Your Body with Therapeutic Yoga
therapy involves using yoga postures to balance and align
your muscles to heal your body from pain and other chronic
health conditions. For me, yoga meant the difference between
living a normal life and living in constant pain. In my case
my scoliosis, TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder) and many
other pain issues arose from having tight leg muscles that
pulled on my upper body. One of my legs was tighter than the
other, causing one of my shoulder to be pulled lower. The
low shoulder would pull on my jaw, causing TMJ, neck and shoulder
pain. Yoga was the one therapy I tried that addressed the
root cause of my pain issues.
therapy, you use a set of posture designed specifically
for your individual problems and imbalances to heal your body.
Often many pain and misalignment issues will clear up in unison
once your muscles are balanced and properly aligned.
medical and even many alternative health practitioners who
treat conditions like TMJ focus only on relaxing muscles around
the jaw, but I think that may not always be the most appropriate
approach treating muscoskeletal disorders.
Most people don't think of relaxing leg muscles to treat neck,
TMJ and shoulder pain, but for me that is what did the trick.
I noticed that my jaw and shoulder got better when I did stretches
and yoga postures to loosen up my legs. I know it sounds unconventional,
but if you think about it logically it makes a lot of sense.
your body as being similar to a three story building. If one
of the supporting beams is shifted and pulled downward, over
time even the top floor of the building will start to sag
downward, too. I think the same thing can be true with the
human body. If you leg muscles are tight, they can cause a
perpetual pull on your upper body. Over time, this constant
downward pull can cause a variety of chronic pain conditions.
used to do a lot of hiking and biking, sports that would tighten
up my leg muscles. But I never did many sports or exercises
to strengthen my upper body. So over time my leg muscles become
overly tight and cramped. They pulled on my upper body causing
TMJ, headaches, neck pain, sciatic nerve pain, plugged ears
and related conditions.
Therapy Compared to Physical Therapy
used to see physical therapists for my chronic pain issues,
but most of them (except for one who was an expert at body
alignment) actually made me worse instead of better. When
I would get prescriptions for exercises for my shoulder or
jaw, the therapists always said they could not give me any
exercises for my legs or other body parts that the prescription
from the doctor did not cover. I think this these statements
from the therapists actually get to the heart of why yoga
therapy often works better than physical therapy -
a physical therapist try to fix your neck without working
on your legs is the equivalent of telling a structural engineer
that he has to fix a sagging upper story without working on
the foundation of the building.
idea that where you feel pain is also the source of
the pain is not always true and is often why physical therapy
often makes people like me even worse instead of better. The
most important point I learned from my research on yoga to
end my pain problems has been:
you hurt most likely is not the source of your
pain. Exercising only the parts of your body that
hurt may only serve to irritate your weak and stretched
out muscles more, and may do nothing to solve your long
term health issues.
For me, I often hurt where my muscles were weak, yet the cause of the pain was tight muscles elsewhere on my body. At one
time I was sent to a hand and arm clinic for my pain issues.
Guess what? My hands and arms got stronger and started feeling
better, but I started to develop terrible problems with my
feet and ankles. One of my ankles kept getting sprained for
no obvious reason. The orthopedist who sent me to the arm
clinic just brushed off my ankle issues as saying "that
just happens sometimes".
Eventually I realized
that the arm exercises were not really curing but just shifting the tension points in my body. As I pulled my muscles upward
from all of the arm and shoulder exercises, my arms got looser
and my ankles got tighter. Yoga ended up working better for
me because most of the postures tend to involve the whole
body, so one part is not being overworked at the expense of
another. Yoga is a holistic approach to pain management that
treats the whole body.
The trick to yoga
therapy to heal my chronic pain issues then was:
- Balancing my
muscles by stretching out tight muscles and strengthening
up loose muscles.
- Improving my
posture so that once my muscles were balanced and aligned
they stayed that way.
- Once my body
was healed, I had to keep doing a maintenance yoga routine
so that my desk job and my hiking and biking hobbies do
not get my muscles out of balance again.