Yoga Therapy and Pain Management

Susan LeVine, C-IAYT, ERYT 500

Yoga therapy is a wonderful modality for pain management that uses a wide range of mind/body practices, from postural and breathing exercises to deep relaxation and meditation. These practices are tailored to the needs of the individual. Yoga is not a “one size fits all” approach to optimum wellness.

Yoga therapy has recently emerged as a valuable profession. It is extremely useful in situations where medical treatment alone is not
working such as: back pain, insomnia, anxiety and high blood pressure. It has become especially popular for musculoskeletal issues like back pain, sciatica, and shoulder, neck and hip pain. It can reduce pain by strengthening weak muscles and stretching tight ones. The mindful practice of yoga can increase body awareness and reduce postural maladaptive patterns.

“Back pain is more likely to be persistent when comorbid psychosocial distress is present.  Research on yoga for psychological
health is

growing, with promising evidence of benefit for depression. Neuroanatomical studies have linked longitudinal yoga practice to increased thickness of cortical gray matter in brain areas associated with enhanced pain tolerance….Yoga has even demonstrated to increase levels of neurotransmitters in the brain such as GABA.”(1)

Sometimes people get stuck in a “pain cycle” where they think and talk of nothing else.  Wellness-Programs-Riordan-ClinicThis becomes a thought groove in their minds and a meditation on pain. The brain responds to these thought patterns by creating more pain receptors. The pain can become worse, and the person becomes more anxious and depressed.

By teaching the mind to focus on something other than the pain, new thought grooves are established in the mind. The person can cope better in the moment, and also “change their mind” in the long term. This change in thinking is possible for people of any age if there is willingness to try and to practice. Recent research on the brain supports the hopeful possibilities of the neuroplasticity of the brain. In plain English, it’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks.

Yoga therapy is tailored to the individual. The therapist is trained to evaluate and assess what will be just right for the situation, and to provide empowering support to the client. He or she does not diagnose or treat conditions, but rather assesses the whole person, and provides education on yogic techniques that will optimize health. In yoga therapy, the client is the expert, and the therapist helps them connect with the wisdom of their own bodies and minds.

It is crucial to work with a qualified yoga therapist, because you are entrusting them with your body, mind and spirit.   For more information, and to find a qualified therapist, go to The International Association of Yoga Therapists website (

  1. The Principles and Practices of Yoga in Health Care, by Sat Bir Sing Khalsa, Lorenzo Cohen, Timothy McCall and Shirley Telles, Handspring Publishing, LTD, 2016.

Susan LeVine has been teaching Yoga for over 22 years and is a Certified Yoga Therapist.  She is also certified to teach Shambhava Yoga™ Asana and Shambhava Yoga™ Meditation.

She is director of Yoga for You, a Yoga and Meditation Center where she teaches Yoga Movement Therapy Classes, which are held by appointment, or on the public class schedule. She cares deeply about her clients, and hopes to help each one to find the joy of their own Yoga. Contact Susan for more information or to schedule an appointment! 316.644.3944

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