Yoga Poses for Everyday Injuries
From cramps to constipation, these moves target the most common ailments.
We all know that the list of mind and body benefits from doing yoga is too long to count. Many of these benefits are cumulative—better posture, stronger muscles, greater flexibility—which means the more you practice, the more you get out of it over time.
But what about when you need relief ASAP? We’re talking PMS cramps, migraines and the constipation that follows the takedown of an entire cheese plate. Sometimes we need to troubleshoot health issues as soon as they make themselves known. In those cases, rather than reach for pain relief in pill form, can specific yoga poses be as effective?
To find out, we spoke to LA-based yoga instructors Catie Purcell and Travis Eliot about hidden sources of stress, the benefits of a quickie yoga session and why the best form of self-care is actually giving yourself a break.
We're Stressed. Help?
No matter which condition we might be battling, stress seems to make everything worse. And while hot baths and a walk around the block can ease some of that tension, the stresses of everyday life are not only unavoidable, but inevitable—and, in some cases, slightly dangerous. “Everyday stress builds up gradually over time without us being aware of its negative impact,” says Eliot, who also teaches meditation through his Inner Dimension TV platform. “The most obvious manifestations of stress are the ones we see on the face in the form of wrinkles, irritated eyes and a tense jaw.”
But Purcell says it’s the issues we don’t see that can progress into something more visible and concerning over time: lethargy, hopelessness, anxiety, stiff joints and inflammation. When these issues make themselves known, she says our instinct is to heal reactively versus proactively. “We live in a reactive society,” says Purcell. “We need to pay close attention to our internal selves to make sure our choices lead to living happily, healthfully and safely. We need to stabilize ourselves positively, inside and out, so our nervous system can respond to daily life accordingly.”
Something Is Better Than Nothing
One of the best ways to deal with stress is through movement. And while the fitness world might lead you to believe that a “good” workout must be a full hour or more, that couldn’t be further from the truth. “Even five minutes of breathing steadily with intention can redirect the course of your day,” says Purcell. “The key is to be both disciplined and kind with yourself.”
Some of the most common areas of everyday tension include lower back pain, sore shoulders, tight hips and aching feet. Each and every one of these can be remedied by yoga. “Twenty minutes of movement can be a game changer,” says Eliot. “It will replace stress chemicals like cortisol and adrenaline with ‘feel good’ chemicals like endorphins and dopamine, which will elevate your mood and get your body, mind and emotions in sync.”
Softer Is Better Than Harder
Since we’re debunking myths here (i.e. five minutes of yoga can be just as good as an hour), it’s important to note that a slow, mindful yoga practice can often be more beneficial than the one that gets you sweating.
“When we look at nature, the trees that are able to withstand the fiercest storms are the ones that are both strong and supple,” says Eliot. “If you’re all strength and no suppleness, it’s inevitable that your body will become injured when it encounters a compromising force. Yoga ensures the entire web of the body is both strong and flexible.”
After being struck by a car as a pedestrian, Eliot suffered a severe injury to his knee, which made it impossible to run or jump. He says that what saved him was Yin Yoga, a form of passive and deep floor stretches that activates fibroblasts in the deep fascia. “Fibroblasts are like little construction workers that lay down new collagen and elastic to repair damaged tissue,” says Eliot. “After doing Yin, I was able to fully heal my knee.”
Get To It
The bottom line? To prevent stress from building up in the body, a consistent yoga practice can work wonders. That being said, if you can already feel stress causing problems in your neck, gut or anywhere else, here’s a cheat sheet of poses to target the pain:
Sore “Text Neck”
Lay on your back with your legs bent and arms out to the side. Place a bolster under your head and spine, as well as a rolled-up hand town under your neck to support its natural arch. Breathe.
A classic down dog, legs up the wall (or any inversion) or standing forward fold.
Child's pose (with a bolster under the chest and forehead) or happy baby pose.
Savasana (corpse pose) with a block applying pressure beneath the occipital (back of the head).
For Malasana, stand with your feet about your mat’s width apart. With toes turned slightly out, bend your knees and lower your butt toward the floor to come into a squat. Take your upper arms inside your knees and bend the elbows to bring palms together. Keep your spine straight and breath.