This week’s post is an interview with the creators of the Overcome Pain with Gentle Yoga video series- Neil Pearson and Shelly Prosko. Learn more about a gentle and effective way to manage pain and the minds behind this excellent video series.
Why did you create these pain care yoga videos and what makes them unique from others?
Pain impacts every aspect of our existence; and currently there are very few options for people in pain to practice yoga in a way that appropriately addresses the complex issues of persisting pain. There are resources available offering general relaxation, breathing and mindfulness techniques; but we wanted to create more specific guidance to help people in pain. We developed a variety of different practices, each with a different theme that addresses unique challenges that people with chronic pain face.
Each practice offers alternatives such as breathing, visualizations, affirmations, gentle and mindful movement with a variety of options including progressive movements that are safe, appropriate and unique to the challenges that people with chronic pain face.
We want to empower people by providing them with a readily accessible resource that helps promote self-management of persistent pain and to be able to do so in the comfort of one’s own home.
Changing pain is possible, but takes a great deal of regular practice and persistence. We want these videos to act as an adjunct to one’s current therapy. People can do these every day: whether experiencing a flare-up and need the more gentle breathing and meditation practices, or if one is having a better day and is ready and wanting to move more.
I see that Neil is doing chair yoga and at the same time, Shelly is on a mat. Can you tell us more about that?
We have never seen a video where such a wide variety of levels can be practiced at the same time. We wanted it to have a very inclusive feel to it; and ensure these videos were appropriate and beneficial for all levels, including people who are unable to stand or transition to and from lying, or find it challenging. This gives them an option to sit in a chair for the entire practice or just for parts of it. Or, if they decide that one day they feel like trying to get out of the chair, there is the option to follow Shelly; or if they want to stay seated, they can follow Neil.
There is something for everyone to choose from in each practice: whether it is performed in sitting, lying, kneeling or standing. This is important to ensure success every day!
Can you tell us more about these special themes you chose and why you chose them?
We chose 7 different themes based on qualities that we knew people with persistent pain often times have difficulty with and can influence pain experience.
The following 7 themes that we have chosen to address are:
confidence, trust & letting go, patience, courage, persistence, balance and purpose.
Based on our clinical experience in working with people in pain (and what some of the literature reports) we found by addressing these themes and cultivating these specific qualities through different breathing practices, hand positions (mudras), affirmations (mantras), visualizations, mindfulness meditations and movements, it can provide deeper and richer impacts on one’s pain experiences.
As an example, letting go of muscle tension can be extremely difficult in the face of persisting pain. Some people have the sense that their body is tight, yet they have difficulty letting the muscles relax. Others feel that their thoughts are equally knotted up, or their breath doesn’t feel full anymore. In the letting go practice, we use many techniques to help release tension, to let go. We work on letting go through our thoughts, our breath, our body, and through movement.
Who do you expect will benefit from these videos?
People suffering from persistent or chronic pain of varying functional levels; from people who are physically challenged and require modifications to those that are more mobile and require more of a challenge, should all benefit from these videos.
It is also a very unique and valuable resource for health care providers, yoga teachers/therapists, movement specialists. Anyone who works with people suffering from chronic pain or presents with other challenges or dysfunctions in which improving movement and living well again is a desired outcome will benefit from these new practices.
We expect that these videos can also benefit anyone looking for a well rounded gentle and mindful yoga practice that consists of movement, breathing practices and meditations either for themselves or as a resource to give to their students or patients/clients.
The first 5-10 minutes of each practice consists of mindfulness meditations, visualizations and breathing practices that anyone can follow. This is particularly useful when needing relaxation techniques during a flare-up.
The second part of each practice includes 20-30 minutes of movement, with the ability to choose the level of challenge. This is useful when the person is having a ‘good’ day and is ready for a challenge and to move more.
And why did you film them on Saltspring Island?
Most of us would agree that there is a feeling of calmness, connection, joy & expansiveness when being out in nature. Even though the participants may not necessarily be practicing outdoors, we hope that seeing the beauty of Saltspring Island captures some of those feelings and perhaps enhances their mood, makes a difference in the pain experience or simply brightens a moment in the day in some way.
