There’s been a lot of talk about yoga and meditation over the years, with equal amounts of hype and solid data being released about it. While it can be hard to substantiate some of the more esoteric claims around this practice, studies have revealed that there is concrete evidence of certain benefits it provides. Understanding the results of these studies can help these practices be used effectively in the management of various conditions involving pain and depression.
What Are Yoga and Meditation?
Let’s start with the most specific term used here, yoga. Yoga is a practice that is often thought to have its roots in India and involves the use of various stretches, exercises, and breathing techniques to bring health and wellness to an individual. Rather than merely focusing on the physical health of the practitioner, it also aims to help promote mental wellness as well. What is known about the practice is that it can definitely provide physical benefits in the sense of flexibility, strength, and endurance.
Meditation, on the other hand, is a little more difficult to pin down to a single definition. In general, it can be conceived of as one of many mental practices that are used to help an individual develop their awareness of their feelings and thoughts. Rather than identifying and addressing these aspects, the intent is to experience and identify them without judgment. The intended result is a sense of presence in the movement known as mindfulness.
Some common questions patients ask about these practices include:
- Isn’t Yoga A Religious Practice? – While yoga is an integral part of a religion, it is not in and of itself religious nor rooted in religious practices.
- What is Mindfulness in Meditation? – Mindfulness is a term that is used to describe a sense of awareness of the moment, free from judgment or interpretation.
- Don’t I Have To Be In Shape To Do Yoga? – Like most forms of exercise, yoga does not require you to be of a particular level of fitness. Its practice can be adjusted to meet your current abilities and adjusted as your flexibility and overall health allows.
How Do These Practices Help Chronic Pain and Depression?
It’s important to clearly understand how these conditions affect those who suffer from them. Chronic pain, in general, is a condition for which there is no long-term resolution. Instead, chronic pain sufferers focus on management and prevention. The knowledge that there will never be a point where the chronic pain goes away can be a source of despair and depression for many of those who suffer from it. For patients like these, focusing on the “now” can be a critical component of reducing their depression. Depression does more than just affect them mentally; it has also been shown to increase the severity of pain.
A research study that was printed in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association demonstrated that those who practiced a regular routine of yoga and meditation saw significant results. Of those participating in the study, nearly 89% showed improvements in their ability to cope with pain, while only 11% showed no improvement. None of the participants reported an increase in their symptoms or difficulty in managing them as a result of the study.