Category: Yoga


Millions of Australians suffer from chronic pain, defined as pain lasting longer than three months. While there are many conventional treatments available, such as medication and physical therapy, some patients do not respond well to these interventions. For these individuals, complementary and alternative therapies, such as practicing yoga, may be a helpful addition.

Is there evidence to show that practicing yoga can help when you have chronic pain?

A recent systematic review analysed data from 31 clinical trials involving 2,768 participants to determine the effectiveness of regular yoga practice in treating chronic pain conditions. The review found that consistent yoga practice can lead to significant improvements in pain, disability, and mood in people with chronic pain conditions. When compared to other interventions, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), the effect sizes were found to be moderate. Yoga is one of the therapies recommended by the American Pain Society for people with low back pain who do not improve with other self-care strategies.

So what exactly is yoga?

Yoga is an ancient practice that originated in India and involves a series of physical postures (asanas), breathing exercises (pranayama), and mindfulness meditation. Yoga means “union” in Sanskrit, the language of ancient India, and it is the union of body, mind, and spirit.

Yoga is a holistic practice that includes physical, mental, and emotional components.

The physical component of yoga is the asana or Yoga pose. Asana practice helps to improve flexibility, strength, and balance.

The mental component of Yoga is the breathing practice or pranayama. Pranayama helps to improve concentration and focus.

The emotional component of Yoga is the practice of mindfulness and meditation. Meditation helps to improve calmness and peace of mind.

Yoga exercises have been shown to improve a variety of conditions, including anxiety, depression, fatigue, and insomnia.

In terms of specific benefits, yoga has been shown to:

  • Relax the nervous system
  • Decrease inflammation
  • Increase pain tolerance
  • Improve sleep quality
  • Enhance mood
  • Increase sends of control over symptoms and overall well-being.

Who should do yoga?

Most people with chronic pain can benefit from doing yoga. However, it is important to find a class that is suitable for your level of fitness and flexibility.

What type of yoga might be beneficial if I have chronic pain?

It is important to note that not all yoga classes are created equal; specifically, those classes labeled “Hatha” or “Iyengar” may be more beneficial for people in pain as opposed to more “ athletic” classes such as Ashtanga or Bikram. Hatha yoga classes tend to be slower-paced and focus on holding postures for long periods, while Iyengar classes place emphasize proper alignment. If you are interested in trying yoga but are not sure where to start, it may be helpful to consult with a certified instructor beforehand.

Yoga for chronic pain series

This series, produced by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for veterans, is one of the best and gentlest online yoga resources for patients living with chronic pain that we have been able to find online.

The video clips are around 5 – 7 minutes long and presented in two sections, which when done in sequence, resulting in two 30-minute yoga classes.

The series is taught by a pain psychologist and physiotherapist and follows a slow easy pace. the yoga poses are also taught in a seated position and have multiple modifications if you are unable to do certain movements.

Yoga Class 1

Introduction and breathing practice

One of the most important aspects of yoga is breathing. Proper breathing helps to oxygenate the blood and improve circulation. It also helps to ease tension and anxiety.

Several different breathing techniques can be used in yoga, but one of the most basic is simply to inhale slowly through the nose and exhale slowly through the mouth. This simple practice can help to clear the mind and focus the body, making it an essential part of any Yoga routine.

Cat-Cow Yoga Pose (Chakravaksana)

The Cat-Cow Pose, or Chakravaksana, is a simple Yoga Pose that provides numerous benefits. 

The Cat-Cow Pose stretches and strengthens the spine, neck, and shoulders. In addition, the Cat-Cow Pose helps to relieve stress and tension headaches. The pose gets its name from the movement of the spine, which resembles a cat stretching its back or a cow chewing its cud. 

To do the Cat-Cow Pose, start on all fours with your hands and knees on the ground. As you inhale, arch your back and look up towards the ceiling. As you exhale, round your back and tuck your chin towards your chest. Repeat this sequence for 10 rounds. You can also add variations to this Yoga Pose by moving your head side to side or in circles as you move through the pose. 

