Yoga for people with pain: does confidence equal skill?

We’ve been sharing findings UWA psychology student Amelia Reynolds made during her study of the role yoga teachers could play in regional pain management. Thanks to an internship facilitated by McCusker Institute, Amelia mapped locations of teachers in southwest WA, and their current approach to working with students with persistent pain conditions like fibromyalgia, arthritis and back pain.

In previous posts we explained teachers seem to have an intuitive approach to working with students with pain that is likely to have a positive effect. Interestingly, though, yoga teachers’ cognitive understanding of how pain works was limited (only one teacher got this question correct).

When a health professional misunderstands pain, the language they use a result can at best be unhelpful. At worst, it can increase the risk of the patient’s acute pain becoming chronic. It’s possible the same could happen in yoga.

The other thing we wanted to point out was that teacher confidence did not correlate with their knowledge or skill (at least as far as we could tell from the surveys and interviews). This is not to say that teachers are unnecessarily over-confident (we certainly don’t have enough data for that) but it is a reminder of the importance, not just to read widely in this rapidly expanding field, but to ask lots and lots of questions, and always examine your own beliefs about how pain works.

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

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