The health benefits of yoga are many; the ancient practice of physical poses has been shown, among other things, to improve flexibility, build muscle strength and reduce stress. A lesser known benefit may be its ability to reduce chronic pain, and that's something that Kelly McGonigal, PhD, discusses in her new book, "Yoga for Pain Relief." As my colleague Tracie White reports, McGonigal, editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Yoga Therapy, first began teaching people with chronic pain at Stanford nine years ago:
“It was a revelation,” McGonigal said [of her first class]. “It started out sort of trial and error, figuring out what was going to work, doing a lot of research into what physical therapists do for back pain. My students would come back to the next class and say, ‘Oh, my god, I had no pain. I went out dancing!’
Her real-life experience came in handy as McGonigal wrote "Yoga for Pain Relief," which provides instructions on how to do gentle postures and stretches, focus on breathing and use meditation to deal with chronic pain." White notes that the book also "explores the importance of the mind-body connection for pain relief, which, [McGonigal] writes, 'has its roots in the yoga tradition' but is supported by a growing body of research in neuroscience, psychology and medicine."
McGonigal also tries through her book to dispel the myth that yoga is "a trendy exercise that involves doing crazy things on a mat." She said that's not what yoga is; in fact, as she told my colleague, “If you can breathe, you can do yoga,”
For more on the subject, this Yoga Journal blog recently published a Q&A with McGonigal.
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