yoga for chronic pain

Photo: Claudia Avila-Batchelor yoga-for-chronic-pain

6 Beginners’ Yin Yoga Poses to Target Chronic Pain

Yoga is a slow and gentle style of movement exercise involving staying in supported poses (asanas) for a few minutes through to longer periods depending on type. Yoga can be practiced on mats, standing, sitting or lying on the floor and great for calming the nervous system.

Rebecca Tidy

What is Yin Yoga?

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IPhoto: Claudia Avila-Batchelor yoga-supported-poses 

Yin Yoga is a gentle type of Yoga which stretches and releases tension in the underlying fascia – deep connective tissue – that holds our muscles, bones and organs in place. By holding the stretch for longer than usual, the connective tissue is stimulated instead of just the muscles. And the body responds by making this connective tissue slightly longer and stronger.

Yin Yoga poses for Chronic Pain

release tension with yoga

Claudia Avila-Batchelor  release-tension-with-yoga

Connective tissue is especially important to people with chronic pain. It sends the message – from our brain or nervous system –  to tell the muscles to contract, often causing or increasing pain. In yin yoga, we combine stretching with slow breathing, with the end goal of encouraging the muscles to slowly relax instead of contract.

Is Yin Yoga uncomfortable? 

yoga breathing for chronicpain

Claudia Avila-Batchelor  yoga-breathing-for-chronic-pain

It’s normal to feel slight discomfort as you ease into the postures – but you should ensure your breath is easy and you feel no burning pain. These yoga poses for chronic pain don’t need any specialist equipment, although you may find a pillow useful. They are best performed as a sequence, lasting around 20 minutes.

1. Modified Child’s Pose

stretching spine muscles

IPhoto: Claudia Avila-Batchelor   stretching-spine-muscles

What does the modified child’s pose do? 
This classic posture stretches the muscles around the spine, while relieving back and neck tension. Kneel on the floor.

relaxing yoga for chronic pain

I Claudia Avila-Batchelor   relaxing-yoga-for-chronic-pain

Bring your big toes together to touch one another.
Place your knees as wide apart as you’d like.

 alternative child’s pose

IPhoto: Claudia Avila-Batchelor    alternative-child’s-pose

How is the modified child’s yoga pose for chronic pain different?
Instead of bringing the upper body forwards – like in a traditional child’s pose – bring it down towards the right

soothe and relieve chronic pain

IPhoto: Claudia Avila-Batchelor   soothe-and-relive-chronic-pain

You could place a pillow underneath your forehead or chest. After 5 minutes, lift the upper body up, move your pillow to the left and drop into the pose on this side.

yoga helps sore muscles

IPhoto: Claudia Avila-Batchelor  yoga-helps-sore-muscles

If you have knee issues, place a pillow between your legs

2. Half Dragonfly

half dragonfly yoga pose

Photo: Claudia Avila-Batchelor  half-dragonfly-yoga-pose

Benefits of the Half Dragonfly position 
The half dragonfly releases tension in the shoulders and upper body with this yin position. It can also reduce the pain associated with frozen shoulder. 

release the pressure

Photo: Claudia Avila-Batchelor  release-the-pressure

How to get into the Half Dragonfly position

Lie on your left side, with your left arm straight out in front of you.
Roll slowly onto your front, so your chest is resting on your left arm. 
Rest your forehead on the floor or prop it up with a pillow – whichever feels most comfortable.
Reach your right arm up, so it’s next to your head.
Press your right palm towards the ground.

relaxing through yoga

IPhoto: Claudia Avila-Batchelor  relaxing-through-yoga

Ensure your legs are relaxed and a comfortable distance apart.
Hold for 3 minutes, before repeating on your left side.

careful poses to avoid injury

Photo: Claudia Avila-Batchelor   careful-poses-to-avoid-injury

Roll back onto your side and carefully sit up.
It’s best to elevate your hips with a pillow, if you suffer from sciatica.

3. Butterfly

yoga butterfly pose

IPhoto: Claudia Avila-Batchelor     yoga-butterfly-pose

Relieve tightness of the lower back and hip flexors with this forward fold.

