Do yoga teachers lean towards a protective, or progressive, approach when their students have pain?

Tele-health services increasingly provide country patients with up-to-date pain education, but don’t offer the ongoing support many people need to practice skills on their own.

To reduce and prevent chronic pain, we need to help people practice self-management long enough to retain the benefits, and to develop protective factors, like physical activity, social interaction and psychological wellbeing.

Research shows yoga can be a safe way for people with pain to resume activity. There is also good evidence for yoga’s effect on mental health, and the popular format of group classes can offer social interaction. Thanks to an internship facilitated by McCusker Institute, psychology student Amelia Reynolds studied whether yoga teachers could play a role in regional pain care. As one component to her study, Amelia asked yoga teachers in southwest WA how they currently work with students with chronic pain.

Amelia found that while most teachers intuitively adapt for pain students in ways we consider helpful (such as modifications, using props, and small classes) there was a “protective trend” to these adaptions.

“For example, one teacher reported “modifying to prevent further pain”. This sentiment was resonated among the majority of answers.” (Reynolds, A. p. 11)

Preventing further pain is an important first step (often surprisingly difficult). However we didn’t see evidence that teachers were consciously aware of how to methodically progress students further.

“A protective approach is not necessarily harmful but it is not actively improving the pain experience outside of class.” (Ibid)

Identifying indicators for progress in students with pain may be a subtle but significant shift that allows yoga teachers to more effectively help their students reach outcomes that are also protective against future pain – and, in fact, many other chronic health issues over-represented in country Australia.

To read the full report email info@yogaforpaincare.com. Or contact us about bringing Yoga for Pain Practitioner Training to your region.

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