In March 2021 I was lucky to participate in a conference on Neuroscience and Yoga. I enjoyed learning from the panelists so much that when I got sent an invite to participate in a research study this month (February 2022), I signed up without hesitation. Mind you, this is something I need to pay for myself. And I believe it's worth it.
Last year's event brought together researchers who had studied effects of yoga on memory, pain perception, fear and burnout.
It offered me a deeper understanding of how trauma-informed yoga is necessary in order to help yoga students. It also showed me that there are scientific studies helping establish yoga as an additional therapy aiding patients diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Finally, it also proved to me that meditation has long-lasting effects on our brains and emotions.
We learned about perceiving and managing pain.
Tell you what... It's all in your head.
And, it is also all REAL.
ID: Gosh in Table top, with wrists in deep flexion
Turns out all pain is in your head, and tissue damage is not necessary for you to experience it.
Naturally, this topic has been researched outside of the yoga world, too. And perhaps you don't even need to see a study if you're one of the people sensitive to "seeing" pain.
If, say, you see the above photo and think "Ufff the wrists"... or watch a video of a gymnast do a split while bending their spine in an unusual way, you might utter an "Ouch!" or make a grimace. That probably isn't you experiencing pain but I'd argue it's connected to how you perceive it. To offer another example:
If your body has past trauma of twisting an ankle, and you slightly hurt it again, you might experience pain even if there is no tissue damage.
That is because you body has previously learned to protect you, sending signals to your brain saying "Woooo hold your horses, we're entering the danger zone now!"
In one study presented during the conference, subjects who practised meditation and breathing techniques (Pranayama) had higher threshold of experiencing pain. If you don't believe me, I'm not going to suggest hurting yourself and then trying to use your brain to force yourself to think it wasn't painful. I will, however, invite you to try this thing:
-- HOMEWORK --
Next time you need to do something that you perceive as physically painful, take five conscious breaths. Try to make each exhale a little longer than an inhale. And repeat these words in your mind: I am not this body (on inhale), I am not experiencing pain (on exhale).
I am SO curious to know if you sense any difference.
If you suffer from chronic pain,
consider joining a 1 on 1 yoga session.
That's where we take time to asses what it is that YOU need in order to be thriving.
I help you overcome feelings that stop you from taking up any/specific type of movement. Together, we learn about your body and mind as we work to create a sustainable routine. Something you'd be happy to try again and again. Something to help you feel better every time you do it.
For more info about my sessions and to schedule a private one, go here.
PS I'm here whatever questions or worries about yoga you have.
Just drop me a line :)