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Yoga for pain

Emma Breheny
2 July 2016

With emerging evidence supporting the use of yoga for pain management, the time was ripe for a yoga-based training course for health professionals.

Drawing the link between the biopsychosocial approaches of yoga and best practice pain management, Nicole Moore and yogic educator Rachael West joined together to create a yoga forpain training course that would equip yoga teachers and health professionals with the skills to use yoga practices to address pain. Their first course was run in May 2015.

‘Health professionals not only gain a deeper understanding of yoga teachers, including their interest in developing skillful ways of working with this demographic, but they also learn how to implement mindfulness strategies with the exercise and movement approaches that they’re already using. This adds that extra level of value to their practice,’ Nicole explains.
Yoga teachers are a resource left untapped in the quest for more community-based management of pain

Attendees include physiotherapists, occupational therapists, psychologists, nurses and osteopaths, alongside yoga teachers, who participate in a two-and-a-half day course. At the completion, they undergo several assignments and, if they complete these successfully, go on the Yoga for Pain Care teacher register.

Nicole admits that without such training, health professionals can't be confident referring patients in pain to the diverse range of yoga classes offered in the community. While this course goes some way to addressing this, there are still low numbers of yoga teachers qualified to work with people in pain.

‘We need to offer diverse programs for pain management in the community where it's needed most and where the long waiting lists of tertiary care aren't barriers to early intervention.’

Nicole believes that yoga teachers—with their motivation for continued learning and deep understanding of mindfulness practices—are a resource left untapped in the quest for more community-based management of pain.

In the United States a number of programs, like those offered by The Trauma Centre established by Dr Bessell van ker Kolk, have been using yoga for stress, pain and trauma.

‘There’s really convincing evidence now for yoga’s effect both on the comorbidities of pain and pain reduction itself,’ Nicole says.

Since the first course ran, three yoga teachers who participated have designed a 12-week course specific to pain and started running classes at local yoga centres. Nicole is currently seeking grants to bring together tertiary healthcare with primary care and community-based yoga teachers in order to start a specific yoga for pain program.

In the long-term, she is hoping that tertiary hospitals like her current workplace, The Royal Melbourne Hospital, will be in a position to employ yoga teachers to run programs in the community for people in pain, in order to improve people’s access to evidence-based treatments.

‘The main ethos is that it doesn’t matter what you’re practising. As long as you’re doing the yoga you enjoy and holding an ongoing practice, you’ll get the benefits.’


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