How to get into butterfly position 

From a seated position, bring the soles of your feet together and then slide them away from you.

forward back stretch

Photo: Claudia Avila-Batchelor   forward-back-stretch

Allow your back to round, while you fold forward.
Rest your hands on your feet.
Your head should hang down towards your heels.

protect your neck

Photo: Claudia Avila-Batchelor   protect-your-neck

Hold for 5 minutes.
Slowly ease your head back up into its usual position.

contraindication for whiplash

Claudia Avila-Batchelor   contraindication-for-whiplash 

Butterfly Contraindications:
Avoid dropping your head, if you’ve recently suffered whiplash.
Elevate your hips by sitting on a pillow, if you have sciatica.

4. Reclined Butterfly

reclined butterfly yoga pose

Photo: Claudia Avila-Batchelor  reclined-butterfly-yoga-pose

This soothing pose gently stretches the inner thighs, hips and knees.
 Lie down onto a pillow, ensuring it’s positioned under your rib cage.

open legs stretch

Photo: Claudia Avila-Batchelor  open-legs-stretch

Bring the soles of your feet together.
Place the feet as close to your body as comfortable, with your knees open wide.

neck stretch for pain

IPhoto: Claudia Avila-Batchelor   neck-stretch-for-pain

Ensure the top of your head, hips and sides of your feet are lying against the floor.

yoga helps sore muscles

Photo: Claudia Avila-Batchelor   yoga-relief-for-sore-muscles

Additional stretch for Reclined Butterfly:
For an extra stretch in the shoulders and chest, rest your hands on your stomach or hold opposite elbows above the head.
Hold for 5 minutes. Release your legs, roll carefully onto your side and slowly sit up.

Contraindications of Reclining Butterfly:
If you have a groin or knee injury, perform this pose with pillows under the outer thighs.

5. Reclined Spinal Twist

reclined spinal twist

Photo: Claudia Avila-Batchelor  reclined-spinal-twist

The why and how of the reclined spinal twist 

Twisting postures can be a relaxing way to release tension around the spine, while helping to restore its natural range of motion.
Lie on your back.
Draw both knees into your chest.

yoga for sore joints

Photo: Claudia Avila-Batchelor   yoga-for-sore-joints

Open your arms to the side, so they’re at a right angle to your body.

spinal twist for pain relief

Photo: Claudia Avila-Batchelor  spinal-twist-for-pain-relief 

Drop your knees to the right.

yoga breathing

IPhoto: Claudia Avila-Batchelor   yoga-breathing

Hold for 3 minutes, before repeating on your left side.

natural pain relief

IPhoto: Claudia Avila-Batchelor  natural-pain-relief  

Reclined Spinal Twist for sciatica:
Direct the knees lower or higher to impact on where in the spine the stretch is felt.
For sciatica pain relief, bring the bent knee towards the chest.

relaxing stretch

Photo: Claudia Avila-Batchelor  relaxing-stretch

People with shoulder issues may find it more comfortable to bend their arms.

6. Shavasana

shavasana pose

Claudia Avila-Batchelor  shavasana-pose

What is Shavasana

Shavasana rests the body and mind. It should be the final pose in any yin yoga sequence.
Lie on your back and place your arms to the side with your palms facing upwards.

yoga breathing to relieve pain

Photo: Claudia Avila-Batchelor   yoga-breathing-to-relieve-pain

Breath and Shavasana:

Pay attention to your breath.
Slowly scan your body, noting how each body part feels.
Hold for 3 to 5 minutes.


IPhoto: Claudia Avila-Batchelor    side-push-up

Slowly roll onto your side and push yourself up as it’s important to be measured when you are practising yoga poses for chronic pain.

shavasana with support

IPhoto: Claudia Avila-Batchelor  shavasana-with-support

Expert Bio:
Rebecca Tidy is a qualified yoga instructor. She originally learned yoga to help reduce her own chronic pain, caused by cancer treatment.
Now, she loves helping others reduce their discomfort, while increasing mobility..
It’s always wise to chat to a doctor before beginning any exercise programme, especially if you have any serious health issues or may be pregnant.

25 years of wisdom and heritage

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