Christianity, Yoga and Faith by Jane Sandwood
How Can Christian Yoga Help Quell Long-Term Pain?
It is estimated that around 25.3 million adults (11.3%) in America have long-term pain, the result of conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, and headaches. As the nation simultaneously battles the result of opioid over-prescription and abuse, one natural therapy that is proving of great interest to researchers, health professionals, and yoga teachers and practitioners alike, is yoga. Numerous studies have shown that yoga can help battle chronic pain linked to specific diseases and conditions. When the Christian faith is brought into the equation, practitioners can enjoy the added benefits that belief and spirituality can bestow.
What can the Christian Faith Add Bring to Yoga?
Living with chronic pain can produce depression, as persons struggle to accept a life in which they are forced to be less active or to forego a sport or hobby they are passionate about, while they battle pain. Studies have shown that religious worship is the only community activity that promotes lasting happiness. Researchers from the University of Michigan found that people of faith tend to adopt healthier life behaviors, that they are less prone to depression, and that they are less likely to face an early mortality. Because faith boosts mood and provides a sense of support, it can help battle stress, which is one of the reasons why yoga itself is so efficient at battling pain.
The Link between Stress and Pain
Research shows that pain is a matter of perception; stress can exacerbate pain, which is why it is important to address is proactively on a daily basis. One fascinating study published in the International Journal of Yoga found that yoga accelerates positive outcomes for gum disease by combating stress, which said scientists, “is a major factor affecting the treatment of periodontal (gum disease).” Gum disease, alongside cavities, are common oral diseases affecting human beings on a global scale. This study is so interesting because it shows the importance of keeping stress levels down to improve the success rates of treatment for oral disease.
Findings on Yoga and Pain
Individual studies have shown that yoga can reduce pain in various settings. It can help soothe back pain among veterans, and quell chronic lower back pain in the general population. One 2012 study showed that yoga was effective at quelling neck pain and providing improved psychological wellbeing and quality of life. Yet another (published in 2011) found that yoga reduces the physical and psychological symptoms of chronic pain in women with fibromyalgia, lowering their (stress hormone) cortisol levels and enabling them to face their condition with greater resilience and a more positive outlook. The meditative aspect of yoga can bestow its own particular effects. A 2014 study by researchers at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center found that meditation can be a path to migraine relief.
One of the more interesting studies on yoga and pain found that they have opposite effects on brain gray matter. While chronic pain changes the brain anatomy in a negative fashion, yoga can prevent or even reverse these effects, thus keeping mood disorders and other related problems at bay. As powerful as yoga is, it too can receive a boost from the Christian faith. By practicing yoga in the company of those who share your love of God, you can feel supported, understood, and accompanies – all of which are tremendously helpful when you are facing a painful condition.