We asked numerous people with persistent pain if filming outdoors would be preferred and the vast majority said yes, they would enjoy the nature scenery and it would help them feel calmer and happier than an indoor scene.
For ourselves, we also wanted to experience the feelings of calmness, love & joy while working and filming, in hopes that those feelings emanated from us to the viewer and may be shared!
Given that people with chronic pain find it difficult and painful to move, why would you suggest they do yoga?
In the treatment of chronic or persistent pain, we know that the best long-term improvements occur when people can recover movement and participate in more activities of their daily lives. An appropriate yoga practice provides a safe, gentle and relatively inexpensive way of progressively increasing movement.
Pain is a biopsychosocial phenomenon with many factors that influence the ability to move with ease, including capability of physical body, breath pattern, psychological and emotional factors, and spiritual or social interactions. Research supports that yoga can be used to address both physical & psychological aspects of persistent pain (Wren et al, 2011).
Different yoga techniques can help with calmer breathing, decreased muscle tension, improved body awareness, and resulting in less sympathetic and more parasympathetic nervous system activity. These are essential foundations and skills to learn if people want to move with more ease.
“There is evidence that yoga may be useful for several pain-associated disorders” (Bussing et al, 2012) and growing evidence that specifically suggests different aspects of yoga can help not only reduce and manage pain, but also help people move & function better, and improve health-related quality of life (Ware et al 2013, Holtzman et al 2013, Moonaz et al 2015).
Will these videos cure chronic pain?
The intention of these videos is to guide people to move and function with more ease and live well again. It is not meant as a cure for chronic pain. It is meant to be used as an adjunct to current treatments and under the supervision of a health care provider for safety and optimal success.
However, with proper education and knowledge of pain science and regular, persistent and compassionate practice of these videos along with the guidance of your health care provider, it is possible to change pain with time and patience.
These videos are meant to help empower each person and to create success along the path of self-management of persistent pain.
How can we access these videos?
They are available for download online:
- at https://vimeo.com/ondemand/34259
- or http://www.lifeisnow.ca/pain-management-products/
- or http://physioyoga.ca/products
The following options are available:
- Rent each practise for 3 months, or purchase each practise to own.
- Rent all 7 practises for 3 months, or purchase all 7 to own.
DVD’s will be available to order in May, 2015 at www.lifeisnow.ca
We hope everyone enjoys and values them; and let us know if there are any comments, questions or feedback!
PT, MSc, BA-BPHE, CYT, ERYT500
Neil is a physical therapist, yoga therapist, Clinical Assistant Professor at UBC, and instructor for five yoga therapy training programs. Neil is the first physical therapist to win the Excellence in Inter-Professional Pain Education Award from the Canadian Pain Society. He is founding Chair of the Canadian Physiotherapy Pain Science Division, a past Board member of Pain BC, and author of peer-reviewed articles and a book chapter on the integration of yoga and pain science. Over the past years, he has worked for the Doctors of British Columbia, teaching pain management to primary care MDs and specialists, developed a training program integrating pain science and yoga therapy, and created many open access resources to assist people in pain and health professionals.
Neil makes the complex experience of pain more understandable, while providing practical techniques, and hope for change.
PT, PYT, CPI
As a Physical Therapist and Yoga Therapist, Shelly is dedicated to bridging the gap between yoga and modern healthcare philosophies and believes this integration is highly effective in creating and sustaining optimal health.
She received her Physical Therapy degree at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, and her Medical Therapeutic Yoga training at Professional Yoga Therapy Studies in North Carolina.
Shelly has been integrating yoga into her physical therapy treatments since 1998, addressing a wide variety of conditions including persistent pain.
Currently, she travels across North America offering specialty PhysioYoga Therapy workshops, lecturing at medical college programs, instructing at yoga therapy trainings, presenting at International Conferences, collaborating on Pain Care Yoga projects, and actively promoting the integration of yoga therapy into our current healthcare system. She is part of the adjunct faculty at Professional Yoga Therapy Studies.
Shelly is dedicated to inspiring, empowering and educating health professionals, yoga teachers, therapists, students and people in pain about ways yoga can be used safely and effectively to address a variety of health issues and improve quality of life. Please visit www.physioyoga.ca for more information.