The Cat-Cow Pose is a gentle Yoga Pose that provides numerous benefits for the body and mind.

Child’s Pose (Balasana)

One of the most basic Yoga poses is known as Child’s Pose or Balasana. This pose can be performed by anyone, regardless of their level of experience with Yoga. To assume the position, start by sitting on your heels with your knees touching. Then, slowly lower your torso down to your thighs and stretch your arms out in front of you. If you can, rest your forehead on the ground. Child’s Pose can be held for as long as desired but is typically held for 1-2 minutes.

While Child’s Pose may seem like a simple position, it offers a number of benefits. First, the pose helps to stretch the muscles in the back, shoulders, and legs. This can help to relieve tension and pain in these areas. Additionally, Child’s Pose is believed to calm the nervous system and help promote relaxation. For this reason, the pose is often included in Yoga classes designed to help students wind down and de-stress.

Given all of these benefits, it’s no wonder that Child’s Pose is one of the most popular Yoga poses. Whether you are new to Yoga or have been practicing for years, this pose is a great way to improve your physical and mental health.

Back Bend (Anuvittasana)

Back Bend (Anuvittasana) is a yoga pose that offers several benefits. The pose helps to stretch and strengthen the back muscles, as well as the muscles of the chest and arms. Additionally, the pose can help to improve posture and relieve tension headaches. The pose is also said to energize the body and promote a sense of well-being.

To do this pose, start in a standing position with your feet together. Then, bend backward from the waist, keeping your legs straight. Reach your arms overhead, and if possible, clasp your hands together behind your back. Hold the pose for at least 30 seconds before coming back to standing.

For beginners, it is important to practice the pose with caution and stop if there is any discomfort. Those with back pain or injuries should consult with a doctor before practicing Back Bend (Anuvittasana). With regular practice, Back Bend (Anuvittasana) can provide many physical and mental benefits.

Spinal Twist (Parivrtta Sukhasana)

The spinal twist (Parivrtta Sukhasana) stretches and strengthens the back, shoulders, and neck, and can help to relieve pain in these areas. The spinal twist can be performed in a seated or standing position, and can be done with or without props. To do the pose, start in a sitting position with your legs crossed in front of you. Place your right hand on your left knee, and twist your torso to the left, looking over your left shoulder. Repeat on the other side.

Yoga is a great way to improve your flexibility and strength, and the spinal twist is one of the most basic and beneficial Yoga poses.

Corpse Pose (Savasana)

One of the most important poses in Yoga is known as corpse pose, or Savasana. This pose is often done at the end of a Yoga session, and it involves lying on your back with your eyes closed and your arms and legs spread out.

To do Corpse Pose, simply lie on your back with your legs extended and your arms at your sides. Close your eyes and focus on your breath. remain in this pose for 5-10 minutes, or longer if you wish.

The benefits of corpse pose include reducing stress, improving circulation, and helping to boost energy levels. In addition, corpse pose can also help to improve flexibility and reduce pain. For these reasons, corpse pose is an essential part of Yoga practice.

Yoga Class 2

Ocean Breath (Ujjayi Pranayama)

One of the most important benefits of yoga is its ability to help control the breath. The ocean breath, or ujjayi pranayama, is a breathing technique that is often used in yoga. This technique involves inhaling and exhaling deeply and rhythmically, with the mouth slightly open. The sound of the breath should resemble the sound of waves crashing on the shore.

Ocean breathing can help to calm and focus the mind, as well as relax the body. It is also said to improve circulation and boost energy levels. Consequently, ocean breath is an important tool for anyone interested in achieving physical and mental balance.

Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)

Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana) is a Yoga pose that helps to improve flexibility. Bridge Pose stretches the chest, neck, and spine. It also strengthens the back and leg muscles.

To do Bridge Pose, lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Place your arms at your sides with your palms facing down. Take a deep breath in and lift your hips off the ground, extending your legs so that they are straight. Hold the pose for 5-10 breaths before releasing and repeating on the other side.

Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

One of the most basic yoga poses is Mountain Pose or Tadasana. This pose can be done anywhere, making it a convenient choice for busy people. In addition, Mountain Pose provides a number of health benefits. For example, it helps to improve posture and increase flexibility. Additionally, this pose strengthens the muscles in the legs, back, and abdomen.

To do this pose, simply stand with your feet together and your hands at your sides. Then, inhale and raise your arms overhead. Exhale as you reach your fingertips up towards the sky, lengthening your spine. Finally, inhale as you bring your arms back down to your sides. Remember to breathe deeply throughout the pose to reap the maximum benefits.

Tree Pose (Vrksasana)

One of the most well-known yoga poses is Tree Pose or Vrksasana. This standing balance pose helps to improve focus and concentration, while also strengthening the legs and ankles. Additionally, Tree Pose can help to improve your sense of balance and coordination. If you’re new to yoga or looking to add a challenge to your practice, here’s how to do Tree Pose:

Begin in Mountain Pose, with your feet hip-width apart and your hands at your sides. Shift your weight onto your left foot and bring your right foot to rest against your left ankle or thigh. Press your right foot firmly into your left leg then, bring your hands together in front of your chest in the Namaste position and focus your gaze on a point in front of you. Hold the pose for 30 seconds to one minute, then repeat on the other side.

Tree Pose can help improve balance and coordination while also strengthening the ankles and thighs. Additionally, the pose can help to stretch the hips, chest, and shoulders. With regular practice, you will be able to achieve a deeper stretch and hold the pose for longer periods.

Corpse Pose (Savasana)

Corpse Pose is repeated at the end of Yoga class 2 as it was at the end of class 1. This is because Corpse Pose is one of the most important yoga poses, traditionally done at the end of a yoga practice.

To do Corpse Pose, simply lie on your back with your legs extended and your arms at your sides. Close your eyes and focus on your breath. remain in this pose for 5-10 minutes, or longer if you wish.

In conclusion, if you suffer from chronic pain and have not found relief from conventional treatments, yoga may be worth exploring. Yoga has been shown to improve a variety of conditions, including anxiety, depression, fatigue, and insomnia; in terms of pain specifically, yoga has been found to help increase pain tolerance and reduce perceived pain intensity.

When choosing a class, look for those labeled “Hatha” or “Iyengar” as they tend to be more beneficial for people in pain as opposed to more “ athletic” classes such as Ashtanga or Bikram. If you are interested in trying yoga but are not sure where to start, it may be helpful to consult with a certified instructor beforehand.

Disclosure: The information in this article is not intended to replace your doctor’s medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you require more information, or have any questions, please speak to your doctor/ specialist.

Resources and references

  1. All YouTube links are from the Veterans Health Administration (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)
  2. Find a yoga therapist through Yoga Australia – or the Australasian Association of Yoga Therapists –
  3. Groessl EJ, Liu L, Chang DG, Wetherell JL, Bormann JE, Atkinson JH, Baxi S, Schmalzl L. Yoga for Military Veterans with Chronic Low Back Pain: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Am J Prev Med. 2017 Nov;53(5):599-608. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2017.05.019. Epub 2017 Jul 20. PMID: 28735778; PMCID: PMC6399016.
  4. Cramer H, Lauche R, Haller H, Dobos G. A systematic review and meta-analysis of yoga for low back pain. The Clinical journal of pain 2013; 29(5): 450-60. DOI: 10.1097/AJP.0b013e31825e1492
  5. Wieland LS, Skoetz N, Pilkington K, Vempati R, D’Adamo CR, Berman BM. Yoga treatment for chronic non-specific low back pain. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017 Jan 12;1(1):CD010671. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD010671.pub2. PMID: 28076926; PMCID: PMC5294833.
  6. Cramer H, Ward L, Saper R, Fishbein D, Dobos G, Lauche R. The Safety of Yoga: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Am J Epidemiol 2015; 182(4): 281-93. DOI: 10.1093/aje/kwv071.