Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Accessing the Benefits of Yoga in Pain Management: Online Conference 2020

Yoga therapy for pain management

This post is by Presenters at the Online Conference 2020

by Shelly Prosko, Marlysa Sullivan and Matthew J. Taylor

We each have fascinating stories of how yoga has eased or prevented suffering in our lives. Over the past two decades, we three physios turned yoga therapists, have both personally experienced and witnessed others reaping the benefits of yoga in addressing pain and suffering. Has that been your experience as well? It is hard to find a yoga professional who hasn’t.

During our development, we moved from the thrill of rounding out our pain care through the holistic model of health that is yoga practice and lifestyle, to now addressing the very real limitations for so many to access that same experience. Each of us in our own way/dharma is now making contributions to expand access that far exceeds our initial applications of service.

Our most recent project was authoring the ground-breaking, 14-month project of the white paper on Yoga Therapy and Comprehensive Integrative Pain Management for the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT). Full-text copy here. In this paper, you will find that we’ve outlined major impediments to accessing yoga’s support for people living in pain. Those of you familiar with the mission of Accessible Yoga will recognize many of the familiar challenges around disability, inclusion, affordability, ethnic and gender biasing, etc., etc. We don’t need to preach to you, the choir, here about those issues.

Publications by Shelly Prosko, Marlysa Sullivan and Matthew J. Taylor

What we’d like to share in this short piece are the subtler aspects we’ve discovered and are now addressing in our respective work. That aspect is the expanding appreciation for the merging of the traditional yoga perspectives of suffering and modern day pain science [Latin scientia, knowledge; noun; a branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws.]

It turns out that those ‘general laws’ span human inquiry and weave into every aspect of human culture. For example, the pain and suffering of musculo-skeletal complaints have roots shared in the pain of racism, ableism, classism, etc., whose systemic roots weave into planetary eco-collapse. One big fabric to be appreciated and cared for, rather than divided or parsed apart. With that yogic/unitary perspective emerging in so many venues, it begs the question of who is ideally suited to birth it forward? Is it the yoga teacher, the yoga therapist, the yoga student, the school educator teaching mindfulness, or any of a myriad of others? The answer of course is just “yes.”

Each of us is a thread within that weave of unity. We each have our unique gift to bring forward, whether as provider or receiver of yoga instruction. It is our hope that coming together in community at this first-ever Accessible Yoga Online Conference 2020, we can celebrate and bring forward our collective passion and skills as yoga professionals and yoga students. Together we can sustain each other working toward Patanjali’s Sutra II.16: Heyam Dukham Anagatam…Future suffering can be avoided.

Shelly Prosko is a physiotherapist, yoga therapist, educator, author and pioneer of PhysioYoga with over 20 years of experience integrating yoga into physiotherapy within a variety of specialty areas including helping people with chronic or persistent pain, pelvic health issues and professional burnout. She guest lectures at numerous yoga therapy and physiotherapy schools, presents at yoga and medical conferences globally, contributes to academic research and writing, provides mentorship to health and wellness providers, and offers onsite and online courses and resources for yoga and healthcare professionals and the general population. She considers herself a lifelong student and emphasizes the immense value gained from clinical experience and learning from the patients she serves, the professionals she teaches, and the colleagues with which she collaborates. Shelly has authored book chapters in yoga therapy and integrative rehabilitation textbooks and is the co-editor/author of the textbook Yoga and Science in Pain Care: Treating the Person in Pain. She maintains a clinical practice in Sylvan Lake, Canada and believes compassion is the foundation of pain care, healthcare and overall well-being. Please visit to learn more.

Marlysa Sullivan is a physiotherapist and yoga therapist with over 15 years of experience working with people suffering with chronic pain conditions. She is an Assistant Professor in Yoga Therapy and Integrative Health Sciences at Maryland University of Integrative Health and holds an adjunct position at Emory University, where she teaches the integration of yoga and mindfulness into physical therapy practice in the DPT program. She is also the author of Understanding Yoga Therapy: Applied Philosophy and Science for Well-being and co-editor of Yoga and Science in Pain Care: Treating the Person in Pain as well as several peer-reviewed articles. Marlysa has been involved in the professionalization of the field of yoga therapy through the educational standards committee of IAYT, which helped to define the competencies for the field, and in characterizing the yoga therapy workforce through research. Her research interests focus on defining the framework and explanatory model for yoga therapy based on philosophical and neurophysiological perspectives.

Matthew J. Taylor, PT, PhD, C-IAYT has been leading integrative rehabilitation since 1994 and is the editor of the graduate textbook, "Fostering Creativity in Rehabilitation.” He is past-president of the board of directors of the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) and teaches nationally on business development for yoga therapists. Matt is on the IAYT PubMed-indexed International Journal of Yoga Therapy editorial board. He represents yoga therapy in integrative pain care and addiction policy development on two national interprofessional task forces, as well as IAYT’s interprofessional collaboration business development projects. He’s also authored a book for yoga professionals titled, “Yoga Therapy as a Creative Response to Pain.” He is presently on the AY board of directors and is engaged in a joint venture with a major health insurance company to integrate yoga therapy into healthcare.

This post was edited by Patrice Priya Wagner, Managing Editor of Accessible Yoga blog and member of the Board of Directors.

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