing anxiety experience symptoms manifesting as restlessness, sleep disturbance, irritability, chronic headaches, muscle tension, gastrointestinal difficulties, depression, decreased receptiveness to new experiences, disconnection from social support systems, and/or a diminished sense of fulfillment.


With nearly one-fifth of the American population experiencing anxiety and related symptoms, the challenge of maintaining self-care practices and life balance is a very real experience.


Living with chronic anxiety, one’s mind and body struggle excessively to counterbalance stressors. Unable to claim grounding, the stress-response perpetuates. Chronic anxiety creates dysfunction in the body’s stress-response system preventing the mind and body from effectively returning to a state of calm. This imbalance in the nervous system has far-reaching effects on emotional regulation, cognitive function, and social relationships, as well as with proper functioning of the cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal, and immunological systems.


Yoga therapy can help. Research shows the yogic elements of breath, meditation/visualization, and mindful movement can address the ramifications of chronic anxiety. Benefits include re-balancing the nervous system’s stress-response cycle, neuroplasticity to retrain the brain how to respond in stressful moments, neuromuscular re-education to teach the body how to be strong yet flexible, and improving a sense of connectedness to self and social networks.


With practice, one can begin to recognize and reduce the symptoms associated with anxiety. Learn how to reset the mind, breath, and body to more calmly and intentionally respond in any given moment.

Anxiety and Depression Association of America.


The International Association of Yoga Therapists (2016). Contemporary Definitions of Yoga Therapy.


Khalsa, S. B. S., Cohen, L., McCall, T., & Telles, S. (2016). The Principles and Practice of Yoga in Health Care. Edinburgh, UK: Handspring Publishing Limited.


Locke, A. B., Kirst, N. and Shultz, C. G. (2015). Diagnosis and Management of Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder in Adults. American Family Physician, May 1;91(9):617-624.


Schmalzl, L., Powers, C., & Henje Blom, E. (2015). Neurophysiological and neurocognitive mechanisms underlying the effects of yoga-based practices: towards a comprehensive theoretical framework. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 9.


Wisneski, L. A., and Anderson L., (2009). The Scientific Basis of Integrative Medicine. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

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