Yoga Therapy for Chronic Pain

Wake Up Yoga is pleased to partner with the Center for Integrative Yoga Studies. CIYS offers 500 hour advanced trainings for yoga teachers interested in becoming certified yoga therapists; those working in healing professions who are not yoga teachers but who are interested in incorporating yoga techniques are also welcome in these programs. The next module with CIYS will be offered in November 2017–Experiential Anatomy & Yoga Therapeutics: Focus on the Hips, Knees & Feet.

The below article was written by Marlysa Sullivan, founder and director of CIYS, and published on Natural Awakenings in Washington, DC.


According to a National Institutes of Health (NIH) analysis from the most recent National Health Interview Survey, 25 million adults experience chronic pain and nearly 40 million experience severe pain. As conventional approaches are often not sufficient to mitigate pain, it is one of the primary reasons people seek complementary approaches. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) has prioritized the study of complementary approaches, such as yoga, to help alleviate this widespread issue of pain.

What is pain?

The International Association for the Study of Pain defines pain as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage.” Pain is associated with changes that traverse the physical, psychological and social aspects of a person’s experience.

Physical changes can include musculoskeletal imbalances or alternate movement strategies, nervous system sensitization, dysregulation of the autonomic nervous system which controls involuntary actions such as breathing and heartbeat, and an alteration in body perception or awareness. Psychological changes include anxiety, depression and increased stress. Lastly, levels of perceived isolation or lack of connection have been associated with increased pain or disability.

What is yoga therapy and how does it help with chronic pain?

Yoga therapy is an emerging complementary and integrative healthcare practice. The International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT), which has established procedures for the accreditation of schools and credentialing of yoga therapists, defines yoga therapy as “the process of empowering individuals to progress toward improved health and well-being through the application of the teachings and practices of yoga.” It is a distinct healthcare discipline with its own explanatory framework of health and disease that takes a multidimensional and holistic perspective of the individual. The yoga therapist works with the individual to co-create a plan to facilitate movement toward well-being.

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