Why we summarise research that seems to have nothing to do with yoga

Why we summarise research that seems to have nothing to do with yoga

At Yoga for Pain Care Australia we summarise the growing body of evidence that shows the positive effect of yoga on persistent pain, from back pain to fibromyalgia to multiple sclerosis.

You will notice we occasionally write about research that seems to have nothing to do with yoga.

Yoga by its very nature helps with pain and research backs this up (which doesn’t mean all yoga works for all people all of the time)
The very nature of a complete yoga practice means it does most of the things we know are important for reducing pain: it gets people moving safely, teaches acceptance and relaxation, and improves mindfulness and focus.

Research is reasonably strong for the effect yoga has on symptoms of back pain, fibromyalgia and arthritis. With evidence that chronic pain risk is higher if you are (for example) distressed when you have an accident, yoga may have a role to play in prevention as well.

This certainly doesn’t mean yoga classes are going to fix everybody’s pain.

You can’t benefit from yoga if it’s the wrong place for you
If solving Australia’s pain challenge was as simple as giving policy makers evidence that something reduces pain, half a day reading research on Pubmed would lead to immediate re-allocation of the $35b we spend each year on pain to multi-disciplinary clinics, mindfulness courses and yoga studios.

However, while it’s great more doctors and physiotherapists refer people to yoga, a lot of people with pain try yoga (just as they try many other methods that seem to work for others) and simply don’t get any benefit. Presuming all concerning causes of their pain have been ruled out, three key reasons why yoga won’t work are:

  • The person is in the wrong class for the time being
  • They simply aren’t into yoga
  • They aren’t doing it often enough

Clearly these have nothing to do with yoga itself. They are more about availability of services, personal preferences and financial situation. These factors apply equally to any other health care modality or community to activity.

Answers to pain care lie in the nature of human behaviour
We think the research is pretty clear that yoga (or any other body-mind lineage practice) helps with pain in some way. What is more important than getting everybody to do yoga (or something else) is getting people to the right place, at the right time, recognising the complex factors that help human beings do things that are good for their health, often enough to see the benefits.

That’s why our research summaries cover topics like health education, psychology and social impact measurement.

Read the research summaries here or take a look at the website to learn about our programs.

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