Yoga Therapy for Neurological Pain

The following is for education purposes only and is not intended to treat or diagnose any disease. Do not apply any of this information without first speaking to a certified Yoga Therapist or healthcare provider.

When working with a client with neurological pain (nerve pain), we first look at how yoga views the neurological system and/or how yoga views pain. 

Of the many models of yoga therapy, we focus on those that involve energy systems/anatomy and those that help calm the nerves. Luckily, we have a big tool box when it comes to nerve pain as there are so many models that involve energy, including: nadi-s, marma-s, and cakra-s). We also want to be sure to incorporate pranayama into the person’s practice.

Rules of thumb for working with nerve pain include:

  1. Starting with the physical body, movement or asana in the cakra area above and below the area of concern will help tease into the area without a “direct hit” right where at the pain. This can allow the client to continue some movement which will not only make them feel they are “doing” something, but movement helps to clear stuck energy and in general makes us feel better.
  2. As we move from the gross to the subtle, we can address the energy anatomy above and below the site of the neurological pain, and work to move the stuck energy out of the area of concern (where the pain is) in the hopes that pain will clear out. 
  3. Avoid moving or working with the area of concern to both keep the client out of pain and veer from any potential liability issues. The initial goal is rest.
  4. Then, have the client begin touching the marma points above and below the area of concern with their own fingers/hands.  Be sure to obtain permission from the client before touching marma-s on their body. We really want the client to get in touch with their own energetic body, so avoid touching the client too much.
  5. Nadi-s that run through the area of concern can be cleared of stuck energy using the tool nyasam (or placement), for example, finger nyasam (finger slides) can be used to help clear stuck energy from the neck, shoulder, elbow or wrist areas. 

Pranayama can be used clear nadi-s, in fact nadi-shodana means purifying the nadi-s. If the area of concern is only on one side, then a one-sided breath such as Surya Bhedana (sun piercing) could be utilized. Simply lengthening the exhale is an excellent tool to reduce stress and calm the nervous system. The breath could also be a focal point to distract the mind from the pain. As well, a visualization or bhavana can be used to bring the mind to focus on something else, something joyful, whole, peaceful, or otherwise appropriate for the client.

JJ Gormley, MS, C-IAYT, is a yoga educator, yoga therapist, and nutritionist.  She is the Executive Director of Surya Chandra Healing Yoga   She resides in Madison, VA.