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How Yoga Can Help With Pain and Improve Balance

Approximately 1 million Americans sustain injuries every year due to slip and fall accidents. These injuries can range from minor annoyances to so severe, chronic pain remains for decades. Though elderly individuals have a much higher risk of suffering from chronic pain after a fall, pain does not discriminate.

Thankfully, yoga can help reduce fall risk people of all ages, as well as deal with serious pain issues.

"Pain itself is defined as an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience," said Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., author of Yoga for Pain Relief. "It is also the way the brain interprets this information that contributes to the experience as well. Acute pain is of short duration as a result of injury, surgery, or illness. Chronic pain is an ongoing condition persisting longer than six months."

According to a study called "Merging Yoga and OT," conducted by Professor Arlene Schmid of Colorado State University's Department of Occupational Therapy, participants reported a 40% decrease in the number of falls during both yoga and occupational therapy intervention compared to the control group, who only focused on yoga.

Yoga doesn't just help prevent these slips and falls from occurring, however. In fact, it can be a great way to tend to alleviate chronic pain. More than 1.5 billion people across the globe suffer from chronic pain, and according to a study published in Annals of Internal Medicine, among 313 people with chronic low back pain, attending a weekly yoga class can increase mobility more than standard medical care for the same condition.

Make sure whenever starting your yoga routine, you're taking slow at first. Additionally, make sure you have walls and chairs nearby to avoid falling while attempting certain poses. Start by stretching your feet, then legs, torso, and arms. Afterward, do your best to keep your mind relaxed and focused on your breathing.

Here are a few easy yoga poses that will help improve your balance and avoid painful slips and falls:

  • Tree -- Shift all your weight onto your right foot, bend your left knee, and place the sole of your foot as high as you can on your right inner thigh.
  • Standing Extended Big Toe -- Place your hands on your hips and relax your shoulders. Then, shift your weight onto your right foot and light your left leg in front of you.
  • High Lunge -- Start in an athletic lunge, raise your torso upright, and reach your arms overhead with your palms facing each other. Then, make sure your front knee is parallel to the floor, hips forward, and your back leg is straight.
  • Chair -- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, extend your arms forward, and sit down on an imaginary chair behind you.

Head of Content, reality TV watcher and lover of cookies. emma@shared.com