It’s well-established that exercise can be highly beneficial for people with a chronic pain condition, but finding the right exercise for your pain condition can be tricky. Yoga can be a great choice no matter your pain condition, thanks to the ease with which it can be altered to fit your specific needs and abilities.

Yoga can have several potential benefits for those with pain conditions or disabilities.

The stretches and poses that form the core of most yoga classes can improve your strength, flexibility, and balance. For someone with a pain condition, such as arthritis, this can have a big influence on pain levels and overall health. Stronger muscles help support and protect joints. Increased flexibility can make performing little everyday jobs, like putting on shoes or reaching things from the top shelf, much easier. Improved balance can reduce the risk of falls.

Additionally, breathing, meditation, and relaxation techniques are often practiced in yoga classes, which can also lower your stress levels significantly. Since stress can cause a multitude of negative effects, including new or worsened pain, reducing your stress in a yoga class can help you feel better.

While yoga might not cure your pain condition entirely, it can certainly complement the treatment plan you and your physician have come up with. Pain conditions that are especially likely to benefit from yoga include:

The Denver area has lots of yoga studios. Here are four of the best.

Iyengar Yoga Center of Denver, 770 S. Broadway, Denver

Iyengar Yoga Center is a fantastic choice if you’ve got any type of chronic pain, physical disability, or medical condition. It focuses on traditional, down-to-earth yoga, as well as ways to use yoga to relieve physical ailments or stress. Class sizes are often quite small and the teachers go through rigorous training, so the instructors are able to help each student find the most optimal poses. You can take classes in beginners’ yoga, as well as yoga for back pain, seniors, or restoration.

In fact, according to Iyengar Yoga’s About Iyengar Yoga page:

“Iyengar yoga provides relief from chronic health problems such as arthritis, back pain, hypertension, migraines, etc., and makes the practitioner healthy in all aspects of well-being, from the mind, body and spirit.”

Here you can purchase class packages lasting a few weeks, pay for a single drop-in class, or pay for unlimited monthly access, so it’s easy to find a way to make Iyengar Yoga Center fit your budget.

Kindness Yoga, four locations

Kindness Yoga offers an immense number of classes taught by dozens of different teachers, so you’re sure to find something to fit your needs. Classes are offered in several different types of yoga. Workshops take place regularly, too.

If you’re new to yoga, you can ease your way in with a beginners’ class. You can even purchase private classes if you want. Private lessons can allow you to work one-on-one with a teacher and figure out how to make yoga work with your pain condition.

The River Power Vinyasa Yoga, 1212 Delaware St., Denver

The River studio focuses on Power Vinyasa style yoga. Most of the classes take place in a heated room around 94 degrees, but there are unheated and gently-heated options if hot yoga isn’t your thing. Massage and chiropractic services are available here, too.

The River also offers classes in Accessible Yoga, which is designed to help people with disabilities do yoga. According to the River’s class description for Accessible Yoga:

“Whether a participant has partial or total paralysis, amputation, a spinal cord injury, arthritis, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, a head injury, cerebral palsy, or another disability, the welcoming environment and practical and accessible exercises in this class will encourage people to uncover and recover their wellness.”

Keep an eye on the events here, since some special events might offer discounted classes or memberships. If you’re not sure whether this is the place for you, attend one of the River’s Community Classes, which are open to anyone for a very small fee (typically around $5 for one class).

QiFlow Yoga, two locations

QiFlow Yoga studios are a great choice if you think you might get bored. Classes here blend different types of exercise, like yoga, dancing, cycling, and movement-based flow. While this can keep exercise interesting and challenging, be aware that some of the classes can be intense. If you give QiFlow Yoga a try, be careful to listen to your body so you don’t push yourself too hard. This place has a lot of pricing options, but if you’re not ready to hand over your credit card yet, that’s okay. You can attend your first class for free.

Other good places to find yoga classes include recreation or community centers, community colleges, or the YMCA. You can also look over this list of Denver’s best yoga studios. Yoga Alliance has a searchable database of teachers and schools, too, so you can search for yoga studios anywhere.

To make sure your first yoga class reduces your pain instead of worsening it, take a few extra steps beforehand.

Talk to your physician before starting any new exercise, and ask your physician if he or she knows of a particularly good yoga studio or teacher. Also discuss any movements, poses, or stretches that you should be careful of.

For example, those with arthritis should be cautious when performing these stretches:

  • If you’ve got back or neck pain, be careful not to hyper-extend your spine during backbends
  • If you’ve got hip pain, use caution during “hip opener” poses that require extreme external hip rotation

When you’re looking at a yoga studio, talk to an employee about beginner or gentle classes. Ask if there’s anything you need to bring with you. Discuss your pain condition with your instructor, as well as his or her knowledge about altering poses to allow for your pain condition.

Once you get to class, listen to your body. Start out easy and give it a couple days after your first session before going again, to make sure you won’t experience any significant delayed aches or pains. Increase the intensity of your yoga sessions very gradually, and slow down if you experience any new or worse pain. According to the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center:

“The general rule for arthritis patient (and people in general) is that if it hurts, stop. The old adage of “no pain, no gain” does not apply to yoga, particularly if you have activity limitations.”

Above all, remember that yoga is not a competition sport. It’s about fitness, stress relief, and well-being. Do what makes you feel good and have fun.

Do you have a favorite yoga studio in the Denver area?

Image by Evan Lovely via Flickr

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