woman stretching in cobra pose
PHOTOGRAPH BY CORINA MARIE HOWELL/GETTY

5 Yoga Poses That Relieve Pain Naturally

Stretches that relieve stiff joints, without the aid of ibuprofen.

July 23, 2015

If you're looking to treat a variety of minor aches and pains naturally, relief may be a yoga class away—no painkillers required. Longtime studies conducted by researchers at Duke University Medical Center found that yoga is effective in the treatment of recurring pain, from carpal tunnel syndrome to the early stages of osteoarthritis. In the studies reviewed, patients saw significant reductions in joint pain, muscle stiffness, and overall physical discomfort while greatly improving their flexibility, range of motion, and muscle strength. (Join us for our live online 21-day New Year, New You meditation challenge and start practicing now!)

"Performed correctly, yoga's fluid movements allow swollen or otherwise painful joints to glide smoothly over one another, increasing mobility and strength without excess wear and tear," says Cynthia Maltenfort, a yoga instructor at Sun and Moon Studios in Virginia. "Yoga is a safe alternative to weight-bearing exercises that could worsen weak joints because it strengthens the muscles around them, which reduces tension and increases mobility," she explains.

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We asked a handful of yoga instructors to recommend their five favorite poses for relieving knee pain, back pain, and more. Just be sure to talk with your doctor before starting an exercise program and use props such as blocks for support as needed.

Yoga Pose: Cobra

cobra pose
PHOTOGRAPH BY GRAHAM MITCHELL/GETTY

Try It For: Back Pain

Lie face-down, forehead resting on floor. Place hands on either side, at the middle of your ribcage. Draw legs together, pressing tops of feet into the floor. Reach back through the toes, lengthening legs, and press evenly through hands as you draw elbows close to the ribcage. Using the strength of your back (not arms), lift head and chest, sliding shoulder blades down your back. Take five to ten deep breaths before gently releasing to the floor, turning your head to one side.  –Lynn Burgess, director of Yoga from the Heart in Sarasota, FL 

Yoga Pose: Supported Warrior

Try It For: Knee Pain

Stand tall and place your hands against a wall at shoulder height. Step your right foot forward so toes touch the wall and bend elbows as though you're trying to push the wall away. Step your left foot about 1 to 3 feet behind you, slightly bending your left knee toward the floor. Hold for ten to 15 breaths. Slowly straighten your left leg while bending the right knee, ensuring knee does not extend past ankle. Hold for ten to 15 breaths before stepping your left foot forward to meet the right and switching leg positions.  –Rachel Schaeffer, yoga instructor and author of Yoga For Your Spiritual Muscles

Yoga Pose: Butterfly

butterfly pose
PHOTOGRAPH BY DEX IMAGE/GETTY

Try It For: Hip Pain

 

Sitting on a blanket on the floor, bring the soles of your feet together, knees wide so legs form a diamond. Keep your entire back straight and shoulders relaxed as you breathe and gently drop the weight of your legs, slowly allowing knees to lower toward the floor. For gentler relief, place blocks or pillows beneath outer knees for support.  –Annie Moyer, yoga instructor at Sun and Moon Studios in Virginia

Related: 12 More Hip-Opening Yoga Poses

Yoga Pose: Rear Arm Lift With Strap

Try It For: Shoulder Pain

This stretch is also known as "Standing Yoga Mudra" pose. Stand tall, feet hip-width apart, holding a strap in one hand. Sweep both arms behind your back and pull your shoulders in to grasp the strap with both hands in a comfortable position. Walk your hands toward each other, creating an opening in the chest as shoulder blades move toward one another. Breathe as you adjust shoulders, easing or increasing tension.  –Vandita Kate Marchesiello, director for the Kripalu Yoga Teachers Association (KYTA)

Yoga Pose: Wall Plank

Try It For: Elbow + Shoulder Pain

Stand facing a wall with feet hip-width apart. Place palms against the wall, arms extended, and slowly lean forward, letting your body rest on your hands. Keep arms in and body in a straight line as you slowly bend elbows, inching closer. When your nose touches the wall (or you feel discomfort), slowly push back to standing.  –Cynthia Maltenfort, yoga instructor at Sun and Moon Studios in Virginia

 

This article originally appeared on Prevention.

Tags: self-care
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