Since 2001, Yoga Therapist Susi Hately has been on a mission to teach people how they can reduce or eradicate their chronic, persistent pain.
In this free download, Susi, whose academic background is in kinesiology, biomechanics, and exercise physiology, talks about how she has been able to bridge modern science with ancient yogic healing practices.
Susi believes that what makes yoga a powerful tool in pain management is the ability to link breathing, movement and stillness, beginning with movement. “I’ve never seen a person in pain who moved well,” she observes. “If I can help them learn to feel how their body moves, I can help them to feel empowered to overcome their pain. We can’t change things we don’t feel.”
Having worked in a number of traditional medical settings and trained medical professionals from doctors, OTs, PTs, and massage therapists, Susi has seen a shift in attitude toward Yoga as viable complement to the pain management team. When she began working with pain management in 2001 a typical doctor’s take on Yoga was likely to be, “Well, it’s not going to harm you.”
Contrast that to today, when the high-impact decision makers are adding Yoga to their list of recommended approaches to pain. What changed? Patients started to feel demonstrably better. And in some cases, Susi reports, the recipient of the benefit was the health care provider.
Taking the yogic approach of working with the whole person, rather than an isolated condition, Susi makes a distinction between asana and postures. Coming to an understanding of asana as a state of sitting comfortably–a state of being–transformed her thinking about pain. She regards asana as an entryway to healing because it is a dynamic state of being. “When we can shift from one state of being to another state of being, we can enact changes to the tissue via movement patterns,” she says.
Because pain conditions are often married with other signals of loss of control–as well as associations with loss, grief, anger, and mortality–fostering a feeling of safety is vital to the process of reducing pain. “If you feel threatened, the pain experience will go up,” she explains. “If I can help clients feel more in control, it opens the door to a new experience.”
Yoga can also assist pain sufferers in gaining better control over their nervous symptom response that keeps them in a more tolerable range of pain. This, in turn makes it easier for the nervous system to respond in kind, essentially carving out a new normal, in which the pain may not be eliminated, but it will be muted enough to open the door to a more grounded place from which to live.
You may also be interested in Susi’s YogaUOnline course, Gateways to Healing: Yogic Techniques for Pain Relief.